Unscripted by Missus James
RetiredSummary:

When a struggling plus-size actress gets a callback for a major supporting role in a legendary director's indie film, she was absolutely ecstastic. Told that the lead will be acted by an A-lister, she didn't think it would be Nick Bryant until she arrived at her second audition. It's been nearly nine years since she's seen him. Nearly nine years since she's had his son and didn't tell him about it.

Things are about to go off-script real quick.


Categories: Original Fiction Characters: None
Classification: General
Genre: Romance
Story Status: Active
Pairings: None
Warnings: Adult Situations
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 18 Completed: No Word count: 62771 Read: 80900 Published: December 22 2018 Updated: July 06 2021
Story Notes:

One day, I was surfing the web and I fell down that infamous internet rabbit hole. I ended up on a gossip forum and found a thread about a particular celebrity. I read through the thread's conversations. The earlier posts were pictures of this celebrity and how attractive he was, but the later posts focused on how unattractive his devoted wife of years was. The conversation's focus was sad but fascinating to me. He wasn't the only celebrity subjected to this kind of questioning from fans. There are lots of others, too. Fans deeming a celebrity's husband or wife too ugly, fat, plain, or boring. Rating a celebrity's worth based on looks. Judging a stranger's marriage based solely on if they looked like an "attractive" couple. This brewed up the idea of Unscripted. This is Tallulah and Nick's story. 

 

Pinterest Board here. 

 

More pictures will be added along the way. If you have any recommedations for a particular character's photo, feel free to drop a pic or name.

1. Take 1: Action! by Missus James

2. Take 2: Surprise Cameo by Missus James

3. Take 3: Close-ups by Missus James

4. Take 4: Ambiance by Missus James

5. Take 5: Feel-Good Film by Missus James

6. Take 6: Mise-en-scene by Missus James

7. Take 7: Screen Chemistry by Missus James

8. Take 8: Blooper by Missus James

9. Take 9: Tearjerker by Missus James

10. Take 10: Unreliable Narrator by Missus James

11. Take 11: Subtext by Missus James

12. Take 12: Candlelight by Missus James

13. Take 13: Climax by Missus James

14. Take 14: Buzz by Missus James

15. Take 15: Complication by Missus James

16. Take 16: Pornographic by Missus James

17. Take 17: Montage by Missus James

18. Take 18: Antagonist by Missus James

Take 1: Action! by Missus James
Author's Notes:

action: the word called out at the start of a current take during filming to alert actors to begin performing.

 

TAKE 1

Tallulah Edmond stared her eight-year-old son with a tightening jaw, narrowing her eyes as the principal detailed all his transgressions of the day.

“After punching a fourth grader in the nose and kneeing him in the groin, he ran off the playground thereby disobeyed his teacher’s command. He locked himself in the boys’ restroom and it took twenty minutes for me to convince him to come out,” Principal Greenwood reported, folding her fingers onto her desk. “He refuses to tell me what brought this about.”

“If you know what’s good for you, you will tell her now, Milo Lachlan Bryant,” Tallulah commanded coldly.

Milo crossed his arms, his brilliant blue eyes guiltily casted downward. He fidgeted in the office seat, hesitant to comply with his mother’s wishes.

“Jamie Tuttle called me…a liar and he said…mean things about you,” he admitted.

Tallulah’s brow furrowed. “Why would he call you a liar?”

“Because I told him his favorite action film actor was my dad. He called me a liar and told me there was no way Nick Bryant would sleep with you to make me because he said you’re fat, black, and ugly.”

Principal Greenwood’s eyebrows shot upward, gaping at the confession.

Tallulah’s stern face softened. “Milo, have a seat outside while I talk to Principal Greenwood.”

He got out of the chair and left the administrator’s office, shutting the door behind him. Tallulah closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, heaving a deep sigh.

“Ms. Edmond,” Principal Greenwood addressed gently. “Milo is a brilliant little boy. He has been making straight A’s since kindergarten. He is a model student with the biggest heart, but his behavior has changed drastically in the last five weeks. He’s been sent to my office quite a few times for not following directions or disrespecting his teachers, but attacking another student is a whole different ballgame. It’s so out-of-character for him. Has anything happened at home to spark such a transformation?”  

Tallulah knew exactly what caused it.

“Five weeks ago, I took him to see Wicked People at the movies for his birthday. It was the only thing he wanted,” she disclosed, gazing up at the ceiling.

Dammit, she should’ve known better.

Principal Greenwood nodded. “Now, we’ve identified the influence of Milo’s lie.”

Tallulah winched slightly at the word lie, but she didn’t correct it.

“Considering the actor Nick Bryant shares the same last name as Milo, it makes sense that he’s made himself believe that the man is his father,” the woman continued. “He obviously craves to have a father figure in his life. So, why not claim one of the most famous men in Hollywood as his father? However, that does not condone acting violently against schoolmate, which leads me to how we’ll go about his punishment.”

{}{}{}

“Buckle up,” Tallulah said after they got into the car.

Milo followed instructions before he asked, “In-school suspension?”

“Nope, 2 days of out-of-school suspension,” she replied as she slipped the key into the ignition and brought the struggling engine to life with a twist. As she looked over her shoulder to safely back the shabby red car from the parking space, she briefly looked at her son. His shoulders were slumped and his head was down, his fingers fidgeting in his lap.

A wave of guilt crashed into her.

He pondered quietly, “Are you mad at me?”

Tallulah sighed as she shifted gears and drove out of the school’s parking lot. “I wouldn’t be a good mom if I wasn’t, Milo. You can’t put your hands on other kids.”

Milo straightened his back, his face scrunching up. “But that fuckwad Ja—“

Tallulah warned her motherly tone, “Hey, language!”

He crossed his arms, slouching down in the passenger seat and grumbling under his breath, “Dad says it.”

“Yes, he does,” Tallulah agreed, “in movies, Milo.”

“He could say that in real life too,” Milo reasoned.

She nodded. “True, but he’s an adult and Milo is an eight-year-old kid who’s grounded.”

“I can’t believe I got in trouble for telling the truth,” he said, his voice losing luster.

“Milo, you didn’t get in trouble for telling the truth. You got in trouble for punching Jamie Tuttle in the nose and kneeing him in the balls,” Tallulah corrected, glancing up at the rearview mirror she witnessed her son looking out his window. “You hurt him bad.”

“I’m hurt bad,” he countered, his bottom lip quivering. “Jamie or Mrs. Greenwood didn’t believe me. They think I’m a liar.”

“It doesn’t matter what they think,” Tallulah assured. “You know the truth and that’s all that matters.”

Milo frowned, a tear rolling down his cheek. “Knowing the truth hurts, Mom.”

“I know, kiddo, I know,” Tallulah said softly before she chewed hard on her bottom lip to relieve the heavy swell of regret bubbling inside her chest.

At the beginning of third grade, his social studies teacher assigned the class a ‘family tree’ project. Filling out the Edmond family tree was a breeze, but addressing the blank family tree for his father’s side was a Pandora’s box Tallulah had avoided for a long time. Though it wasn’t easy being a single mother, raising a kid like Milo was an effortless experience. He was a quiet baby, a sweet toddler, and a bright independent boy. Occasionally, he asked about his father, but he was satisfied with her vague answers. As he grew older though, she often worried that his curiosity would increase, but it didn’t…until that damn social studies project.

Her loose replies weren’t enough for him anymore.

He was hungry for the truth.

So, he took matters into his own hands, snuck into her bedroom, and found his birth certificate. Nicholas Lachlan Bryant was what was printed in the father’s name field. Being a clever boy, he typed in the name and came up with countless results, but then he took it a step further by narrowing the search by the birthdate listed.

His search came back with only one result and when he blindsided her with his findings, it was difficult to refute him. As ludicrous as it seemed, Hollywood heartthrob Nick Bryant was his father. However, she couldn’t deny that she understood why fourth graders like Jamie Tuttle and grown women like Principal Greenwood thought that the truth was merely a lie from an imaginative daddy-starved boy. Nor could she fault them for not accepting the A-lister screwed a plus-size black woman once upon a time—or quite a few times. But the fact of the matter was chiseled handsome Nick was tall tubby Nicholas almost nine years ago.

Determination made him into the man the world loved today and it was that same determination that ultimately drove the two of them apart nearly a decade ago.

{}{}{}

Milo pushed his diced carrots with his fork and asked hesitantly, “I messed things up for you, didn’t I? At the audition, I mean.”

“You didn’t mess anything up. In all honesty, getting that phone call from Principal Greenwood was a saving grace. I didn’t think I did a good job anyway.” Tallulah smiled weakly, giving her son a reassuring wink before taking a sip of her white wine.

“Did Uncle Finn say you sucked?”

Uncle Finn was Finn Nixon, an old college buddy who now worked a casting director and was also Milo’s godfather. He often kept his ear to the ground for cast calls and disclosed insider intel to her, but she tried not to rely on him too much. She had a hardworking casting agent in her corner. She had a few small-time gigs under her belt. Some TV commercials, radio ads, and a tiny recurring small role as a sassy secretary on a private detective cable show that lasted one season. Hollywood wasn’t too willing to give a curvy black woman a break.

Finn, however, was hired as a casting director for an indie film from legendary filmmaker and extremely selective Eugene Aaron. He was the kind of director whose movies won awards and shot people into stardom.

To which, her old friend encouraged her to audition for a minor supporting role. To say she struggled through the session was an understatement of the century. Eugene Aaron’s gaze was cold, hard, and piercing. Auditions were naturally vulnerable experiences, but his imposing presence exposed her in the rawest sort of way. He had a sour scowl on his face the entire time as if her being there was a waste of his time.

Right in the middle of a cold read with the script reader, her cellphone rang.

Oh, boy was he pissed. Needless to say, when she excused herself from the audition to rush to her son’s school, she was 1000-percent certain she signed her floundering career’s death warrant.

She shrugged. “It was a great opportunity though. It was nice of Finn to consider me.”

“You’re an amazing actress, Mom,” Milo said.

Her smile widened. “Thank you. Your opinion is the only one that matters to me.”

Milo asked sweetly, “Since you value my opinion so much, can I watch TV before bed?”

This boy was too smart for his own good.

Tallulah rolled her eyes, laughing. “Nope. Dinner, bath, bed.”

He pouted and slumped in his chair, forking his carrots into his mouth.

After dinner, she shooed him off to the bathroom while she cleaned up dinner and washed the dishes. In the midst of partaking in her third glass of wine, her phone lit up and jittered on the kitchen counter as Finn’s picture popped up on her screen.

She swallowed quickly and answered, “Finn, I’m so sorry ab—“

“Sit your ass down somewhere now,” Finn ordered.

Her heart fluttered violently in her ribcage.

This wasn’t good at all. She fucked up big time.

Tallulah wandered to the dinner table and eased her ass into a seat as commanded. Wine glass in her other hand in the event that she needed to drink away the bitter taste of her sorrows.

“Alright, I’m sitting,” she told him.

“Eugene wants you to come back tomorrow.”

She gasped loudly, “Oh, my god! Are you fucking serious?”

Down the hallway, Milo called from the bathtub. “Mom, put money in the swear jar!”

“Dammit,” she muttered, staring that the half-full mason jar on the windowsill above the kitchen sink with squinted eyes.

“I heard that,” her son claimed.

Tallulah rolled her eyes, pursing her lips together.

Finn chuckled warmly, “Gotta love that kid.”

“Back to the important conversation at hand,” Tallulah urged. “I’ve gotta keep a roof over that kid’s head, clothes on that kid’s back, and food in that kid’s stomach.”

Though Tammy kept bit-part gigs coming, their lives constantly teetered on the edge of alright and bad. Tallulah always made sure Milo was taken care of even if it meant she went without, but she didn’t regret it.

“You could’ve ended this bullshit years a—“

“Don’t,” she interjected. “Don’t, Finn.”

“Okay, okay,” Finn sighed, “Eugene wants you to come back tomorrow, but there’s one problem.”

She cocked her head back and groaned deep in her throat. Of course, there was a catch. Hollywood wouldn’t be Hollywood if it wasn’t.

Tallulah asked cautiously, “What is it?”

“Well, he wants you to read for a major supporting role. The mother’s private nurse.”

She blinked, her jaw hanging open. Her breath quickened at the news.

“Eugene said you were raw and you were way too raw for a minor role. So, he wants you to come back tomorrow for a chemistry test with the lead,” Finn said.

“I didn’t know ya’ll found a lead,” Tallulah balked.

She could almost hear the shrug in his voice. “We’ve had the lead from the beginning, but it had to be kept under wraps. He’s an A-lister and Eugene wants to keep this production lowkey as possible for as long as possible. The less people know, the better which means you’ll have to sign a NDA when you come at seven tomorrow morning.”

“Milo is suspended from school for beating the crap out of a kid,” she said. “I don’t have anyone to watch him.”

“Ask that old lady that lives across the hall,” Finn suggested. “This is a one-in-a-lifetime chance, Ray. It’s a fucking miracle you’re getting a callback at all with the phone ringing and you having to leave early. I batted hard for you when you left just for him to consider you for the minor role, so the fact that he wants to see how you do with a heavy hitter is goddamn divine. Eugene is known for taking risks and experimenting. I highly recommend that you do whatever you need to do to come and be the damn guinea pig.”

“I’ll be there. Bye,” she said before she ended the call and drained her wine glass in a half-celebratory/half-dread fashion.

Tomorrow, she’d be the best damn guinea pig Eugene Aaron had ever seen.

{}{}{}

The waiting room outside the casting room was void of rivals. A sight she wasn’t accustomed to. Instead, a sharply dressed woman awaited her with a six-page NDA on a clipboard and a pen.

“Hello, I’m Kellan Greer and I am a part of Extraordinarily Artistic Films’ legal department. I have been tasked with ensuring you sign this NDA before you walk through that door. I’ve highlighted all the areas you will need to fill in or sign,” the woman said, handing over the clipboard.

“Um, thanks,” Tallulah said, clearing her throat.

She sat down in one of the many empty seats and combed through the contract, putting the borrowed pen to work. When she was finished, Kellan reviewed the document as a precaution before she nodded, gestured to the door.

“Break a leg.”

“Thanks.”

Tallulah entered the audition room carefully, noticing a familiar scene of Finn, Eugene Aaron, and a handful of producers. Casting associates assistants scurried around, setting and perfecting camera and lighting equipment.

Eugene placed his elbows onto the table, bridging his fingers together. “I have a feeling about you, Ms. Edmond. Today is your chance to prove me right or disappoint me once again. Though I hope for your sake at the very least your phone is off.”

Aside from Finn, a chorus of chortles erupted the other gentlemen at the table.

“There won’t be any interruptions, Mister Aaron,” she promised.

He nodded. “Good.”

A casting assistant handed her a script and instructed her to a specific scene buried deep within the pages as she noted the arrival of another individual from her peripheral. Peering up from her script, she blinked her eyes rapidly. A ringing rushed into her ears and air evaporated from her lungs. She jerked her attention to Finn, tightening her grip on the stapled paper. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, observing the unscripted scene unfolding before him like the casting director he was.

Being the actress she was, Tallulah smiled at a blank-face Nick Bryant and approached him with an offered hand, his intense blue eyes penetrating her straight to the soul.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you, Mister Bryant. My name is Tally Edmond,” she introduced, desperately praying that he’d play the fuck along.

Nick cut his unreadable gaze to Finn before he returned his attention to her, his jaw clenching tightly as he accepted the handshake. “Likewise.”

An army of goosebumps paraded across her flesh at the skin-to-skin contact.

Up close, he looked nothing like the man she fell in love with all those years ago. He was sculpted and fit. A messy mop of shiny hair sat on his head. A meaty well-groomed brown beard framed his face. She had always remembered him a tall man, but he seemed like a giant now, looming over her. His icy blue eyes were a blaring reminder that Nicholas Bryant fathered Milo Lachlan Bryant without deny.

She cleared her throat and took two steps back, pretending to show interest in the scene written on page. A casting assistant offered Nick his script and Finn explained the chosen scene’s synopsis, character motives, and the desired mood.

“We’re ready when you are.”

Tallulah closed her eyes and took a deep breath to steady her nerves. Her heart pounded in her throat. Don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up, she chanted in her brain before she peeled her eyelids open, her gaze washing over the script.

“This is stupid and you know it,” she hissed.

“You think everything I do is stupid,” Nick said gruffly—dismissively.

She scoffed, approaching him boldly. “Well, this is the stupidest thing you’ve done as of yet. You’re going to get yourself killed, Ryland.”

He narrowed his eyes, edging forward himself. “For someone who claims to hate me, you seem rather concerned for my wellbeing.”

Tallulah stilled momentarily at the accusation, delivering a perfected hesitant reply. “I don’t. I care about hers and only hers. That’s my job.”

Nick gave a little closer, dipping his head down with a smug smirk; his gray eyes dancing with a challenge. “I’ve become pretty good at detecting bullshit, Camille.”

She squared her shoulders and tilted up her chin defiantly, standing her ground. “Of course, you would. You’re full of it.”

“Maybe, I’m rubbing off on you then,” he countered.

She glanced down at her script, licking her lips. “All the more reason to bathe in bleach when I get home.”

When she looked up, she realized his sharp gaze were fixated on her mouth.

“Save me some while you’re at it. It’ll save me a lousy trip to the grocery store. Gotta clean the crime scene and all that,” Nick replied. “It’ll be a total bloodbath.”

Tallulah gaped, backing away from him. “I can’t believe you just said that!”

He arched an eyebrow high, following after her. “Said what? The truth? Would you rather I say I’m gonna use the bleach for laundry purposes? Maybe, we should kill two birds with one stone while we’re at it and throw your clothes in with mine for strictly energy conservation purposes, of course.”

Her eyebrows scrunching for a brief moment as she realized his last sentence wasn’t in the scene. Shit, he was improvising! Was this a pissing contest? She gulped, gauging Eugene Aaron’s reaction with a quick glance. As per usual, he seemed as though he were in a foul mood.

If she was going to down, she was going to down in a blazing glory.

Tallulah trailed her gaze down to his crotch. “I’ve handled more impressive loads, Ryland.”

Her improvised statement coaxed a few chuckles from Finn and the producers.

Nick nodded, walking backwards with his arms stretched wide. “Or maybe you just aren’t ready for my kind of dirty laundry.”

She pursed her lips in annoyance. “I only handle your mom’s laundry, Ryland.”

“Duly noted,” he stated, giving her a lazy salute. “See you around, Camille.”

Time to get back to the script, she thought.

“Wait,” she said, stretching out a hand before she shrank back, softening her voice. “Wait, Ryland. What do you want me to tell her?”

“Tell her I’ll see her tomorrow,” he said. “It’s not like she’ll remember.”

“And scene,” Finn concluded. “Ms. Edmond, you step out please.”

She bit her bottom lip, nodding. “Of course.”

Tallulah avoided Nick’s scrutiny as she passed him by and left the audition room, plopping into a waiting chair with a shaky breath. To steady her frayed nerves, she pulled out her phone and called Mrs. Newberry, her neighbor and trusty babysitter.

“Hey, Mrs. N. It’s me Tally,” she greeted with a warm smile.

“Oh, hello, sweetheart,” Mrs. Newberry said. “How is the audition going?”

“I have no clue,” Tallulah confessed, “but I hope Milo isn’t giving you too much trouble.”

Mrs. Newberry laughed brightly. “Heavens no. That baby boy is a total doll. He’s setting up that new computer my daughter Caroline bought me for my birthday. She’s been nagging me about not using it. She wants to talk to her on some video calling program called Sky or something.”

Tallulah shook her head. “It’s called Skype, Mrs. Newberry.”

“Sky, Skype, who gives a damn,” Mrs. Newberry huffed.

“That’s money in the swear jar, Mrs. N,” Milo said from somewhere in the distance. Tallulah clasped a hand over her mouth, swallowing back a laugh. Her son was a real hustler when it came to his swear jars.

Nick stepped out of the audition room and she rushed her neighbor off the phone as politely as she could.

“In my biggest audition thus far and you decide to go off the dome. Really, Nick?” Tallulah glared at him.

“I did you a favor,” Nick claimed before he added, “Oh, and it’s good to see you too, Ray, unless you want to keep pretending that we don’t know each other.”

She snorted a laugh. “You did me a favor? Maybe, you’ve been at the top so long than you forget what it’s like to be at the bottom. Eugene’s going to let you get away with improvising, but an unknown like me? I doubt it.”

“Gene gave me my first big break and you want to know why? The one and only Davis Stone improvised during my audition for the role as his son in his last film before he retired from acting. I rolled with it. Little did I know, it was my saving grace and my first taste of working with Gene,” he said as he settled comfortably into a seat across the way and stroked his beard, jerking his chin to her script in her lap. “That script will change fifty million damn times during production and even then, there will be a lot of improv after you get the part. Gene loves it when his actors feed off each other to survive.”

Tallulah frowned. “When? You can’t guarantee I’ll get the part.”

“I sure the fuck can,” he said.

“And how do you know that, Nick?”

“Because less than two minutes ago, I told everyone in that goddamn room I wanted you in that part or I’d give them hell,” he said, shrugging casually. “The perks of being an A-list celebrity.”

Her lips faltered. “Why would you do that?”

“Come on, Desiree. If a science teacher graded that chemistry test, our score would be off the charts. There’s no point in denying we’ve got chemistry or the fact that we have chemistry because of our history. I’ve agreed to lead Gene’s film because I’m hungry for authenticity. I’m fucking starving and I need the right people to feed me,” he said, his blue eyes boring into her boldly. “And if you feed me well, I promise return the favor.”

She winced at her first name, a testament to an old life.

Finn strolled out of the audition room, rubbing his hands together. “I see you two have gotten reacquainted. A lot has happened in nearly nine years.”

“Yes,” Tallulah agreed.

“Indeed,” Nick joined.

Finn settled his attention on her. “I assume Nick’s big mouth told you the news?”

Nick grinned, running his fingers through his hair. “Of course. I’m terrible with secrets.”

“Some of us hold secrets much better than others,” Finn expressed innocently, earning a mean scowl from Tallulah, “but that’s neither here or there. Eugene wants to begin filming as soon as possible. We’ve got a mountain of paperwork to go through over the next few days and much to discuss, Tally Edmond.”

She concurred tightly. “Yes, we have a lot to discuss, Finn.”

After Finn excused when Eugene barked his name, Tallulah gathered her things and rose from her seat.

Nick followed suit, glancing at his pricy smart wristwatch that could most definitely pay for Milo’s future college tuition. “Still plenty of time get breakfast.”

She paused, cocking a head at him. “What are you getting at, Nick?”

“We haven’t seen each other in just about nine years, Ray. Old friends catch up.”

Tallulah shook her head, showing off her thumb. “First off, we haven’t seen each other in almost nine years for a good reason, Nick.”

Glancing around to ensure their privacy, she lifted her index finger as a second digit, adding in a hushed whisper as she approached him, “Second off, we’re not old friends. We were never friends. I was your wife back then and I’m your ex-wife now.”

A slight grin etched onto his lips as he looked down at her with those gorgeous blue eyes. “Why do I have an inkling there’s a ‘third off’ somewhere?”

She gave him the middle finger as her sole performer. “Third off, let’s be honest, Nicholas. Us having breakfast and ‘catching up’ will garter unwanted attention. I don’t need my fat black ass plastered all over the tabloids and gossip blogs looking like your charity case, especially when barely a month ago pictures of you with a topless Australian model eating breakfast off your abs on her billionaire daddy’s 400-foot yacht went viral.”

“First off, it was a 457-foot yacht,” he corrected, tiny wrinkles of amusements crinkled around his eyes as he gazed down at her. “Second off, don’t get judgy, Desiree Tallulah. Once upon a time, I ate a lot of things off you. Third—and most importantly—off, your ass— “

Holding up a palm, Tallulah interrupted him with a frustrated groan, rolling her eyes far into the back of her head. She swirled on her heels, turning to leave.

“See you soon, Ray.”

She tossed him a begrudging peace-out. “Deuces, Nick.”

 

Take 2: Surprise Cameo by Missus James
Author's Notes:

cameo: a small character part in a play or movie, played by a distinguished actor or a celebrity. 

 

TAKE 2

Tallulah sighed tiredly, sinking down into her bubble bath. It had been hours since she went to her callback—since she saw her ex-husband. Now, she was the major supporting role in the legendary Eugene Aaron’s upcoming indie film, Forget Me Not, about the estranged son of a woman suffering from terrible memory loss who goes through extreme measures to get ahold of an experimental drug. Tallulah was to play the mother’s private nurse, a voice of reason for the lead he rarely listens to but has a soft spot for. She should have been ecstatic about the opportunity. Her first big break ever! However, the fact that her ex-husband was her co-star depleted her celebratory mood to zero. That and he had no fucking clue he had an eight-year-old son.

“Oh, Milo,” she said softly, shaking her head. “What am I going to do?”

Mrs. Newberry took Milo on a worldwide excursion into town. Grocery shopping, feeding gulls at the beach, visiting her older sister who lives at a nursing home, church choir practice, and then a game of bridge one of her elderly friend’s houses. He was supposed to be grounded, but Tallulah was too exhausted to inforce it.

Maybe, tomorrow.

For now, it was nice to have some peace and quiet.

As she bathed herself, she tried not to think about Nick, but every time she attempted to close her eyes and relax, he fluttered into her mind like a goddamn wet dream. She couldn’t deny he was breathtakingly handsome. It made sense that he won World’s Sexiest Man four times. He looked perfect. Society had come into agreement he was a perfect male specimen, but to her, he was perfect back then too when he was hers.

Now, in a way, he was everyone’s.

The moment their hands touched in the audition, a jolt of electricity shot through her and warmed her body. She did a great job at ignoring it, but putting it on the backburner hadn’t been for the best. In the company of others, she managed, but alone, that sensation was filling up her insides surely and quickly.

Thinking about those damn blue eyes didn’t help any either.

She chewed on her bottom lip as she slithered her fingers slid down her belly to touch a place she had neglected for quite a few months.

Heavy knocks on her front door made her freeze. Her eyebrows shot upward at the sound and she leaned her head out of the bathtub, waiting quietly to see if she should bother getting out of the tub. Silence filled the apartment and just as she reclined back into her original spot, there was another sequence of knocks. However, the delivery was much more playful.

Dripping in water and suds, she wrapped herself in a towel and shoved her wet feet into her house slippers, shuffling hurriedly through her home to get to the front door. She rose to the tips of her toes, her face contorting in horror at the sight of her ex-husband on the other side.

“What the fuck,” she gasped.

“I know you’re in there, Ray. I strong-armed it out of Finn like old times,” Nick said, leaning closer to the door to say in a lower register, “You better let me in before a neighbor sees me and calls the paparazzi, so they can use some money to move out of this shitty place.”

She squeezed her eyes shut and muttered a curse before she unlocked the door, flinging it open and hissing through grit teeth, “Get your ass in here now, now, now.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” Nick said, sauntering proudly into her apartment.

Tallulah gently shut and locked the door in his wake, not wanting to draw any attention. “What are you doing here, Nick?”

“You said that getting your part today was your first big break, so I brought you some champagne from my personal wine cellar to celebrate the occasion,” he said as he briefly presented the rose gold bottle in his possession before he took it upon himself to make his way into her kitchen. The name sprawled on the golden label was engrained in her mind in mere seconds.

He brought her a 10-thousand-dollar bottle of Dom Perignon champagne from his personal wine cellar?

She held her towel tightly around her as she scurried after him, witnessing him rummage through her kitchen draws. “Thank you for the thoughtful gesture, but that really wasn’t necessary.”

He pondered to himself, “Where in the devil is your corkscrew?”

Then he snapped his fingers as a revelation came to him and he moved over to the fridge, opening it to retrieve the handy tool. She hated that after all these years, he remembered. She always kept the corkscrew in the fridge because that was where she stored her 10-dollar wine bottles. So, after a long day of work, she only had to make one trip to treat herself to something nice.

A charmed smile plagued his mouth that made her feel all gooey as it blossomed like a flower in spring before her very eyes. “You haven’t changed one bit, Desiree. Not one bit at all.”

She pursed her lips, trying to get ahold of her self-respect. “And you have changed a lot, Nicholas.”

“Some things haven’t changed.” His profoundly vivid eyes swept her wet form shielded by the fluffy towel she held to her body. Her brow wrinkled and she shook her head, immediately ridding herself of the foolish suggestion that his gaze had been a hungry one. With his infamous collection of gorgeous ex-girlfriends, there was no doubt in her mind that he lost a taste for someone like her. She, also, refused to be that type of ex-wife saw ‘signals’ that weren’t there.

He popped the cork, letting the champagne’s abundant fizz catch in a wine glass before he offered it to her. Hesitantly, she accepted it and gave a tentative sip, fighting the urge to roll her eyes into the back of her head as the exquisite liquor glided across her tastebuds and fluttered down her throat smoothly.

He poured himself a glass and lifted it slightly.

“Welcome to the big leagues, Ray,” he toasted.

She rose her flute weakly. “Thanks.”

In unison, they downed their drinks with ease. It went straight to her head and she cleared her throat as if it would soften its effects.

It didn’t.

Nick picked up the bottle once more. “Another dosage?”

“Alright.” Tallulah nodded, thinking another dosage of liquid courage might to tell her ex-husband that he had a son who would be walking through the front door at any given moment.

Once he filled up her glass, she took deep gulps to drain the champagne and blinked her eyes as her eyesight went fuzzy for a few seconds. She placed her flute on the kitchen counter before pressed her back against the fridge, matching his unwavering regard of her with one for him.

She began, “Ni—“

He then admitted huskily, “I want you to know something about me, Ray. I’m goddamn hungry.”

Her pulse quickened as she stuttered out, “W-w-what? I don’t understand.”

“I told you this morning that I’m hungry for authenticity in our line of work. Hollywood is full of liars and pretenders. I’m surrounded by them day in and day out. I’ve become one of them. Seeing you today…working with you like old times…it satisfied this raging hunger inside me just for a little while. That’s if you and I work together. We both can give Gene’s film the justice it deserves,” he explained, inching his way to her, “but I’ve got another type of hunger within me.”

Tallulah gulped before she asked, “And what kind of hunger is that?”

“A hunger for you. I’ve been trying to replicate what we had for years. You’ve seen the magazine covers, gossip blogs, and all that shit. Models, actresses, pop stars, and billionaire heiresses, we all use each other in our own ways. I’m tired of using and being used. I just want someone to see me for me like you did. You loved me when I didn’t look like this,” he stated, a desperation worming itself into his voice as he trapped her against the fridge. “You’ve said it yourself. I’m nothing like I used to be.”

Her breath hitched in her throat at his imposing closeness and warmth, his arms caging her in. His cologne’s mellow spicy aroma and intoxicated her as it invaded her senses, sending a weakness to her knees.

“That’s not always bad,” she whispered softly.

“It is when I lost the only authentic person in my life in exchange for countless fakes.” He returned throatily, his face mere millimeters from hers.

Her voice falter as she suggested, “You should broaden your horizons and meet other people then, Nicholas.”

“Why? None of them would be you.”

“You don’t want me, Nicholas. You just want the idea of me.”

He nuzzled his nose against the tip of hers. “Don’t tell me what I want.”

“What about what I want,” she said, tilting her chin up a little.

“What do you want, Desiree?”

“I,” she stopped herself short as heated breath from his encroaching lips brushed against hers like a teasing prelude to a kiss years in the making.

Her eyelids fluttered shut as she sucked in a tiny gasp, which parted her pouty mouth in anticipation. Nick laid his lips upon hers, a tender exploration—a testing of the waters. A lengthy moan bubbled at the back of her throat as a result, a key of permission to unlock another layer of this palpable tension. His tongue slipped inside her mouth, caressing hers gently—an exercise of restraint.

She let him do something to her that was very wrong, but in that moment, it felt right.

Her hands rose to touch his face, her fingers grazing his coarse groomed beard before she curled her arms around his neck. She tugged him down to her level as if he hadn’t already accommodated her enough. Her wrapped towel went slack, being its descent to the linoleum kitchen floor. In a panic, she broke the kiss and withdrew her arms to catch the terrycloth.

However, he captured her wrists, carefully maneuvering her arms back where they needed to be: around his neck. “Let it fall.”

Then he claimed her lips roughly. Her sensitive nipples grazed across his shirt, hardening up. Her blood ran cold as she heard the muffled jingle of keys, the click of a lock coming undone, and the distinct whine of hinges as the door eased open.

“Fuck, he’s here,” Tallulah whispered frantically as she reached down to grab her towel, curling it around her body swiftly.

Nick frowned, stepping away from her with a furrowed brow. “There’s a man of the house you didn’t tell me about?”

“Yes, I’ve had one for the last eight years.”

“It’s us, darling,” Mrs. Newberry called out in a cutesy singsong voice as she tiptoed in the apartment. “A congratulation is in order!”

The older lady walked past the kitchen and froze in place, her eyes growing wide. A hand shot to her chest and she choked out a ‘oh my sweet baby Jesus’.

“What’s wrong, Mrs. N?” Milo asked as he walked around her with a gift bag stuffed with tissue paper in his hand before he looked into the kitchen. “DADDY!“

Milo dropped the gift bag and darted into the kitchen, colliding full-force into Nick and hugging his father’s waist, jumping up and down excitedly. “I knew you’d come for me.”

Nick opened his mouth to speak, but Milo gazed up at him in utter adoration with his brilliant blue eyes. His hereditary claim that he couldn’t denounce or hide. He squatted down to his son’s level and smiled broadly.

“Of course, I’d come for you,” Nick assured calmly.

Milo threw his arms around his father’s neck, embracing him with everything he had. He buried his face into Nick’s neck, snuggling his cheek into his father’s shoulder.

Milo pleaded, “Promise to don't leave us ever again.”

“Oh, I’m not going anywhere.” Being the amazing actor he was, his happy façade evaporated once Milo’s face was tucked away in the crook of his neck and he pinned Tallulah with a silent look of fury. The worst kind of guilt overcame her and it took everything in her power not to shrink away from her furious ex-husband.

Mrs. Newberry cleared her throat uncomfortably and backed away from the unplanned reunion scene, excusing herself with a quickness.

“Let me know if you need anything, darlings,” the neighbor called over her shoulder as she scurried out of the apartment, quietly sealing them inside. “Anything at all!”

“Alright, kiddo,” Tallulah then replied nervously. “Get ready for dinner.”

“Already ate,” he muttered in his father’s neck, tightening his embrace. “There was a potluck at the bridge party.”

Tallulah parted her lips, but Milo interjected swiftly, “And I already did my homework at choir practice, okay? All I want to do is hug my dad.”

“Then you should take a shower, Milo. It’s been a long d—”

“Mom, stop trying to take Dad away from me!”

She flinched at the accusation and stepped forward, saying softly, “Milo, I don—”

Nick gently pried Milo away and braced the eight-year-old’s shoulders, giving him a stern fatherly look. “Yeah, don’t you dare talk to your mom like that or I’ll tear your hide up. You hear me, boy?”

His Kentucky accent slipped out at the tailend. It took him a long time to master an average American accent to make him more appealing to a broader spectrum of audiences. Tallulah knew because she helped him practice before his auditions.

Milo stared at his father with wide eyes, nodding slowly. The boy wasn’t used to a father figure putting his foot down yet alone promise him a whipping. Though Tallulah believed in old-fashioned punishment, she never had to raise a hand to her son. It was only within these last few weeks his behavior began to take a turn for the worst.

Nick aimed a nod at the kitchen doorway. “Now, go on and take that shower like she asked. You understand?”

“Yes.”

Nick arched a thick eyebrow. “That’s ‘yes, sir’.”

“Yes, sir,” Milo squeaked before he scampered away.

“Get new pajamas, drain the tub first,” Tallulah called.

“Okay,” Milo paused, adding in a panicky voice, “um, I mean yes, ma’am!”

Once their son was safe behind a closed bathroom door, Tallulah swirled on her heels and marched out of the kitchen. “I need to change into something…other than this.”

Nick stalked her all the way to her bedroom.

“Not so damn fast,” he growled in a low octave once they were alone. “When were you going to tell me that I had a son, Desiree?”

Ignoring his question, Tallulah rushed into her small walk-in closet and attempted to close the door for some privacy to change, but Nick pursued her, yanking the door wide open—filling up the doorway with his lofty frame.

“Now ain’t the time to be shy, Desiree. I’ve seen it all and more,” he snarled, his Kentucky accent leaking out. “Now when were you goin' to tell me that I had a son?”

Tallulah huffed and yanked the towel, biting out a ‘fine’. She jerked her body into some pajamas under his watchful gaze.

“Des—”

“I don’t know, Nicholas. Alright? I don’t know,” she snapped in a hushed tone, throwing her hands up. “I’ve been playing this shit by ear.”

He invaded the crammed closet, imprisoning her against a wall. “You’ve been playing this shit by ear for eight years of him growing up plus nine months of pregnancy, Desiree? Have you lost your fucking mind?”

“Seven months,” she corrected. “I had a very difficult pregnancy. He was a preemie.”

His hardened blue gaze eased up a smidgen. “When was he born then?”

“Friday 13th, August 2010,” she answered, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “My little good luck charm when I needed it most.”

“You were pregnant the whole time when we were getting a divorce and you didn’t say a word to me?”

“It’s not like you noticed, Nicholas. You barely looked at me in divorce court. Plus, because I was a hefty girl, so it was easy to hide a pregnancy,” Tallulah scoffed.

Nick pointed to the floor, gritting his teeth. “If I had known—”

Tallulah interjected sharply, “At the time, I didn’t think you deserved to know shit. For months, you’d constantly travel back and forth from San Diego to LA to make enough money for us. Then you left me behind to move to LA for steadier paychecks for us. Next thing you know, I get divorce papers, Nick. I didn’t know I was pregnant then and when I found out, I thought about telling you, but you were so eager to erase us that I made the decision to keep Milo to myself.”

She jabbed a finger into his chest. “I didn’t need you sticking around for our sake when you already figured out your priorities. You making it big was above all to you. So, I got our son and you got your career.”

“That wasn’t your choice to make.”

“You got to decide when our marriage was over without a single damn warning, Nicholas. So, I made a decision too,” she said, fighting back her tears. “I know I’m not perfect dammit, but I am a damn good mother. Don’t look at me like I am the villain when we’ve both done bad things. You left your fat ugly wife for your career and I raised our son on my own.”

His nostrils flared at her superficial allegation. “I didn’t leave you because of that.”

Milo’s voice called out from the hallway. “Mom, I’m done! Is Dad gone?”

That was a quick shower, she thought suspiciously.

“No, baby. He’s still here,” she replied loudly, shouldering her way past him to left the closet. “We’re just catching up on old times is all.”

He grabbed her forearm, interrupting her hasty escape. “This argument ain’t over, Desiree.”

“Parenting Rule #1: Child comes first, Nick. Not Daddy’s hurt feelings. Get used to it,” She hissed as she wrenched her arm from his grasp, plastering on a fake smile as she stepped into the hallway.

She rubbed her hands together. “Time to hit the lights, little rugrat.”

Milo ran up to his father, begging him to be tonight’s storyteller. Thirty minutes later, Nick emerged from Milo’s room, joining Tallulah on the balcony. She lounged in a plastic lawn chair that had seen better days, admiring the congratulations gift Mrs. Newberry and Milo had gotten during their eventful excursion. It was a star-shaped glass trophy with Best Actress engraved on it.

Tallulah queried, “Calling it quits? For the night, I mean.”

“Yes, but we’ll finish our incomplete conversation bright and early tomorrow at my place. I’ll handle for the breakfast,” he said as he tapped away at his phone.

She rolled her eyes, chuckled bitterly. “There you go making choices for me again, Nicholas. While the grownups are talking, who’s going to take care of Milo?”

“The six-hundred-dollar an hour babysitter I just booked,” Nick replied, revealing his phone screen and the crisp photo of brunette babysitter he selected. “He told me all about the playground fiasco and school suspension.”

Tallulah leaned in for a closer look at the woman’s profile. “Kid-friendly tour guide, private tutor, certified in first aid and CPR, certified swimming coach, and has a dual Masters in child philosophy and mathematics. She also looks like someone you’d screw. Maybe for after we’re resolve our disagreements?”

Disregarding her dig, Nick placed his phone into his backpocket. “Will you see me out so you can lock the door?”

She escorted him there as he requested, widening it for him to exit. “Since you’re calling the shots for tomorrow, do you want me to dress a certain way so if the paparazzi do catch me at your mansion, I’ll look halfway decent?”

He turned around leaned through the crack, stating, “In that case, wear black.”

She taunted, “Why? Because it’s slimming for my figure?”

“No, tomorrow is going to be a bloodbath between you and I.”

Then he walked away.

 

 

Take 3: Close-ups by Missus James
Author's Notes:

close-up: a shot taken from a close distance in which the scale of the object is magnified, appears relatively large and fills the entire frame to focus attention and emphasize its importance. 

 

TAKE 3

The babysitter arrived promptly at 6 in the morning. A sleepy Tallulah was in the midst of fixing herself a mug of bitter joe when there was a knock at the door. When she opened the door, the beautiful babysitter stood before her with a brown paper grocery bag and a warm smile.

“Good morning, Ms. Edmond.”

Tallulah nodded and greeted, “Morning.”

“I’m Ester Stein, Milo’s babysitter for the day,” the woman introduced.

“Please, come in,” Tallulah said, widening the door for the arrival’s entry.

Ester paused in the foyer and smiled. “Do you mind if I put these things in the kitchen?”

“Be my guest,” she consented.

The babysitter strutted into the kitchen and placed the grocery onto the counter before she shrugged off her leather backpack and unzipped it, retrieving a glossy folder. She presented it to Tallulah, who accepted it hesitantly.

Ester explained, “This is our itinerary, curated profiles of each location with listed kid-friendly activities.”

Tallulah’s eyebrows shot upward as she parted the folder and read the schedule, noting that Milo wasn’t to return home until 8 o’clock at night. “Um, I will only be gone for two hours. Three tops.”

“Oh,” Ester said, smiling nervously. “It was Mr. Bryant that booked this specific timeframe. I, also, sent him the proposed itinerary last night and he approved it.”

Of course, he did, Tallulah thought with a slow roll of her eyes. “In the event Mr. Bryant and I finish our meeting early, is the contact number I can reach you by?”

“Yes, of course,” Ester replied with a nod. “My business card is on the folder pocket.”

Tallulah didn’t even notice the business card, but she hummed her approval at Ester’s headshot taking up half the card. It was a damn good headshot. Much better than hers.

Ester then asked, “The one thing Mr. Bryant he couldn’t confirm was if Milo have any food allergies or dietary restrictions?”

“No, he doesn’t,” she returned.

“Wonderful! I’ll be making silly wheat pancakes with berries, scrambled cheesy egg whites, and turkey sausage links for breakfast,” Ester informed. “Will Milo like that?”

Eating a gourmet breakfast fit for a little king? “I think he’ll manage.”

After exchanging a few more words with Milo’s five-star babysitter, Tallulah went into her bedroom to figure out what she needed to wear for the bloodbath Nick promised. She contemplated on whether she put any effort into her appearance? Even though he was her ex-husband who had seen her at her worst, he was now a hot commodity owned by Hollywood. If the paparazzi were lurking around his home, did she want to look like roadkill waltzing into an A-lister’s mansion?

She cocked up her chin, exhaling sharply as determination coursed through her veins.

Desiree Tallulah Edmond would look flawless.

{}{}{}

Trousdale was one of the most exclusive communities in Hollywood. A neighborhood located in the sprawling foothills of the Santa Monica mountains. After the town car was granted entry through the security gates, Tallulah peered through the tinted window in awe as she passed by gated and walled mansions of the famous. Arriving at Nick’s gated driveway, the driver rolled down his window and pressed an intercom button, speaking with the security guard on duty before the electronic doors parted with a cranky hum.

The town car crept down the driveway’s path, easing to a stop in front of a crisp white modern sleek mansion of glass. The driver helped her out and her five-inch ankle-strap wedges clicked against the stone driveway as she sauntered up to her ex-husband’s door, surrounded by lush foliage.

Her phone vibrated in her black leather clutch and she pulled out, smiling at the picture Ester sent to her of a giddy Milo decorating his silly pancakes with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Her gaze shot up to the door as it inched open, unveiling Nick’s fit physique in a red loose robe and black boxer-briefs. Immediately, she felt very overdressed in her knee-length black frill wrap dress.

She arched a delicate eyebrow. “Did you forget about our meeting?”

“And why do you think I’d forget?”

Tallulah slipped past him, entering his home. “Because you look like a porn star waiting for his fluffer.”

He shut the door and approached her from behind, brushing aside her perfumed tresses. “And you look like you’re dressed for a funeral.”

She tried to pretend as if his closeness didn’t affect there. “You said it would be a bloodbath and if I’m going to kill you, I might as well look good when the police cart me away.”

He chuckled throatily. “If that’s the case, then you’re killing what you’ve got on.”

Her skin tingled at his compliment before she cleared her throat. “So, where will we be having breakfast?”

“On the patio,” he answered, pointing past the foyer and living space to the colossal glass panel door that led onto the sheltered patio.

She glanced around at his dwelling, furnishings, and priceless artwork as he guided her to their meeting table tucked away in the roof’s shade, pulling out a chair for her to sit. With a purse of her lips, she accepted the gentlemanly offer and sat down. An iron skillet rested on an oven pad at the table’s heart.

A laugh escaped her lips before she could stop herself as she looked at the medley of sunny-up eggs, diced red potatoes, green peppers, bacon, and an assload of cheese. “You remembered.”

It was her favorite breakfast thing to eat, but she hadn’t eaten since they were married. On the mornings after he came to her from LA, he cooked it and brought it to her in bed. She always begged him to tell her the recipe, but he teasingly refused. His southern seasoning game was always on-point. When she was pregnant, it was one of the things she constantly craved, but she could never capture the same flavors.

She helped herself to some, spooning it onto her plate. “Is it poisoned?”

“I ain’t gonna off you anytime soon,” he assured as he settled into his spot opposite to hers.

“That’s good to know,” she muttered before she ate a forkful, squeezing her eyes shut and moaning as she savored the blast of the past.

Nick then shot out, “How long as my son known about me, Ray?”

She nearly choked on her food and reached for her flute of mimosa to help wash down her breakfast. “No lube, straight drilling, Nick? Can I eat a little first?”

He repeated in a concise tone, “How long as he known?”

“About three months,” she admitted softly as she used her fork to toy with a red potato. “He asked about you on occasion, but he accepted my weak-ass answers. Then he had a family tree project when he got to third grade and he got a lot more determined to learn about you. He found his birth certificate, did an internet search on your info, and found you.”

The corner of his lip quirked. “He’s smart as a whip. You raised him well, Desiree.”

Her tensed shoulders relaxed. “I know I did.”

“But he needs his father in his life,” Nick said. “He needs a man to look up to. He’s hungry for it.”

She shoved a forkful into her mouth, chewing as she listened.

“My son and I have eight years of making up to do, but in order to do that, his mom and I need to hash out some things,” Nick continued. “Like moving you two here.”

She swallowed hard and let out a shocked laugh. “Excuse me?”

“I refuse to let my son live in that seedy apartment complex,” he declared. “You two will stay here with me. The neighborhood is gated and guarded. This place is over 10-thousand square feet. Plenty of room for the three of us. My interior designer is on standby for a consultation with you and Milo, so your rooms reflect your wants.”

Tallulah stared at him in disbelief.

“And he’s getting transferred out of that school of his too. My assistant has scheduled a few school tours we’ll both attend in the upcoming days,” he stated. “We need a swift turnaround on this.”

She dropped the eating utensil onto the plate and held up her palms. “That’s enough, Nicholas! Yes, you are his father, but what gives you the right to make these decisions without my input? Yanking Milo from everything he knows overnight isn’t good for him. Furthermore, you telling me what I need to do or what I’m going to do is the surest way to getting your ass handed to you on a breakfast platter.”

Nick leaned back in his chair, clenching his jaw. “The moment the media finds out that I have a ‘secret’ son and an ex-wife, they’re going to be swarming out your apartment complex. Lurking around day and night willing to do anything to get a glimpse of Nick Bryant’s secret child and his mother, which puts both of you endanger. Staying here with me in Trousdale will ensure your safeties and our family’s privacy.”

With his presented logic, her anger and frustration bubbled down to a simmer. “Fine, but we can’t stay here forever.”

He reached for his mimosa, cocking a thick eyebrow. “And why not?”

“Yes, the three of us are a family, but Milo and I live a very different life from you. Your filming schedules, press tours, and deciding to jet off to Fiji in the middle of the night is going to be difficult for Milo, Nicholas,” she said. “Plus, every kid wants their parents together, so all of us living under the same roof is going to give him the wrong impression that we’re an item when actuality I have my love life and you have yours.”

His blue eyes narrowed. “You seeing somebody?”

“Yes, I go out on dates, Nicholas,” she said as she reached for her fork once more. “Why? Surprised I can still catch some flies with all this thick honey?”

He eyed her carefully, tilting a head. “Why would I be surprised when I’ve tasted that thick honey and married you, so I could have it all to myself?”

An electrical current blazed through her veins and her breath faltered accordingly, but she got her shit together and sinking her fork into a bell pepper, noting, “Obviously, you got tired of the taste or you wouldn’t have divorced me.”

She embraced the tense silence wafting between them, using the time to polish the rest of her meal and think about his demands.

“While Milo and I stay here temporarily, maybe your realtor has a listing for reasonably priced places for us to stay like a condo or a loft,” she suggested. “We’re a very low maintenance duo. We don’t require much.”

“I want to give him everything and more, Desiree.”

“The only thing you need to give him, Nicholas, is you,” she sighed. “He doesn’t care about materialistic shit. Sure, he wants game consoles and the latest iPad like every other American kid, but other than that, he doesn’t ask for much.”

Nick stroked his beard. “Maybe, he hasn’t asked for much because he knows you’ve never had the means to give him those things.”

She gaped at his audacity before she curled her lip and spat out, “So, that makes me a bad mother because I couldn’t spoil him with expensive things? If that’s your parenting philosophy then you’ve got a lot to learn, sweetheart. Thanks for breakfast and by the way, go fuck yourself.”

Tallulah abruptly rose from her chair and stormed into the mansion, praying that town car awaited her in the driveway.

Nick growled as he tailed after her, seizing her arm and twisting her to face him. “Either you have a terrible habit of jumping to conclusions or you just think that low of me to imply I’d blatantly disregard all the sacrifices you’ve made for Milo.”

“Let go of me now,” she hissed.

He begrudgingly obliged, but he wouldn’t budge from her personal space. Their fiery gazes latched onto each other as their feelings got the best of them. Their chests heaved, teeth grit, and nostrils flared. Her pink tongue darted across her matte black lipstick that coated her plump lips and no more than a millisecond after, he bowed his head, plunged her into a heated kiss. At first, she melted into it. Savored it. Drowned in it. But she came to her senses and in turn she wrenched her head back, snapping the kiss in half and putting a halting hand on his bare chest.

“Stop toying with me, Nick,” she panted. “Obviously, you aren’t in your right mind or you wouldn’t have kissed me twice, but I refuse to let you use me like all the others. As the mother of your child, I deserve a hell of a lot more than that.”

Her dark brown eyes scanned his towering figure with an unimpressed glare. “Plus, after years of screwing women with a body mass index of 19,  I doubt you even remember what to do with a full-figured chick like myself.”

His voice darkened in color as he spurred, “Is that a challenge?”

“No, just a factual observation,” she replied, feigning innocence with a bat of her eyelashes.

“How can you make an observation when you haven’t a single clue as to how I handle business nowadays?”

Tallulah crossed her arms. “I saw your sextape with that Instagram model along with the rest of the internet when she leaked it last year. Her yowling like a wounded animal was comedic gold, by the way.”

He smirked. “You seem to know a lot about my escapades.”

“Well, Nicholas, when you have them—which is often—it seems to be world breaking news,” she retorted.

“This whole conversation seems rather one-sided. Don’t you think? So, let’s even the balance scale a little and riddle me this: When’s the last time a man broke your back, Desiree?”

She blinked at the question. “Um, a couple of months.”

If nineteen months could be considered ‘a couple.’

He queried cockily, “At least a year then? Or somewhere around two?”

She rolled her eyes. “Somewhere around those figures.”

“That’s a long time, Ray.”

“When you’re a single mom, men aren’t at the forefront of your mind, Nick,” she countered. “But since you’re in the picture now, I can actually get back into the game using Tinder or something. You and Milo can do some father-son bonding in the meanwhile.”

He questioned tightly, “So you accuse me of wanting to use you, but you’re willing to turn to Tinder to be used?”

She cocked her chin up. “Yes.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Pray tell why?”

“Because if I meet a guy on Tinder, I don’t have a kid with him,” she began. “He wouldn’t be my ex-husband. I can fuck him and walk away without complicating things. He won’t be one of the hottest bachelors in Hollywood or my co-star in Eugene Aaron’s next film. He won’t want to sleep with me because he’s severely depressed and has been reminiscing about the good old days before his fame and riches. Take your pick, Nicholas.”

Nick crossed the slither of empty air between them. “You think I’m depressed?”

Tallulah stood her ground.

“How else would you explain the kiss in my kitchen last night or the other one moments ago? You’ve obviously got mental health issues going on in your life if you’re trying to sleep with your ex-wife who’s one bowl of turtle tracks ice cream away from busting out of her size-eighteen jeans, especially when you have the entire female population at your fingertips,” she said matter-of-factly. “You gotta be.”

He circled her like a predator, situating himself behind her and it took every ounce of her strength to keep her eyes forward. She stared out past the glass windows, the patio, the wide pool that stretched to the end of the foothill’s crest, and the breathtaking view of downtown Los Angeles glittering in the sun.

A whole world away it seemed.

Now, she was in a completely different universe and he was the king of it.

Nick brushed her hair aside for the second time that morning and leaned in, grazing his lips against the rim of her ear. “According to you, I’m depressed for missing the taste your lips and the feel of your tongue against mine. According to you, I’m depressed for aching to have your thighs hug my head while I eat your pussy like it’s brunch time. According to you, I’m depressed for wanting to put you in positions you didn’t even know you’d qualified for.”

Her eyelids fluttered shut, she chewed on her bottom lip, and swallowed down a moan, her body strumming to life with his words. She shuddered as his hands slid down her curves then toward the knotted tie that held her wrap dress taut.

“Why settle for wax fruit anymore when I sink my teeth back into plump sweet fruit, hm?” His teeth gently caught her earlobe, nipping it which made her whimper helplessly.

“I know I hurt you in the past, Desiree,” he said, “and I’m trying to make up for that. Let me start by taking care of you.”

He undid her tie with careful fingers and her dress fell loose. His rough hands roamed her brown skin. Her desire for him was starting to get the best of her, but she still had a clear enough head to issue a forewarning. She already let him break her heart once. She refused to let him do it again.

She declared in an airy whisper, “This is strictly sex and nothing more.”

His hands halted and she took it as an opportunity to turn to face him.

“Nothing more, Nicholas,” she repeated carefully. 

{}{}{}

Tallulah Edmond slept with her ex-husband plenty enough to create a whole child and yet all these years later, she felt vulnerable as she laid in his California king size bed. An irony not lost to her as Hollywood treated him like the king of California. As if sensing her unease, his hand slipped into his robe’s pocket and brought out a silver flask, tossing it to her. She unscrewed the cap and took a few gulps of Kentucky whiskey, coughing as it went down.

Her chest heaved as the burn slithered down her throat and seeped into her bloodstream, warming up her insides and relaxing her nerves. She closed the flask, her head swimming with lightness.

“I forgot how much you loved whiskey,” she confessed with a slight slur. With drooped eyelids, she watched as he knelt before the bed and undid her footwear’s ankle-straps, plucking them off and letting them clomp to the tiled floor.

“I forgot how much you’re a lightweight when you drink it,” he returned with a throaty chuckle.

“The only instance where I’m light in anything,” she giggled as she sat up, reaching around her back to unclasp her bra and tossing it to the side.

His blue eyes darkened as she unveiled her breasts. She laid back down, slid her eyelids shut, and rested her arms above her head, offering herself to him.

She felt his weight dip into the bed and his body nestle between her legs. She shivered as a rough tongue dragged from her belly button and up to her breast, an eager mouth latching onto her nipple. She arched the small of her back as he teased the hardening peak with suckles and licks. Her lips fell wide and she gasped sharply. Catching the bud with his teeth, he tugged it gently before he released it, pulling himself back.

Nick took it upon himself to peel off her panties, forcing her to lift her full hips to help him along. He came back to her, leaving a trial of bites and licks down her plush body—his hands roaming and groping her skin and curves. Her head lolled to one side as his head found its way in between her thighs, his tongue burying itself in between her pussy’s lips and steering it from south to north with the flat of his tongue. The palms of his hands gripped the underside of her quivering thighs, keeping them opened wide for his invasion.

“Nicholas,” she drew out a groan as his tongue greeted her clit with a greedy lick.

He answered back with a deep growl, covering his mouth over her clit and assaulted it. A hand shot down to grip a fistful of his hair, hanging on as it rode the rhythm of his head as he ate her wet core. Her neglected clit welcomed the attention, swift pleasure twisting into knots within her. She squirmed and writhed underneath the command of his mouth, her heavy breasts jiggling as she struggled to breath.

Tears escaped the corners of her shut eyelids as she endured an exquisite ecstasy she hadn’t felt in such a long time—since him. When his teeth nipped her clit, she cried out, relishing the entangled sensations of pleasure and pain. He did it over and over, driving her crazy. She thrashed her head from side to side.

Another bounding leap to an escalating orgasm.

He soothed the ache with hard sucks and lazy licks that set her body afire.

He breathed out in between his licks. “You could always handle how I like it, Ray. No woman could take what I’ve got to give like you could. You remember how mean I can be in bed, don’t you?”

Nick caught her clit with his teeth, drawing it back into his mouth’s warmth. She rocked herself against his face, wanting more of his meanness. He tortured her again, relentless in his masterful technique. The arrival of her climax was a pointed gasp that gave way to a sob of rapture, tears streaming down her cheeks. As she panted heavily, she gazed up at the ceiling, her eyesight blurry and stinging while he lapped up her release and slithered a hand to her right breast. Squeezing and kneading the fleshy mound, tweaking and plucking her nipple.

Nothing more was what Tallulah told him, but as she laid in her ex-husband’s bed bathed in the morning sunlight and the distinct afterglow of an orgasm, she realized she was dead wrong.

She wouldn’t be going home in three hours tops.

 

Take 4: Ambiance by Missus James
Author's Notes:

ambiance: The feeling or mood of a particular scene or setting.

 

TAKE 4

His arm looped around her neck and tightened his hold, making it hard for Tallulah to scream, but she tried at it anyway. It was a faltering breathless exclamation of her desperation. She tried to steady her gaze on the light fixture above, but her whole body jerked each time a cock thrust upward into her pussy hard and slow. Her breasts jiggled to the rhythm Nick orchestrated.

Her back laid upon his chest. A reverse cowgirl half-complete because he wanted to take the reins. Nick squeezed her throat a little tighter and she sputtered a gasp accordingly while he showed her exactly how he wanted this to happen. All she could was enjoy it, but Nick was cruel and used his free hand to toy with her clit as he fucked her from his spot underneath her. He tormented the throbbing bud with hard tight circles to compliment his punishing thrusts and loose lazy ones to keep her teetering on the edge of an orgasm. Sometimes, he sandwiched her fleshy hood in between his forefinger and thumb, gliding it up and down her swollen clit hiding inside.

Tallulah’s head was dizzy from his chokehold and unbearable pleasure that stirred and brewed with nowhere to go, but even after all these years, Nick always knew her breaking point and only ever dished out what she could handle. Today, however, they were tiptoeing a dangerous line and even though she loved it, she hated that he wouldn’t let her cum—not yet.

Nick wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction until he deemed so. She knew he was furious with her and maybe this was his way of getting back at her. A punishment he cunningly made her brace. It would take a lot more than angry sex to repair their trust in each other and co-parent their son, but Tallulah would be lying if she didn’t admit that getting her brains fucked out of her ears by Nick was the most phenomenal sex she had in years.

“Please,” she gasped.

Rolling his hips upward sharp and deep to bottom out her pussy, he grunted in her ear, “What’s that?”

She squealed at the sudden switch in tempo and depth before she pleaded, “Please, Nick.”

“Please?” He repeated amusingly for clarification, his fingertips rubbing her clit from side to side. She didn’t need to take a gander at his face to know he was smiling.

She nodded vigorously, meeting him thrust for thrust.

He wondered with a chuckle, “You want to cum? Is that what you want?”

“Mm-hm,” Tallulah hummed desperately before her eyes disappeared into the back of her head as his cock moved in and out of her faster, his rhythm on her clit upping as well.

“You think you deserve it? You think you earned it?”

Did she deserve it? No, but she needed it as badly as she needed the air he, also, was depriving her from.

Rocking her hips needily as he pounded into her from below, she croaked, “Give it to me, Nick. No more, no more.”

Finally, he gave into her pleas, intensifying his strokes and pinching at her clit as the final push she needed. His chokehold tightened around her throat and she gagged out her cry as a heady rush of pure gratification tore through her, her pussy embracing his cock tightly. His release arrived just after hers. He let out a drawn out groan as he emptied himself into a condom.

Tallulah’s body quivered as she laid atop of him, struggling for breath and struggling to make sense of what in the hell just happened. His arm slipped off her neck thereby granting her freedom. She moved off of him, flopping on an empty space beside him bonelessly. His crumpled gray bedsheets blanketed the tailend of her backside. Their sweat shimmered in the early afternoon sunlight.

Nick leaned over, placing a kiss the nape of her neck. She shuddered softly, goosebumps spreading across her flesh.  

“Still resilient as ever, Diamond,” he said before he got off the bed, disappearing into the bathroom to throw away the condom.

Diamond was the ‘bedroom name’ he used to call her when they were married. No matter how much pressure he laid on her, she never cracked on him. She could handle everything he had to give and more. Nick’s kind of fucking wasn’t for everyone, but back then and even now, it was still just right for her.

The corner of her lips lifted slightly at the old nickname.

Nick ambled into the bedroom, stretching his arms over his head. “That was an unexpected but very satisfying detour.”

Tallulah snorted, lifting her tired head to look over shoulder. “Don’t act as if you hadn’t planned this all along. You booked the babysitter until 8 tonight. That’s quite a few hours away. What exactly were you expecting we'd to do until then?”

“There’s still much to be discussed,” he said as he padded over to the bed. “Juan will be here in an hour.”

She nestled her cheek against a wonderfully soft pillow. “Your awaited fluffer, I presume?”

“My publicity agent,” he corrected with a smirk as he slipped back into bed, settling directly beside her when there was plenty of room to leave an ocean between them. Sneakily, he crept an arm along her waist and nestled in close from behind her, burying his nose into her hair. A lazy fingertip traced invisible shapes into her back.

Was he trying to initiate some post-coital cuddling?

Tallulah sluggishly sat up, turning halfway to peer at him. “What are you doing, Nicholas?”

He grinned tiredly, his Kentucky accent shined through. “I thought it was pretty fuckin’ obvious, Ray. Generally, after soul-snatchin’ sex, people intend to cuddle.”

“I don’t think you understand the concept of nothing more,” she said, rolling her eyes, “and no cuddling falls under it.”

She climbed out of the bed, collecting her discarded bra and put it on. “Now, that we’ve got this out of our systems, we can focus on Milo and the film.”

Tucking his arms behind his head, he inquired, “Who says I’ve gotten it out my system?”

Tallulah froze for a moment, letting his words sink in and fantasies run wild. All too-vivid images of a rough quickie before his publicity agent arrived flashed across her mind. She cleared her throat and shook her head to shoo those thoughts away, clasping her bra hooks.

“If that’s the case, you have a hand and I’m sure you know what to do with it,” she scoffed as she rounded the bed to find her panties and step into them, “and if that’s not enough for you, you can ring up one of your little girlfriends when I’m gone.”

“You telling me this is an ‘one and done’ kind of deal, Desiree?”

Tallulah shrugged on her wrap dress and knotted the tie tight, replying, “You are accurate, Mr. Bryant.”

“Hm,” he hummed pensively. Her narrowed eyes fell upon him, not liking the sound at all. It felt like a polite alternative to ‘yeah right, sweetheart’.

He didn’t believe her.

“I mean it, Nicholas.”

“I’m sure you do, Desiree,” he yawned.

She clenched her jaw, but sat on the edge of the bed to put her wedges back on. However, as she belted her ankle-straps, a brewing annoyance nagged at her. Finally, she looked over her shoulder.

“You seriously don’t believe me.”

He returned, “In all honesty, Ray, I don’t even think you believe yourself.”

“Or you’re just full of yourself,” Tallulah laughed. “You think because the rest of the female population wants to screw you over and over that I do too? Come on, Nicholas. You need to give me more credit than that. I mean what I say and I say what I mean.”

She rose up, tugging at her outfit’s hemline. “Now, can you please get dressed, so we can air out the smell of sex we reek of on the patio before your publicist gets here?”

Nick sighed heavily as he got out of the bed and moved past her to go into his closet that probably rivaled in size to her apartment, naked as a jaybird. “Even if we ‘air out’ on the patio, your ‘fucked real good’ hair might still be a tipoff to Juan. He’s real perceptive like that.”

Tallulah’s eyes grew wide and a defensive hand shot to her messy hair as she scurried into his bathroom, half-tempted to clobber him with her wedge as he chuckled sexily at her expense. Natural light flooded into the spacious bathroom abundantly, perfect for her to examine how jacked up her tresses were. She had a strong suspension the most of the fault lied in how he entangled his gripping fingers in her hair as she swallowed his cock and fondled his balls during foreplay.

She grabbed a polished wood bristle brush from the counter and used to tame her hair. Once she felt as if the end result was presentable, she walked out of the bathroom. Nick ambled out the closet clothed in a flamingo pink polo shirt, brown shorts, and sandals. A pair of polarized aviator shades shielded his brilliant blue eyes from her. Even his tousled hair seemed perfect.

He looked at her over the rim of his sunglasses and posed with a suggestive grin, “You ready to air out?”

“Stop dicking around, Nicholas,” she said, crossing her arms.

He approached her, dipping his head low in her ear. “I stopped dicking around after you came on my cock, Desiree.”

Tallulah opened her mouth to speak, but she was unsure of what to say. Instead, she shot him a nasty look of disapproval and followed him through the glass mansion and to the patio. Sunlight danced across the pool water’s ripples. She settled down in her seat, quickly noting the patio table evidence of their breakfast was cleared off the tables.

“Where’s everything?”

“Greta’s around here somewhere,” Nick said behind the full-fledged outdoor bar tucked away the roof’s shadow as he fixed drinks.

Tallulah blinked, a sense of dread creeping over her. “I presume Greta is your housemaid?”

“You presumed correct.”

“Would it be wrong of me to presume that Greta potentially overheard,” she trailed off, clearing her throat.

Nick paused in his task. “Would you feel better if I said she didn’t?”

She nodded. “I would.”

“Then yes she did overhear it,” he replied with a smirk as he resumed being a personal bartender.

Tallulah popped up her middle finger, glaring at him. “You’re utterly hilarious, Nicholas.”

He rounded the bar counter and approached her, offering a short glass filled with what appeared to be lemonade, muddled fresh mint, and crushed ice. “Greta has worked for me for six years. She’s used to my lifestyle and wears Bose headphones while she works. She prefers to listen to German folk songs over hearing how effect I am at satisfying my guests.”

She accepted the mixed drink, feeling slightly at ease at his assurance. “That’s good to know. Though you should’ve told me we weren’t alone in the house.”

Nick seated himself across from her and propped his feet up on the table, rising his glass as if to give her a toast. “Contrary to popular belief, the rich and famous can’t afford the luxury of being alone. Of true privacy. If you want to be successful in this business, for sake of your sanity, I highly recommend you accept that, Desiree.”

Tallulah sipped her drink gingerly, contemplating the heavy truth of his words. For as long as she had been in this industry, she never had to worry about her privacy. Who gave a fuck about the actress who showed up in deodorant and insurance ads? But the mother of an A-lister’s child and an actress in an iconic director’s film project was bound to bring her attention.

Whether she liked it or not.

A handsome middle-aged Hispanic man stepped onto the patio, a scowl on his face. “I knew I’d find you out here drinking away your goddamn sense.”

Nick inclined his head, giving his publicist a two-finger salute. “Good to see you too, Juan.”

Juan locked eyes with Tallulah, his eyebrows shooting up.

“Tallulah, Juan. Juan, Tallulah,” Nick introduced lazily before he leaned his head back to down half his drink.

The two shook hands apprehensively and exchanged awkward hellos before Juan joined at the table and cut his eyes over to Nick. “You never make this easy for me, do you? It’s not exact a walk in the park telling the world that you’ve got a whole kid.”

“But you’ll manage. You always do,” Nick said. “Your very career depends on it.”

Tallulah’s eyebrows scrunched at her ex-husband’s veiled threat.

Juan ran his fingers through his hair. “Well, first thing’s first. We need to do a paternity test.”

“Not necessary. The kid’s mine.”

“Look, if a kid materializes in your life overnight, the first thing the media’s gonna roll with is that she’s some chick from the past trying to scam you and the kid’s someone else’s bastard,” Juan huffed, jerking a thumb to Tallulah.

Nick slipped his shades down the bridge of his nose to get a good look at his publicist and asked, “Is that what you think, Juan?”

“As your publicist, I have to look at this from all angles. We don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which possibilities to run with,” Juan replied. “If we don’t confirm the boy’s paternity to shush the nay-sayers, the media’s gonna pollute the public with a nasty conspiracy.”

Tallulah leaned back in her chair. “I think it’s a good idea.”

The two men peered at her in surprise.

“I don’t want anyone questioning Milo’s paternity,” she said. “We’ll do the test to put that suspicion to rest.”

Juan nodded. “Once we get the results back, we’ll sell the story to Hollywood Laundry, have them send out a photographer to catch you during a ‘down-low’ family outing, and have them plaster it everywhere. Everyone’s gonna want pictures and video of the kid with his new daddy, but what they’ll want more than that is pictures of his mom, the woman who was Nick Bryant’s first love.”

“You’re gonna be public enemy #1, Tallulah,” Juan continued. “Let’s be honest, you’ve kept one of America’s favorite bachelors away from his eight-year-old son until now. The media, the fans, everyone’s gonna drag you through the mud and filth. Your appearance doesn’t help matters.”

The pain of Juan’s observations pooled in her chest, but she refused to let the two men before her notice how it affected her.

Nick growled, “Watch your fuckin’ mouth, Juan.”

Tallulah straightened her back, smiling. “He’s right, Nicholas. I won’t fit what the public envisions as a woman worthy of being Nick Bryant’s baby mama.”

“But you’ll do an interview to tell your side of thing,” Juan proposed, flitting nervously to Nick as if to gauge his angry client’s likeness of firing him. “Make the masses sympathetic to your image. We’ll whip out a few old photos of you and Nick, of Milo growing up to help our cause. The paparazzi will be clambering for a picture of just you in no time. We’ll need to hire security detail, so you can come and go safely from your residence.”

Nick replied gruffly, “They’ll be staying with me.”

Juan blinked before he chuckled awkwardly. “Here?”

“Yes, here.”

“That might not be for the best, Nick,” his publicist advised.

In turn, Nick bit out, “And why not?”

“The two of them staying here would give the public the impression that you and your ex-wife are back together,” Juan stated, adjusting his collar.

Noticing Nick’s brooding, Tallulah interpose politely, “Well, we wouldn’t want anyone thinking that, now would we? Milo and I can’t continue to say where we are, so what would you recommend to until we find a permanent home, Juan?”

“You two are staying here,” Nick stated.

Tallulah exhaled sharply through her nostrils. “You heard Jua—“

Nick cut her off. “I don’t give a fuck what he said. We mutually agreed that you and Milo would stay here with me and I’m holding you to. That’s final. End of story.”

Tallulah smiled sweetly at Juan. “Can you excuse us for a moment?”

“Of course, of course.” Juan stood up and got the hell out of dodge.

Tallulah hissed through grit teeth, “Why are you so damn difficult?”

“Why are you so scared of you and Milo moving in with me?”

“I’m not scared,” she claimed. “I just want to know why are you so adamant that we stay here?”

And she wasn’t. She was goddamn terrified.

Nick dropped his feet from the table and leaned in, slamming his first down. “Because I want to give Milo the family he deserves. I want us all to eat breakfast together before he goes off to school. I want you to watch me teach him how to swim in that pool. You two have been a family for eight years, Desiree. Eight long years. Is it wrong of me to want to be a part of that?”

She cut her eyes away and hugged herself as guilt ate away at her.

“Alright, we’ll stay here.”

 

End Notes:

I know this story is an acquired taste.

I completely agree that Tallulah was in the wrong. Though the whole secret son trope though has been done to death and back, however, it does happen in real life.

I'm about to get real personal. My mother was a 'secret' kid who didn't find her birth father until her mid-40s after my grandmother finally told her after she begged and begged and begged. When my grandfather first found out, he was so upset that my grandmother held that secret for so long. She was able to build a relationship with her birth father, his wife, and her half-siblings within a handful of years before he passed away this year from cancer.

My mother was absolutely devestated because even though she was about to connect with him, she never had him in her life as a child, to walk her down the aisle, and be there for her during her milestones. Not having a father affected my mom's life choices. My mom was so ADAMANT that I had a father in my life that she stayed with my father for over nearly 30 years even though their marriage was failing. She wanted me to have the traditional family that she never had.

I am kind of using her experience as inspiration for Milo's emotional journey throughout all this. 

I did want to adress this whole fascination with celebrities' and their "unattractive" spouses, but some of the plot comes from my heart too. 

Sincerely,

MJ

Take 5: Feel-Good Film by Missus James
Author's Notes:

feel-good film: usually a light-hearted, upbeat comedy or romance that ends with an audience-pleasing conclusion.

 

TAKE 5

 

The last nine days had been an absolute whirlpool. From signing contracts with Eugene Aaron’s film production company to taking a paternity test and waiting for results already known, touring schools of the rich and famous’ offspring, overseeing professional movers pack up and cart off her belongings, and table reads with the rest of Forget Me Not’s assembled cast, everything was happening in a blur and she couldn’t properly make out what she was seeing. Now, she sat in the back of a town car instructed to take her and her son to some family arcade in East LA. She leaned her forehead against the sun-warmed glass window to give herself a chance to relax. Though she predicted co-parenting with her ex-husband would be a successful collaboration, she anticipated living him would be anything but easy.

When the town car arrived in the arcade’s parking lot, Milo flung open his car door and darted out, running straight in squatting Nick’s awaiting arms. His father put him into a headlock and gave him a noogie. Nick’s “down-low” outfit was pretty effective. He wore a dark baseball cap, a jacket, a simple shirt, dark jeans, and work boots. If bystander stared at him long enough, they’d might think their eyes were deceiving them.

She got out the car and sauntered up to the bonding moment. Nick skillfully tossed the boy over his shoulder and rose up to meet her, a charming grin carved itself on his lips.

“Good evening.”

“Evening,” Tallulah greeted back before she cleared her throat, glancing around the parking lot nervously.

“You’re not going to find what you’re looking for,” Nick stated. “People like that are real good at playing hide and seek.”

He meant the Hollywood Laundry photographer that was a part of Juan’s master plan. She shifted her attention back to him.

Nick nodded toward the arcade’s doors. “You ready?”

“I am,” Milo piped up, earning laughs from his parents.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Tallulah said.

Once inside the colorful family arcade, they purchased two gigantic cups of tarnished game coins that had seen better days. Milo ran ahead of them, stopping at a hoop game. Tallulah handed him two coins to play. He only made the basket twice, but he wasn’t upset about getting a high score. He seemed just happy to have his parents rallying behind him.

His lane spat out a few tickets.

“Now, it’s your turns,” Milo announced with a wide grin.

The two of them stepped up to their respective lanes and feed the game their coins. Nick stretched his arms over his head, cranking his neck from side to side with a loud dramatic groan. Milo laughed and Tallulah bit back hers, rolling her eyes in lieu.

Nick posed, “You ready to lose?”

“In your dreams,” Tallulah snorted. 

They grabbed their first basketballs and shot toward their baskets. Tallulah’s baseball sunk through the net, earning a red-digit score. Nick’s ball danced around the rim before it fell off, his score still a blaring zero.

“It’s OK, Dad. You tried,” Milo encouraged, patting the man’s back as if the game was already over and the winner was declared.

A giggle burst from Tallulah’s lips at Milo’s sympathetic gesture as she reached for another basketball and shot it like a basketball pro to which she scored. In the end, she had the highest final score and won the most tickets, having successfully gotten all the balls through the hoop except one. She stuck her tongue out and did her victory dance, which consisted of shimmying shoulders and whipping the air.

She cupped her ear as if she were hard of hearing. “I’m sorry, but was that the sound of defeat, Nicholas?”

“You win this round,” he said, jerking his head toward a multi-player arcade game a few feet away, “but test your luck at Race Car Mania.”

In the end, she won that one too.

When all the purchased coins were nearly gone, dozens and dozens of games were played, the family of three acquired a huge plastic bag full of tickets, they made their way to the prize counter and waited in line.

Milo grabbed his mom’s arm and jumped up and down, pointing excitedly to a shooting arcade game in the distance. “Oh, can I play that game? Please, please, please?”

“Just that one and come right back,” Tallulah conceded, forfeiting the last few coins.

He scurried off and she cranked her neck to keep an eye on him.

“You were a worthy adversary tonight,” Nick said.

“Translation: you really suck at arcade games,” Tallulah laughed, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “But it’s oddly comforting to know I can best you at something.”

“You’ve bested me more than once.”

She rolled her eyes. “Like?”

“You’re the better actor. Even after all these years, you outshined me at the audition. Gene and the producers couldn’t take their eyes off you,” he said.

She glanced at him bashfully and leaned close, whispering teasingly, “Says the three-time Oscar nominee.”

Reaching the prize shop’s counter, Nick handed over the bag of tickets and the employee weighted the tickets. They won a few thousand, but it wasn’t enough for the big green dinosaur plushie that Milo wanted, which sitting on a high shelf top alongside his brethren. Nick pulled out his wallet and plucked out a few hundreds, discreetly sliding it across the counter to the perplexed teenaged employee.

“Nicholas.” Tallulah gaped and slapped his shoulder, glancing around to ensure no one—especially Milo—witnessed him trying to cheat the system.

Nick ignored her, pointing to the stuffed toy his son wanted. “We’ll take that one. Two Benjamins should cover it and you can keep the rest for yourself as a token of thanks. Got it?”

By the time Milo came back from his game, Nick had the green dinosaur waiting for him. Their son’s eyes lit up like fireworks and he hugged the toy with all his might. The sight warmed her heart. Maybe, it was alright to cheat the system every once and a while, if it meant the reward was a child’s genuine happiness.

It was well after dusk when they emerged from the arcade, walking across the parking lot and down the street. Nick offered to carry the dinosaur that was over half the size of Milo, but the little boy refused.

They walked two short blocks to get to a pizzeria, the waitress seating them at a booth by a wide window. Milo wanted to sit with his new green friend and claimed one side of the booth, which meant his parents had to sit on the other side.

Tallulah slid in first, deciding to take the window seat. The waitress came back with menus and cocked her head, squinting her eyes at Nick’s incognito efforts. However, she shook her head as if she didn’t believe herself. She took their drink orders and left the family be as they looked over the menus.

A bubbly giggle drew Milo’s attention from his menu and toward the young chipper couple in the booth across the way, huddling up to take a cutesy selfie.

He then glanced in between his parents. “Dad, did you leave Mom because you weren’t happy with her anymore?”

Tallulah nearly choked on air. “Milo.”

Nick eyed his son for a long moment with a cocked head before he folded his hands on the table, tilting in. “No, that wasn’t the reason why I left your mom, Milo. I was very happy with your mom.”

“Then why did you leave?”

His blue eyes cut to her for a brief moment, he answered carefully, “Because I thought she deserved someone much better than me.”

Tallulah’s breath hitched softly. Just then, the waitress came with their drinks before she pulled out her pad to scribble down their food orders. After the woman walked away, Milo announced that he had to use the restroom and he hopped out of the booth to do so.

She took her straw and stirred it around her soda. “Nice answer. He believed it. I almost did too.”

“It’s the truth, Desiree.”

A sad smile curled onto her lips. “Or it’s a lie you made yourself believe to not feel so guilty about what you did, Nicholas.”

Nick scooted closer to her, lying an arm along the booth’s lip. He used his free hand to gently grasp her chin and navigate her head to face his, their contrast gazes locking.

“I had my reasons for doing what I did,” he said.

She licked her lips and returned softly, “And I did too.”

His blue eyes flickered down her mouth before they settled back onto her chocolate brown eyes. He wanted to kiss her. His gaze told her so.

“Not here, Nicholas,” she replied.

He grinned evocatively. “Is that an invitation to redeem one later?”

She fought back a smile of her own. “I’m not a prize booth at an arcade.”

He leaned over her shoulder to whisper in her ear, “True, but we can still make a game out of it.”

A gush of arousal pooled in between her legs, pulsing hungrily there. She noted Milo coming out of the men’s restroom.

Behave. Our son’s coming back,” she said. Nick pulled back and settled back in his original spot two inches away. She smiled innocently at Milo as he settled back in his seat. 

Tonight was going to be a long night.

{}{}{}

The night of their first family outing was also the first night living together. Days before, Nick let Milo pick his room. The boy wanted the one closest to his fathers. The interior designer made quick work of transforming the sophisticated bedroom into a Prehistoric jungle fit for a boy. Even going as far as to commission an artist to paint an intricate dinosaur mural on the non-glass walls. He had his own computer now, a flat screen TV, and a plethora of game consoles. Milo nearly died and went to heaven when he saw his new room, jumping on his head and screaming his excitement.

However, Nick managed to calm him down and get him ready for bed.

Tallulah pried herself from the doorway to give them much needed father-son bonding time. She plucked off her shoes, making the trek from the top floor to the ground floor. Her bedroom was the farthest away from Nick’s and Milo’s. A place edged along the foothill’s drop-off point.

A perfect view of Los Angeles for her to sit and admire from her cream, gray, and green oasis.

At first, Tallulah thought personalized bedrooms were a tad excessive for a temporary arrangement, but then she reasoned that she and Milo would spend the night often, so why have bedrooms of their own?

She changed her pajamas, a silk tank-top and shorts combo. She retrieved her script and padded over to an armchair that faced the city she had a bizarre love-hate relationship with. She lounged sideways in the comfy chair, her legs dangling over the armrest while she flipped through the pages to review her lines.

Tallulah came upon a particular scene with her role and the main character’s love interest, Rosalind. Naomi Barrett, one of Eugene Aaron’s many godchildren, was tapped to play her. Naomi, also, happened to be an ex of Nick’s. A steady ex as a gossip blog so eloquently put it. In four years, they got together for a few weeks and broke up like clockwork at least twice a year. The last time they were together was fairly recent. Like the all the other times, it ended almost as quickly as it began. Naomi then started dating a country singer and Nick global-trotted with an Australian billionaire heiress/supermodel.

Yes, that kind of recent.

The very last thing she should have felt was jealousy because her ex-husband didn’t owe her anything. It wasn’t like they were in a relationship. They lingered in this murky territory of whatever-the-fuck where they flirted and teased nowadays, but it never went beyond that. It could never go beyond that. Nick broke her heart and she’d be an idiot to trust him with it again.

She tried to stay firm with the one-and-done thing. She didn’t want Milo getting confused about where his parents stood. She didn’t need him getting his hopes up when Nick inevitably went back to his steady ex Naomi.

Being on set was often the perfect place for rekindling romances and if Naomi was to play his love interest, they’d be stuck like glue over the next few months during Forget Me Not’s press tour. Interviews where interviewers would slyly ask questions about their turbulent relationship and photoshoots where they’d be dramatically entangled in each other in one way or another. After all, if you pretended to be into someone for the sake of a film’s success eventually you might convince yourself to have feelings for that someone.

“And you shouldn’t give a fuck,” Tallulah grumbled to herself, aggressively flipping the pages to the next scene. Pushing away those thoughts, she focused on reading the script and practicing her lines.

Getting a headache from absorbing and processing all the inked words, she gazed out the windows to give herself a break. In the windows’ reflection, she witnessed her bedroom door open and Nick’s head pop through the crack, his knuckles rattling on the door.

He asked, “You busy?”

She lifted her script in the air. “Just reading my lines. Do you need something?”

“Yeah, I need help finishing this off,” Nick said, shaking a bottle of whiskey. There wasn’t much left in it. It could easily be easily polished off by two mouths.

Tallulah cocked an eyebrow and teased, “Are you trying to get me drunk, Nick?”

“I’m offended you would insinuate such a thing,” Nick replied. “Now, are you in or naw?”

“I could do for a nightcap,” she conceded.

He entered her bedroom, kicking the door shut with a nudge of his foot. She pried herself off her armchair and laid her script down, stretching her arms above her head. She strolled over her bed with a soft yawn and climbed onto it. Nick sat on the edge, unscrewing the cap and taking a deep swig.

She then asked, “You think the photographer got enough?”

“More than enough,” he answered, passing the bottle off. “They always do.”

She laughed. “Speaking from experience?”

Tallulah gulped down the brown liquor, her face twisting as it seared her throat on the way down. She handed him back the bottle.

“Lots of fucking experience,” he snorted before he drank some more then gave the bottle back to her. Was that disdain she heard in his voice? Slowly and surely, Tallulah was beginning to think that Nick Bryant despised his fame or at least, the troubles that came with it.

She stared at the alcohol for a lingering moment, chewing on her bottom lip. “I can’t stop thinking about the reason you gave Milo as to why you left me. You told me it’s all true and yet I don’t know all the truth, Nicholas.”

Nick leaned over, propping his elbows on his thighs and weaving his fingers through his brown hair. He chuckled sadly.

“You wait until I’m tipsy to ask me a question like that, Desiree?”

“If that’s what it takes,” she said.

He hung his head. “You want the truth? The truth is I lied. When we were together, I wasn’t making money from gigs in LA like I made you believe. Not when we were still living together. Not when I moved up here.”

Tallulah’s eyes grew wide and she shook her head, trying to comprehend what he was saying. “If the money you were sending back to me wasn’t from gigs then what in the hell was it from, Nicholas?”

He wouldn’t speak.

She climbed off the bed and stood in front of him, grabbing a fistful of his hair and yanking his head up to look at her. “Tell me what, Nicholas.”

“We were low on money and Thibault had connections in LA.”

Her head jerked back at the mention of that name. “Thibault as my father who’s in prison for life for killing an undercover cop in a drug bust for millions of dollars in coke? That Thibault?”

Tallulah let go off his hair, backing away from him. “What did you do for him?”

He closed his eyes, unable to look at her. “What do you think I did for him, Desiree?”

“That slimy piece of shit is the reason why my mother died, Nicholas. She overdosed on his product for Christ’s sake.” She squeezed her eyelids shut, tears bubbling up behind her closed eyes. “And you’re telling me that you were one of his mules?”

“I wanted to provide for us. We were barely making ends meet in San Diego. He offered me the opportunity and I took it. It was only supposed to be for a little while,” he said as he rose up, closing in on her.

He cupped her cheeks, brushing away her spilling tears. “I hated myself for doing it, but I wanted to give you everything. Driving back and forth from LA, lying to your face every single time…I convinced you it was best if I moved to LA. I still went back and forth to San Diego, but you had no clue. I was doing auditions, but they weren’t going anywhere. I knew you’d never forgive me if you found out the truth.”

She bit her quivering lip to swallow back a sob, shaking her head.

He went on. “Guilt ate at me and when Thibault’s got busted, I took it as a sign to walk away for good, but I couldn’t go back to you, Desiree. You deserved a husband much better than me. So, I sent you the divorce papers. You wanted to know why I couldn’t look you in the eye during the proceedings? I was disgusted with myself. I couldn’t look you in the eye because I didn’t deserve to. If I had, maybe I would have noticed the important changes your body was going through.”

She grasped his wrists and wretched his hands from her face, glaring at him with her teary eyes. “Get the fuck out of my room, Nicholas.”

He lingered in front of her for a long moment, apprehensive to grant her demand. She hurled the bottle in her hand across the room and it shattered against a wall. “Get the fuck out!”

She turned sharply on her heel and marched to the armchair in front of her windows, plopping down and cupping her wet face, wailing uncontrollably.

Tallulah rocked back and forth.

Why was hearing the truth more excruciating than the lie she had made herself believe for all these years?

 

 

 

End Notes:

IM OUT

GOOD NIGHT!

Take 6: Mise-en-scene by Missus James
Author's Notes:

mise-en-scène: the physical setting of an motion picture 

 

TAKE 6

 

Tallulah woke up to her 5 o’clock alarm on her cell and a shitty headache after crying into the early morning. She only had three hours of sleep under her belt, which would do her no good on her first day on set. Her eyes were puffy, her body ached, and her heart had a bleeding hole in it. She was curled into a ball, bed sheets swallowing her whole. She blindly reached for her phone to hit the big red button that would end all the noise before she retreated back underneath the shelter of her sheets. Her fingers traced a name into the bottom sheet repeatedly as if she’d forget if she stopped.

V-E-R-O-N-I-C-A

Veronica, Tallulah’s sole inspiration for becoming an actress.

Once upon a time, Veronica Keaton was a promising star in 80s Hollywood. She was a regular cast member as the eldest daughter, Kitty, in a quirky family sitcom, The Good Family. It was a popular show in the beginning, but lasted three seasons as the ratings tanked. Her eighteen-year-old mother was only there for one season.

With fame came familiar vices: drugs, alcohol, and sex. The first of such lead her mother to crossing paths with a drug dealer to the stars, Thibault Edmond. Her addiction and her father were to blame for her downward spiral. A highly publicized scandal was the final nail in the coffin to her wholesome image. Her character was cleverly written off the show as by running off with her rich boyfriend to backpack through Europe. The running gag that stretched through the remaining two seasons were the Good family receiving mailed postcards with bizarre stories from Kitty’s globetrotting adventures at the most inopportune times.

Meanwhile in real life, instead of being a star, as the companion of a prominent drug dealer, she partied with the stars. Using her industry connections to widen her boyfriend’s reach. When Tallulah was born, Veronica struggled with her addiction and tried to do right by her daughter and tried to leave him, but the manipulative bastard used coke to chain her to him. It was a vicious cycle that went on and on for ten years until Tallulah, alongside her father and his buddies, witnessed Veronica overdose at one of his infamous parties.

The vivid memory of her mother’s limp body and vacant eyes in a bathtub awaited her as she closed her stinging eyes. She remembered being the one that found her that way and yelled for help while everyone downstairs snorted coke with rolled dollar bills, drank their fill, and kissed on carefree women. She remembered how Thibault turned on the shower water and patted at an unresponsive Veronica’s cheek, shouting at her to stop being such a drama queen. She remembered how one of the scantily clad women had the sense to usher her out of the bathroom to save what innocence she had left, but the damage was done.

She didn’t have much love for her bastard father before that night, but after it, any love disintegrated and blew away like ashes. It took her years before she had the courage to love another and it killed her knowing that her father somehow played a hand in ruining it.

Tallulah picked up her phone to note the time, she groaned as she realized that she needed to get up and she needed to do it now. It took all her strength to drag herself into the bathroom to get ready for the day. She emerged from her bedroom no more than thirty minutes later freshly showered and dressed in plain clothes.

She ventured from her wing, up the stairs, and quietly opened her son’s door. She crept up to his bed and laid down beside him carefully. A manicured finger stroked the bridge of his nose as a gentle method of waking him up. His nose crinkled and he stirred, his eyelids peeling back tiredly.

Tallulah smiled at him softly. “Morning, sleepyhead. How was your first night in your new room?”

“The bestest ever,” Milo said then posed, “Are you sick? You don’t sound too good, Mom.”

She chuckled gently, shaking her head. “No, baby. I’m not sick. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”

He frowned up at her and asked hesitantly, “Are you still mad at Dad…from last night?”

Tallulah blinked at the question, cocking her head. “And what do you know about last night exactly, Milo Lachlan? You should have been very much asleep.”

“I might…have snuck out of bed to play Minecraft and heard you screaming at Dad,” he admitted then paused, worry carved a home onto his young face. “Mom, if you’re mad at Dad, should I be mad at him too?”

“No, you shouldn’t, Milo,” she assured. “Don’t worry about me and your dad. What you should be worried about is how you’re going to play all those video games over there in my lifetime?”

She then tickled his tummy and Milo giggled, squirming under her fingers.

“Now, you know today is my first day on set, so I’m not going to be back until way past your bedtime,” she informed after stopping her assault. “Your dad’s assistant, Aishwarya, will be in charge. So, do everything she says. Alright?”

Milo nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

She kissed his forehead before she got off his bed. “You get some more rest. You’ve got a few more hours of shuteye before it’s time to get ready for school.”

Upon leaving the room, her footsteps froze as she saw Nick move into the hallway. Dark circles haunted the underside of his reddened eyes. He looked like he hadn’t slept a sink last night.

Good, she thought bitterly, clenching her jaw.

He rubbed the back of his neck as he approached her. “You sleep well in your new room?”

“Like a champ,” she lied coolly as she sidestepped him, walking briskly toward the spiraling glass stairwell. She trotted down the steps, halting at the second to the last step as he said her name. Tallulah closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she turned halfway to confront him as he descended.

“The limo should be here any minute. Ride with me,” he offered.

“Actually, I was just going to take one of your cars. Plus, it would definitely give everyone the wrong impression if we shared a limo,” she rejected and took the last two steps, tossing over her shoulder, “Thanks for the offer though.”

Nick heaved a sigh. “Desiree.”

Tallulah swirled and held up a finger, snarling, “I don’t want to be anywhere near you more than absolutely necessary for the sake of our child and our jobs, Nicholas. But know that there’s nothing you can do to fix this. Accept that now.”

An impeccably dressed Aishwarya sauntered through the front door with a set of jiggling keys and a to-go cup of coffee, her Louboutin heels clicking against white marble floors.

“See you at work,” Tallulah then said and stalked away toward the nine-car garage.

{}{}{}

After suffering through morning congestion on the infamous Los Angeles roadways and being granted access through the Artistically Extraordinary Film’s security gates, Tallulah parked the silvery Land Rover and took a shuttle van to the film location. The call sheet the Assistant Director sent out a few days ago said two particular scenes would be filmed today. Her character would have a scene with Ryland’s mother, Francine and a nighttime scene with Ryland and his love interest, Livvie.

The film location was in a Pacoima neighborhood. The entire block was blocked off on both ends. Trailers, semi-trucks, production crew members, and equipment clogged the street.

After stepping out the van and checking in with the other assistant director, some of us got in line at the catering truck. She settled for a breakfast burrito and hot coffee to give her the energy she needed to survive the day. A production assistant came up to her and ran through the day’s overall schedule and the list of scenes as she was led to the wardrobe department’s trailer. Her costume wasn’t anything impressive. Camille liked to express herself by wearing quirky scrubs and outrageous lipstick shades. So, for her first scene of the day, she was to wear Winne the Pooh scrubs and orthopedic shoes.

Then she was shooed off to the hair and makeup trailers to spend the next two hours there. Her hair was combed, brushed, blow-dried, flat-ironed, and sculpted into a beehive bun. During that time, a makeup artist worked on her face. Eugene Aaron wanted her to look raw, so there was no excessive amount of makeup. In fact, dark makeup was applied under her eyes to deepen her dark circles. Glittering honey lipstick coated her lips to apparently compliment her Winne the Pooh uniform. Sharp red push-on nails adorned her fingertips.

She gazed into the lit vanity mirror to scrutinize the final results, concealing her disappointment.

She had no clue playing a raw character meant looking like Hollywood’s opinion of what a hood chick looked like. The only thing she was missing was a gold tooth.

Finally, the production assistant escorted her to the set, which was inside an ordinary house. The film studio was coughing up 3-grand a day to use the house for 4 days. The homeowner was posted up at a four-star hotel at the heart of Downtown LA with no complaints.

It was a cozy home fit for a mother even though camera and lighting equipment and burly men took up half of the living space. The scene was to take place in the kitchen. Sarah, the production assistant, then handed her the script just as Oscar winner, two-time Tony recipient, and the director’s second but not last ex-wife Diane Gary, the actress to play Francine, entered the house with her makeup artist practically attached to her hip, dusting a makeup brush on the hollow of her cheek.

Even though Tallulah briefly interacted with the experienced actress during table reads, she couldn’t help but be absolutely starstruck by the woman’s presence.

It was Diane fucking Gary. An actress with over fifty films under her belt, an assload of accolades, and 44 years of experience in the acting game. She was brilliantly extraordinary in The Woman-King and acted her ass off in The Bankrobber’s Widow.

The two women stood at their marks, rehearsing their lines in correlation with Eugene’s guidance as he instructed all parties on how he wanted the scene to be blocked. Then they were set away to their own trailers while the stand-in actors were used as guinea pigs for the purpose of camera movement, perfecting the lighting, and sound.

During that time, Tallulah paced back and forth, running through the lines with her heart pounding violently in her throat. She would never forget herself if she fucked up in front of the likes of two icons such as Eugene Aaron and Diane Gary.

Do it for Veronica, Milo, and most importantly, yourself, Tallulah encouraged within the depths of her mind.

When the two actresses were called back to the shot and Eugene went over his performance notes before makeup artists did touch-ups on them, plucking toilet paper from their collars and running lint rollers over their costumes. Tallulah handed off her script to another production assistant who promptly scurried off set before she and Diane took place at their marks.

It took five hours to get to finally get to shooting her very first scene as a movie actress. A sense of exhilaration coursed through her bloodstream. 

“Roll sound,” the assistant director shouted to the sound mixer and boom operators.

“Rolling,” echoed they echoed.

“Sound speeds,” yelled the sound guy.

The assistant cameras declared their readiness.

“Set,” announced the cinematographer.

Eugene leaned back in his director’s chair, bridging his fingers. “Action!”

Diane shuffled in her house slippers up to the kitchen window over the sink, pushing back the short floral curtains to peek outside.

“Mrs. Bridgeman,” Tallulah sighed as she walked up to the woman, gently placing a hand on the woman’s back. “You should be in bed.”

“I’m looking for someone,” Diane cooed softly.

“And who exactly are you looking for?”

Diane looked over her shoulder, her brow furrowing at the question. A ripple of emotions swept across her aging face. First, surprise then confusion then quiet sort of horror.

“I don’t…know,” she admitted, her focus growing distant. “I don’t remember. There’s just something inside me that keeps telling me that there’s someone missing.”

Tallulah guided the woman toward the kitchen table and encouraged her to sit down. “I think the person you’re looking for is Ryland.”

Diane cocked her head. “Ryland?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “Your son.”

Diane’s trembling hand went to her collarbone. “My son? I don—”

The older woman stopped herself short before she lowered her widening gaze. “Oh, yes. Ryland. My baby boy. I haven’t seen him in so long.”

“He was here yesterday, Mrs. B,” Tallulah said as she walked to a cabinet, retrieving a glass cup and moving to the sink, filling it with tap water. She approached her co-star with a sharp roll of her eyes, pursing her lips at the thought of Ryland. She offered Diane the glass and reached into her pants pocket for a button of sugar pills a props crew member handed to her, unscrewing the white cap and shaking out two pills. Extremely careful not to pop off one of her press-on nails.

The cylindrical boom mic shifted slightly over her head, but she didn’t play it any mind.

Diane crinkled her nose at the sight of the pills and took them. “Must I?”

“Doctor’s orders,” Tallulah said.

“More like your orders,” Diane grumbled before she tossed the sugar pills into her mouth and downed it with a gulp of water and a grimace.

She shrugged her shoulders and rounded the table, sitting down on the other side. “It’s my job to take care of you, Mrs. B.”

Diane frowned. “I’m worried about who will take care of my son.”

“Ryland can take care of himself,” Tallulah assured, propping her elbow on the table and her chin on a balled first. “He always does.”

Her gaze trailed off as if she were lost in thought—as if she worried about Ryland too. Suddenly, she cleared her throat and rose up from her seat, wanting to change the subject. “How about a game of Old Maid?”

“Is that your way of telling me I’m ancient?” Diane shot her soured look.

“And cut!”

They re-shot several more times at length and to capture the characters’ interactions at different close-ups. There was still one more scheduled scene to be done and she dreaded what was to come.

{}{}{}

As the house was being setup for the nighttime scene, Tallulah went to her trailer for some peace and quiet. It wasn’t very big like Nick’s, Diane’s, or Naomi’s, but she was extremely grateful to have one. However, it was another hour-and-half until she was due for wardrobe again and there was no need to practice her lines in the meanwhile. She knew them for this particular scene like the back of her hand. She attempted to use the opportunity to rest her eyes, but the moment she laid down on the trailer’s long couch, there was knocks on the door.

It was most likely an overworked PA sent to deliver a message or a command.

She groaned in frustration as she got off the couch and went to the door, opening it.

“Ye—” The words died in her throat as Nick stood on her trailer’s steps. In the background, crew members scurried about with their tasks. All viable witnesses if she dared to tell the Nick Bryant to rot in hell and slam the door in his face.

She clenched her jaw and arched an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“You mind if I come in?”

“Do I mind? Yes. Do I have a choice? No,” she said for his ears only, stepping to the side. He came in.

She pursed her lips. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I heard your first takes were very impressive,” he informed.  

“And who told you that?”

“Diane.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Seriously?”

They spoke very little in between takes. She didn’t want to make a rookie mistake by trying to initiate silly small talk with one of the industry’s greats.

“She likes you. An impressive feat in itself considering Diane Gary doesn’t like very many people,” he stated.

“That’s a confidence booster,” she confessed, a rush of relief washing over her.

“Like I told you last night at the arcade, Desiree. When you act, you outshine everyone.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Let’s be real, Nicholas. That’s not the only thing you told me last night.”

“Yes,” he agreed, “and there’s still a lot more to be discussed between us. Things you need to know.”

“If it’s to tell me your compelling drug-muling saga, I think I’ll pass. Now, if you excuse me, I was in the middle of preparing for the next scene,” she said as she jerked back the trailer’s door handle to open the door, gesturing for him to get the fuck out. “See you on set.”

He went to her, towering over her. His intense blue eyes reflected the words his mouth wouldn’t say. This is far from over. She gulped, but stood her ground. He strode down her trailer’s steps, casting her a final look that rose goosebumps. She sealed herself inside her trailer once more, pressing her back against the door.

“Fuck.”

{}{}{}

After switching into her next costume at wardrobe, she was escorted to hair and makeup by a production assistant. Her red press-on nails were plucked off and replaced with black ones. Her beehive was freshened up and her makeup was touched up. She stiffened in the salon chair as the one and only Naomi Barrett sauntered into the trailer with a stone-faced male personal assistant and a little army of production assistants to do her bidding.

Almost immediately, the head hairdresser and head makeup artist delegated the finishing touches to their assistants before they scuttled over her.

The gorgeous redhead plopped down into her salon and whined dramatically, “Where’s my fucking chia tea?”

“Here, Ms. Barrett,” a PA responded with a quiver, offering her a to-go cup.

Naomi took it and took a ginger sip before she spat it out. “Oh my god! This shit’s terrible. It’s lukewarm and too way sweet.”

She shoved the cup back into that PA’s hands. “Go get me another now.”

The PA fumbled with the cup and nodded, beelining out of the trailer to fulfill the actress’s demand.

“How hard is it to get a tea order right? It’s not rocket science,” she huffed. Her audience voiced their agreements, shaking their heads at the PA’s blunder. Naomi flicked her wrist at them dismissively and told them to go away. The only one who stayed behind was her own assistant who scribbled down her commands.

“Tell Alejandro that I need him to hurry the fuck up with my couture dress. Call Harry Winston to send over some loaners that I can pick from. Confirm the reservation at Lush and send over what I want on the menu. Be sure to remind them that I want the entire rooftop dining area. Everything has to be perfect.”

“Leave it to me, Ms. Barrett,” her personal assistant guaranteed.

The hairdresser and makeup artists swarmed the redhead, working on her.

The hairdresser asked teasingly, “Celebrating something else?”

“Yes, a reunion,” Naomi admitted with a brilliant smile.

“This doesn’t have to do with a certain sexy co-star, does it?”

Naomi laughed, blushing. “Is it that obvious?”

The makeup artist gasped loudly. “You and Nick are back together?”

Before she could stop herself, Tallulah jerked her attention to the redhead. The makeup assistant turned her chin to where it needed to be.  

“We will be. He just doesn’t know it yet,” she said, ruffling her luscious tresses as she examined herself in the vanity mirror. “He can never resist my charms.”

“He’d be a fool not to,” the hairdresser commented.

Naomi shrugged. “We’re just addicted to each other, you know? I know it’s unhealthy, but loving Nick Bryant is like snorting coke. You can’t get enough of him.”

Tallulah clenched her jaw at the comparison.

“All done,” the makeup assistant told Tallulah.

Naomi’s blue eyes looked upon her, placing a hand on her chest as if she were ashamed. “Oh, I didn’t see you there, Tabby. You were as quiet as a mouse! I hope we didn’t bother you with all this silly gossip.”

Tallulah smiled warmly even though Naomi still couldn’t remember her damn stage name. “No, not at all. In fact, I just couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. I wish you the best of luck on your date. Reunions aren't always easy, but I don't think you have anything to worry about.”

Aw, that’s so sweet of you say.”

Then she excused herself and escaped the trailer, stepping into the night air. The PA responsible for Naomi’s tea hurried by, shot out an ‘excuse me’ as she rushed past Tallulah and made her way inside with a mouthful of frantic apologies.

Naomi snarled, “Where the fuck have you been?”

Your little girlfriend is a match made in heaven for you, Nicholas, Tallulah thought bitterly as she marched away.

But why she want to raise hell about it?

 

End Notes:

Researching about actors and film production was so much fun! I learned a lot when writing this chapter. Adding pictures for some of the cast so far in the link below. 

Pinterest Board: Unscripted 

Take 7: Screen Chemistry by Missus James
Author's Notes:

scene chemistry: referring to performances between actors who are uncommonly suited and perfectly complementary to each other.

 

TAKE 7

It was well past 1 o’clock in the morning when Tallulah returned to the glass mansion. The nighttime scene with Nick and Naomi was a downright grueling. As her ex-husband warned, the script was thrown out the window about two takes in by a frustrated Eugene and they improvised many lines. Re-doing the scenes when someone uttered an improvised line Eugene didn’t like. During that time, Tallulah duly noted that Naomi was a spectacular actress, which shouldn’t have surprised her because the woman got an Oscar for a supporting female role when she was the ripe age of fifteen. Yet how it surprised her very much. How could an overbearing bitch could transform into a meek tender-hearted love interest?

After the shuttle van took her back to the studio, she drove home.

The first thing she did was to go upstairs to her son’s room to check on him. Creaking open the door, it pleased her to know that he was out like a light. Going back downstairs, she journeyed into her wing and went into her own room. She removed her shoes at the doorway and flicked on the lights, stilling in her spot as she realized that she had a visitor. Nick resided in her armchair that faced the nightscape of a glittering LA in all its glory.

It made sense he was already home already and probably had been for at least an hour. A limousine carted him straight from his residence to the film location and back.

“I can see why you picked this room,” he spoke in a calm rumbly voice. “It’s the best view in this whole damn place.”

“Why are you here, Nicholas?”

“You know why I’m here, Desiree.”

Her eyelids closed and she sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I’m exhausted. I just want to sleep. We both have to be up again at 5, which is barely 4 hours again. So, whatever you have to say, Nicholas, just save it.”

Nick rose up, nearing her. “I’ve been saving this for over eight years.”

Her bedroom light caught on something metal around his finger and she blinked her eyes, shock rippled through her harshly—rattling her to the core. A familiar silver band graced his ring finger.

Was that his wedding ring?

“Is that what I think it is?”

“I always wear it every single night when I go to sleep,” he confessed as he came up to her. She didn’t have the nerve to ask him why he did such a nightly ritual.

Tallulah clasped a hand over her mouth, tears bubbling up. “I can’t deal with this shit, Nicholas.”

She tried to sidestep him like how she did this morning, but he was smart enough not to fall for that again, backing her into her bedroom door. “I know fucked up, but neither of us are innocent victims, Desiree. We’ve done unforgivable things to each other, but if I’m willing to forgive you for keeping my son a secret from me then you can find it in yourself to try to extend the same courtesy. I did a lot of shit I’m not proud of back then, but I did it for us.”

“I would have been a fool not to take Thibault up on his offer, if it meant I could provide for you like a husband should,” Nick said, cupping her face. “We were struggling. We were suffering and I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t mind going to the devil if it meant we didn’t have to live hand to mouth. If it meant, we had enough money to actually stop trying to survive and start trying to live.”

A teary-eyed Tallulah hissed, “We were living on blood money, Nicholas. You were sending me blood money. His money. We didn’t need his help or connections. Every young married couple is vulnerable to falling on hard times, but if you trust and believe in each other, you can make it through anything, Nicholas. You didn’t believe in us and most importantly, you didn’t respect me. If you did, you wouldn’t have gone to him.”

“Believin’ in each other doesn’t keep the lights. It doesn’t put food on the table, Desiree. It doesn’t keep clothes on our backs. Doin’ whatever was necessary as your husband did all that,” he countered, his Kentucky accent coating his words. “You waitressin’ and me grillin’ at that damn steakhouse servin’ middle-class fucks, however, didn’t.”

Her bottom lip quivered. “What do you want me to say, Nicholas? Thank you for making an important decision without the input of your wife? You could’ve got yourself arrested or worst, killed! I could have lost you. Your son would have grown up without you.”

“He’s already grown up eight years without me,” Nick snapped, his own eyes glistening with tears, but they refused to fall. “I missed his first breaths and cries. His first words. His first steps. His first birthday. His first day of school. I’ve missed so many firsts, Desiree. I’ll never get that back. While I’m in this goddamn mansion drinking myself to death and wishing I had you back, you had him to yourself. For years, I searched for a reason to live and you had one for me the whole time!”

Tallulah gaped at his confession.

Hurt and rage twisted his reddening face.

“You don’t know how long I’ve dreamed of shoving pills down my throat to overdose, driving my car off a cliff, or walking into upcoming traffic. I seem to have it all, but I wanted to end it all. You should know by now that the rich and famous are the saddest pathetic people you’ll ever meet, Desiree.”

His words pained her soul. She whispered softly, “Nicholas, you need help.”

He shook his head. “No, I need my family. That’s all I need.”

“You want your family, Nicholas? You need help. Professional help,” Tallulah said. “You want our son to look up to you? You need to go to a therapist to help get yourself together. Promise me you’ll go. Promise me. If you can work on bettering yourself then I'll work on forgiving you like you forgived me.”

Nick seemed hesitant at the request. “I’ll…give it a try.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“I’ll try anything for you, Desiree. If but once.”

A corner of her mouth twitched upward. “I’m glad that I’m such a positive influence to you.”

The rough pad of his thumb scaled along her plump bottom lip, making her shudder. “You influence me to want to do a lot of things.”

She cooed, “What like, Nicholas?”

“Like letting me kiss the fuck of you,” he responded huskily. “I want to taste something sweet before bed.”

God, she hated how he affected her.

“You should probably save your appetite then,” she suggested. “After all, you’ll be getting back together with Naomi soon. She was in hair and makeup spilling the juicy details about your upcoming reunion date.”

“If I wanted to be with Naomi, I’d be with her, but I’m not. I’m here with you. The cards are in your hands, Desiree. Not hers.”

Tallulah closed her eyes and breathed pleadingly, “Don’t make me play this game with you, Nicholas.”

He bent his head down, kissing and biting along her jaw, making his way to her ear. “You’ve got to play, baby. How else am I going to win your heart back?”

Her lips hung open as his tongue teased her earlobe, hot tingles consuming her body.

Nick then grazed his lips along her cheek, tenderly kissing the corner of her mouth. “I’ll be as patient as I can. You get to control the pace and tempo to this. We’ll go however fast or however slow you want to drive this.”

She swallowed back a sigh of pleasure and asked, “And what if I want this to come a grinding halt and pick a different co-driver?”

He gifted another gentle kiss on her mouth’s other corner and he pressed her further into her door. “We’ll get to that bridge if we get to it. Until then, you’ll just have to deal with me. Let me show you how good a co-driver I can, Desiree. Take me out for a test drive. I ain’t going to lie to you it won’t be a bumpy ride ‘cause life ain’t ever a smooth one, but I think we can get through this. But first, you gotta put the keys in the ignition and twist.”

“You’re using a lot of driving analogies, Nicholas,” she teased.

“Is my point getting anywhere then?”

“It’s inching toward the finish line,” she assured with a cute wrinkle of her nose as he nuzzled his against hers while they chuckled softly at her comment. After their chuckles died in their throats, their smiles uncurled as the lighthearted moment transformed into a heavy desire.

Tallulah pressed a finger against his lips to prevent him from devouring hers. “Good night, Nicholas.”

He grabbed her wrist and guided each of her fingers to stand, pressing a soft kiss against each fingertip before he stamped a lingering one in her palm. Every kiss left a trial of tingles.

“Good night, Desiree.”

Stay. Hold me, she thought, but didn’t have the courage to say.

She reasoned saying so would be going too fast.

{}{}{}

It wasn’t the alarm that woke her. Instead it was the ringtone that belonged to her talent agent, Tammy. An exhausted Tallulah fished for the whining phone lighting up on her nightstand and answered it.

Tallulah snuggled her head into the pillow and groaned, “What time is it, Tammy?”

“Story time,” Tammy replied. “Ready for one?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“No, you don’t.”

Tallulah’s eyeballs disappeared into the back of her head. “Fine, hit me.”

“So, I just got out-of-the-blue phone calls from two casting directors who would love for you to in come to audition in two major film productions,” Tammy informed.

Tallulah rolled onto her back and sat up. “I’m sorry? What?”

“Mm-hm,” her talent agent hummed before she continued, “which is very thrilling news except one of them let it slip that when they got your name from Hollywood Laundry and not from the fact that you’re a star in Eugene Aaron’s next film. So, I went to Hollywood Laundry’s website and what’s plastered all over their page? An entire exposé on you, Milo, and Nick Bryant and oodles of pictures to boot. In the six years of being your talent agent, when exactly where you going to disclose to me that Nick Bryant is apparently your ex-husband and Milo’s father?”

Tallulah’s soul fluttered out of her bed. “Tammy, I have to call you back.”

“Tal—“

She hung up the phone before Tammy could even finish flinging her name out like a curse word. She pulled up her internet app and went to Hollywood Laundry’s page. As her talent agent warned, the celebrity gossip blog did write an exposé! The clever title they chose was: It’s a boy…and a girl who hid him!

Hollywood Laundry prides itself in airing all celebrities’ dirty laundry to dry, but it seems, one of Hollywood’s hottest bachelors and a favorite subject of ours, has been hiding some things in his basket—and someone’s been hiding from him. Sources close to the Wicked People star have informed us that Nick Bryant is a now daddy! Surprised? Don’t worry! He was surprised too. Good ole Nicky is the father of an eight-year-old little boy named Milo Lachlan Bryant. Let that sink in ladies and gentlemen! Ten years from now, we’ll have another Bryant heartbreaker sweeping our daughters off their feet.

Now, there are probably lots of questions running through your mind, but we think the most important one being: Who in the hell would walk away from Nick Bryant (aside from steady ex Naomi Barrett)? Well, the answer to your question is surprisingly simple: his ex-wife. Yes, Nicky has been a naughty boy hiding that dirty laundry from us, but he wasn't the only one. Who is the lucky chick to carry the new Messiah into the world and keep him secret? A small-time actress known as Tally Edmonds. Inside sources say the two ex-spouses crossed paths at an audition for an upcoming film by a revered filmmaker and the truth came out shortly after now that the two are co-stars! We sent out a trusted photographer, who captured a secret family outing to a family arcade and dinner at a pizzeria. Don’t they look like a cute family? Fatherhood looks real good on you, Nicky!

Now, now, guys. Before you start ringing up Maury Povich demanding a paternity test, know that the darling bundle of joy is 99.9% his. So, that should be the least of your worries. The fact that Nicky is 90% likely to get back with his ex-wife should be at the forefront of your list of worries—and Naomi’s considering she is set to star in the same film as her ex and his ex-wife. Double whammy! If you need proof, pictures are worth 1,000,000 words. Look at how cozy the two when the adorable little munchkin isn’t around...

“Shit,” Tallulah cursed as she looked through the fuckload of high-definition pictures the photographer took that night.

She wasn’t worried about the ones in the parking or the arcade. It was the pictures of Nick extremely close her, grasping her chin to keep her eyes trailed on him, and staring at her hungrily. How she was angled in the booth during those moments kept the camera’s gaze from capturing her face, but Nick’s was all that was needed to the message across.

He wanted his ex-wife back. The issue was the world wasn’t supposed to know that.

Tallulah flung back her sheets and raced out of her room, her bare feet running across the icy cold marble floors. She trotted up the stairs and barged into his bedroom as quietly as she could, not wanting to wake Milo.

“Nicholas,” she whispered desperately.

The giant of a man stirred in his giant bed. His eyelids pulled back sluggishly and he lolled his head in her direction, grumbling, “Is this a dream? No, it can’t be a dream. You still have clothes on.”

She grabbed a pillow nearby and smacked his face.

“Definitely not a dream,” he said tiredly underneath the pillow, his voice muffled.

“Hollywood Laundry screwed us over,” she hissed.

He brushed off the pillow. “It’s a celebrity gossip publication, Desiree. They screw everyone over.”

She frowned. “I thought we were in partnership with them. They published the photos, but there are some suggestive ones that were definitely not a part of what we discussed.”

Nick yawned, “How suggestive?”

“You’ve got me trapped against a pizzeria window and you’re eye-fucking me, Nick. You tell me.”

“I’m still trying to understand what the problem is? I thought we agreed last night that we were going to try make us work,” he replied, running his fingers through his hair.

Her lips faltered momentarily as her brain struggled to come up with a proper response. “Yes, I wanted to give us a try without the whole world watching and eating popcorn.”

“Baby, I’m an A-lister. The world’s going to have front row seats to this whether we like it or not,” he told her sleepily. “The trick is to pretend they’re not there. Don’t worry about what they think or say.”

His words comforted her some, but it wasn’t enough. Their failed marriage was for their eyes only. If this didn’t work, everyone was going to watch it burn and whip out marshmallows for their s’mores. And most importantly, their son would be there to witness everything go up in flames.

She hugged herself and shiver as she realized how cold it was. She was so busy trying to get to him, she realized that beyond the warmth of her covers, a tanktop and panties wasn’t good armor to battle against the chilly air.

“C’mere, I’m a hotbox,” he said, peeled back his sheets. “You’ll be an icicle by the time you get back downstairs.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Nicholas. Milo is close by,” she said, hugging herself tighter.

He teased, “I’m not going to try anything to garner that much noise to wake the boy and if I did, I’d be sure to stuff something in your mouth or make you bite a pillow.”

She pursed her lips to fight back a smile. “You’re not helping your case.”

“How you look in the moonlight ain’t helping it either,” he admitted.

She shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. She chewed on her bottom lip as she glanced at her phone. They both had another hour-and-a-half before it was time to get ready for a endless day of shooting.

Tallulah sighed in defeat and climb into bed, snuggling into him. She immediately reaped the benefits. He wasn’t lying about being a hotbox. Her cold skin soaked up his toasty body heat. Their chests pressed together, his arm draping her waist. Their foreheads touched as they gazed at each other intently—like old times.

“Naomi is going to freak out.”

“You’re telling me like I give a fuck, Desiree. She doesn’t own me,” he said gruffly. “You do.”

Her heart’s pace spiked and she decided to change the subject.

Tallulah lifted her index finger, tracing his lips faintly. “I miss this. Cuddling that is.”

Nick grinned. “If I do recall, the last time I tried to cuddle you in this bed, you weren’t having it.”

“Now, I’m test driving it out,” she reminded him with a smile of her own. “So, there.”

A rumbly chuckle lodged in the back of his throat, sending vibrations to her exploring fingertip. Soon enough, Nick drifted back to sleep, but Tallulah hung a few moments longer as she thought about what the day would bring. Hollywood Laundry was a to-go spot with hundreds of thousands in their notification squad. Though she wasn’t a part of that squad, she had been guilty of visiting the website to see what shenanigans Nick had gotten into over the years.

If Tammy already gotten two phone calls from casting directors, she could only imagine how many people on set would know today. With that question in mind, she snuggled closer to him before she fell into a slumber. 

 

Take 8: Blooper by Missus James
Author's Notes:

blooper: an actor error or mistake usually embarassing or humorous.

 

TAKE 8

Everyone knew. The moment she emerged from the studio’s shuttle van, appraising and critical glances aimed her way as if they all were truly looking at her for the first time. Instead of a single PA awaiting her like yesterday, there was a squad of four to escort her to her trailer, giving her the rundown of the day and asking if she needed something; anything. She was overwhelmed by all the frenzied attention. Not wanting to be a victim of scrutiny at the catering truck’s waiting line, she politely requested for a cup of coffee and two gourmet danish pastries and a production assistant scurried off to do so. Inside her trailer, there was a fresh flower arrangement of white hydrangeas, green chrysanthemums, and lush green leaves. She blinked in shock, plucking message card from the vase to identify the sender.

Day 1 on the road. – N

Her mouth’s corner twitched upward, her thoughts drifting she had to untangle herself from the familiarity of his arms to ready herself for the day and how stubborn he was to let her do so. Only she and Diane would be the only ones on set for the time being as Nick’s and Naomi’s call times were scheduled for 2PM. Though it begged her to wonder how in the world was he able to order such a gorgeous—and most likely expensive—flower arrangement it was barely a few hours ago the concept of ‘Day 1’ would’ve never seen the light of day.

The first half of the morning was spent rehearsing her lines, being interrupted by Tammy’s phone calls informing her of the growing list of audition requests, fighting back the urge to go to that Hollywood Laundry article to take a peek at the user comments, and being called to department trailers to be turned into Camille Humphrey. Emerging from the hair and makeup trailer, she was escorted onto the set. The first scheduled scene of the day was an emotionally charged one between Camille comforting a bewildered Francine unable to cope with her memory loss.

Acting alongside Diane Gary in that scene was a tremendous honor, but she pushed aside her starstruck to prove that Eugene Aaron was right to take a gamble on her. The two actresses fed off each other so well that the director was satisfied with three shots (a master shot, a medium shot, and a close-up), wanting to preserve the profound intensity rather than weaken its potency for the sake of perfection.

To match Diane’s gut-wrenching cries, Tallulah constantly thought of her mother’s last night on Earth and the state in which she found the woman. The tears came easy. The rawness Mr. Aaron demanded of her was an exuding force that filled up the set. Even after the final “cut” was shouted to conclude the close-up shot, she trembled on the living room floor as she cradled Diane in her arms. The cinematographer aimed a handheld camera’s lens in their tear-stricken faces to produce a shaky effect in the final shot.

Emotionally drained and suffering from a deplorable headache, she asked a production assistant for some aspirin before she retreated to her sanctuary of her shoebox trailer and laid down on her couch. She was unsure of how much time passed as she lounged there, flinching and humming to work through sharp pain pierced her frontal lobe like hammered nails to wood.

The door to her trailer opened then shut, thudding footsteps drifted into her ears.

Probably, the PA, she thought. She lifted an arm and opened her palm for the aspirin bottle’s landing.

“Thank you,” she said. “I appreciate it.”

Instead of a bottle, she felt a peck and the graze of beard hairs at the center of her palm. “No thanks necessary.”

She rolled over onto her back and peered up at Nick tiredly. “You’d just get here?”

He bent at the waist and lifted her legs to settle himself on the couch before he lowered them onto his lap, plucking off her comfy white nurse shoes. “Mm-hm.”

She sighed, “What are you doing?”

He took ahold of her left foot and kneaded it. “Giving you a much needed massage.”

Tallulah bit her lip momentarily, relishing the attention. “Don’t you have something better to do?”

Just after she posed the question, a moan bubbled in her throat as his palpating thumbs worked on her foot’s arch.

He said, “You need me. That’s a better reason than any.”

The trailer door opened once more and a PA trotted up the steps, blinking in surprise at the interesting scene before him. In an embarrassed panic, she went to sit up as if they were getting caught red-handed, but Nick pinned her down with a threatening look—not missing a single beat as he continued to give her an incredible foot massage.

“Erm, I didn’t mean to intrude,” the PA stated nervously as he approached the couch. “Here’s the aspirin you requested, Ms. Edmond. I, also, brought you bottled water as well.”

The blonde-haired young man struggled to keep his eyes trained on Tallulah even though he fidgeted under stress with the closeness of Nick’s imposing presence.

“Thank you, Blake,” Tallulah said, accepting the items. “That will be all.”

Once the PA left, she treated her headache by crunching on a mouthful of pills and washing it down her throat with the chilled water. “That scene today with Diane Gary wiped me out. I just want to go home and sleep for three days straight. Mm, harder.”

He chuckled at her directive and fulfilled the demand. She closed her eyes and sighed in utter satisfaction as she felt tiny pops of surrender of her foot’s joints as he applied more pressure.

“That feels amazing.”

“It’s good to know I haven't lost my touch,” Nick said, his grin stretching. “Back in the day, you’d always ask me for one of these after being on your feet all day at the steakhouse.”

Tallulah rolled her eyes and groaned at the memory. “Those double shifts were brutal.”

But she didn’t suffer through them in alone. Nick, too, worked labored in the kitchen, grilling up steaks and burgers. Her feet would be so sore and swollen he’d piggyback her up their five-story walk-up’s stairwell to get to their fourth-floor apartment in San Diego’s Cortez Hill. Once inside, they performed a fair tradeoff. She craved his foot massages and he melted like putty in her hands when she gave him a shoulder massage.

“Those were the days,” he said as he bestowed his attention to her other foot. “Now, we’ve gone from me rubbing down your feet in a coach-infested apartment to your movie set trailer.”

She laughed bashfully. “I guess I’m on the come up now.”

“You can come up on my lap and do your end of the bargain,” Nick said with a smirk as he stopped his task. “I need some attention too.”

Tallulah pursed her lips and begrudgingly straddled his lap, planting her hands on his shoulders and squeezing at them like she used to. “You always get attention.”

He leaned in and pecked her glittery blue lips, his hands bracing her hips. “None of it’s from you, so don’t deny me my right to complain.”

Her cellphone chimed and she stiffened, pausing briefly in her massage.

Nick arched an eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“A notification,” she admitted, clearing her throat.

“For?”

She replied hesitantly, “Hollywood Laundry.”

Yes, Tallulah Edmond had finally joined the gossip site’s notification squad. She knew it wasn’t for the best, but she couldn’t help it. She wanted to be in the know about what they knew.

Nick gave her a hard smack on the ass and she bit her lip, taking the punishment.

“Where I come from we’ve got a sayin’: a hard head makes a soft bottom,” he said, his southern accent making its rare appearance. “You know what that means right, Desiree? It means when you don’t listen, there’s consequences. It isn’t going to do you any good reading that foolishness.”

“I hadn’t read it,” she assured.

Yet, she added inwardly.  

Nick narrowed his blue eyes. “I wasn’t born yesterday, Ray. Trust me when I say it doesn’t matter what Hollywood Laundry or any other celebrity gossip whatever-the-fuck thinks. What’s written, what’s said, what’s speculated doesn’t define who you are. Doesn’t define us.”

“I know that, Nicholas,” she whispered meekly.

“I don’t think you do,” he said, “but you’ll learn the hard way if that what it takes. I know I had to, but the only difference between you and I is I had to figure that out alone and you won’t be when that ‘lesson learned’ moment comes.”

Tallulah pursed her lips, aching for this conversation to be over. “Can I go back to massaging your shoulders now?”

“No, but you can massage my ego by making them pretty noises when I kiss those plump blueberry lips,” he stated, alluding to the blue lipstick her character Camille was to wear to compliment the Dory scrubs. An instant later, he captured her mouth and his hands grabbed palmfuls of her ass, yanking her closer to him. She cupped his bearded face and cocked her head, relishing the feel of his sly tongue stroking and dancing around hers beckoningly--commandingly.

A moan vibrated in her chest and throat. Her phone rang and like a reflex she was unable to stop, she glanced over her shoulder to peek at the device thereby breaking the kiss. It was Tammy’s ringtone. Nick growled his frustration.

Realizing her mistake, she returned her attention to him. “I have to get this.”

She gave him a peck to lessen the damage, but he still wasn’t happy as she climbed off his lap and rushed to the phone.

“Hey, Tammy,” she answered and mouthed a ‘I’m sorry’ over her shoulder to Nick. It was her talent agent calling about another audition request, which brought the total to nine. Tallulah did a lot of mm-hm’s and okay’s during the seven-minute conversation and when she was able to get an ecstatic Tammy off the phone, she swirled on her heels to look at him guiltily.

“I had to take that,” she said, eyeing an irked Nick from a safe distance.

He rose from the couch and closed the space between them. “When your ex-husband is kissing the hell out of you and your phone rings, letting the call go to voicemail is a viable choice.”

“I’ll make it up to you tonight,” she promised in a singsong tone and smiled sweetly, cocking her chin up to gaze up at him as he neared.

“And how will you do that?”

“Let me worry about that,” she said, smoothing her thumb across his lips to erase a faint blue tint left by her lipstick.

{}{}{}

Tallulah pleaded frantically, “Wait, Ryland! You know she didn’t mean it!”

An infuriated Nick held an upset Naomi’s hand, leading his love interest away from the intense spat that was supposed to have occurred inside the house with his character’s mother. A scene that was scheduled to be filmed tomorrow. She rushed down the porch stairs, her foot missed a step, causing her to fall forward. Her head banged against the concrete awaiting her.

She cried out. Some rushed for her, but Nick broke through them, going to her. She rolled onto her back and sat up, cradling the corner of her forehead. She drew back shaky fingers coated in blood.

“You OK, Ray?” Nick demanded an answer. “Answer me, baby. Answer me.”

Tallulah stared at him in a daze and she nodded. “I think so.”

It was a lie, but she didn’t need him making a scene about it.

“Get the medic,” Nick barked. “Now!”

A medic arrived in no time with his red first aid bag and he squat down, performing a mini exam on her then and there. With a nod, he concluded that she nothing more than suffered a bloody scrape and a bad headache. He recommended that they went to her trailer to patch her up and for her to rest until she was well enough to stand on her own two feet.

“I’ll take her to mine.” Nick scooped her up and walked off set. As he carried her away, Tallulah caught a glimpse of a blank-faced Naomi. She held her tongue because she didn’t want to cause a scene. A production assistant opened the door to Nick’s trailer and she muttered a thanks to the woman in passing.

Nick placed her on a neatly made bed at the back of his spacious trailer. The medic cleaned up her injury, patched her up with a bandage, gave her painkillers, and gave her a cold compress before he finally left. Like a vigilant guard, he lingered at the foot of the bed with crossed arms and a clenched jaw as he watched.

Now alone, her eyelids fluttered shut and she heaved a sigh. “Well, that was embarrassing.”

“You know accidents are abundant in this business, Ray,” Nick reassured. “Gotta get good material for the gag reel. Maybe, I’ll tell the editor to add one of those cartoonish boink sound effect to enhance the moment.”

She burst out laughing which intensified her headache, but she mustered enough strength to hawk a pillow at him. “Shut up, Nick.”

“My blunders are quite well-known,” he said. “Broke my arm while filming a stunt scene in Wicked People. Got knocked into a 2-day coma in Dangerous Means. I got 23 stitches when I crashed a car during the filming of Full Throttle. In Bad Habits, I—”

“I think I get the full picture,” she interjected teasingly. “You think it’s the day’s a wrap?”

“If they know what’s good for them,” Nick said. “I need to get you home, so I can nurse you back to health.”

Tallulah rolled her eyes, readjusting the cold compress. “It’s just a scrape, Nicholas. Not a Vietnam War wound.”

Nick nodded as if he understood her completely. “Mm-hm. Still going to take care of you though.”

She shook her head at his stubbornness. “I’m not even going to argue with you.”

“Good, it would be a waste of breath if you did,” he said.

{}{}{}

Milo burst into her bedroom with his short light brown hair gelled into a classy comb-over and his school uniform. With her back propped up on a mountain of pillows, she smiled at his arrival, but lifted a curious eyebrow at his hair. He climbed onto the bed and gave her an impressive hug and kiss on the cheek.

“I’ve missed you,” he said.

“I know, kiddo,” Tallulah sighed, giving his forehead a peck.

The last time he saw her was early yesterday morning.

She leaned back to get a good look at him, grazing her fingers along his little hairdo. “Well, don’t you look all handsome today. Who did your hair?”

Milo blushed. “Dad did it.”

Tallulah blinked in surprise. “Wow, he had a fantastic job. It suits you.”

She imagined Nick standing in the bathroom mirror behind Milo and meticulously styling his sandy brown hair with a comb and a container of hair gel.

Her son climbed off the bed and adjusted his uniform’s navy and yellow tie with a grin. “Julissa thinks so too.”

Intrigued, Tallulah cocked a head and crossed her arms. “And who’s Julissa?”

Milo’s blush deepened. “She’s my new friend at school. She’s really nice. She likes dinosaurs just like me, but we always get into arguments about which time period is better. She thinks the Jurassic period is the best and I think Cretaceous period is.”

“Well, I would love to meet this really-nice Julissa some time very soon,” she said. “Maybe, we can setup a playdate and visit the Natural Museum.”

He scrunched his face. “Playdates are for babies, Mom.”

Tallulah placed a hand on her chest, pretending to be hurt. “You’re my baby.”

“I’m almost a pre-teen,” Milo said, puffing out his chest.

“Alright, no to a playdate then, Mr. Almost-Preteen,” she teased.

A cellphone ringed and for the first time that day it wasn’t hers. Milo’s eyes widened and shrugged off his backpack, fishing out a cell Tallulah didn’t remember giving him. Deep in her gut, she felt Nick had something to do with it.

He answered it, “Hi, Julissa. What’s up?”

The mother-son conversation was officially over as he walked goodbye to Tallulah while talking to Julissa about homework, making his way to the bedroom door. Nick appeared in the doorway with a lifted eyebrow and watched as Milo slipped past him and laughed at something his little friend.

“Milo told me about the morning barbershop session,” Tallulah said.

Nick admitted, “I found him trying to do his hair and decided to help him out.”

“That’s kind of you.”

“That’s not being kind. That’s being a father, Ray,” he corrected.

Tallulah pinched the bridge of her nose, feeling like an absolute fool for even saying that. “Right, of course.”

Nick entered her room. “How’s your head?”

“Still hard.”

He chuckled as he arrived at her bedside. “Then how’s your behind?”

“Tired.”

 

Take 9: Tearjerker by Missus James
Author's Notes:

tearjerker: an excessively-sentimental or emotional film, usually with suffering female protagonists, tragic circumstances, manipulative scenes, and dramatical musical scoring.

 

TAKE 9

It was in the middle of the night when she heard it. A soft but persistent hum of her charging cellphone that rested on her nightstand. The sound managed to pierce through the thick veil of sleep that blanketed her. She woke up in her bed with Nick in a spoon position. Her elbow nestled in the crook of his, their arms fitting together like a puzzle. His big long fingers were laced in hers. It didn’t surprise her that Nick liked to cuddle at night (old habits died hard), but it did surprise her that she fell asleep alone and awoke in an opposite predicament. After delivering an emotional performance opposite to Diane Gary and blotching a take by being a total klutz, she crashed hard like an asteroid when it was time for bed. So hard apparently that she didn’t even stir when Nick decided to declare her bed as his new settlement.

She chewed on her bottom lip as she cautiously untangled her fingers from his and lifted his heavy imprisoning arm. A victorious feeling consumed her as she sneakily slipped from his embrace, beneath the sheets, and her bed. She detached her phone from its charger and tiptoed to her bathroom, quietly shutting the door. The clock on her phone said it was nearly 2 in the morning. Making her way to a closed toilet seat, she sat down and hovered a hesitant thumb over the Hollywood Laundry notification.

Tallulah took deep breath and finally gave into the urge she had been battling with all day. A zoomed-in aerial picture of Nick leaving her trailer was their banner picture with a tagline: “Look who Daddy Drone caught red-handed.

Her eyebrows shot up.

They were using camera drones now? What happened to the good old days of paparazzi scaling roofs and hiding out in trees with their long-range camera lens?

There’s a cost to mixing business and pleasure!

There’s a story to spark a little hate in your hearts, fans of Nickomi. That is if you all still have one and from the looks of our comment sections, that’s highly doubtful. With that being said, there have been reports flooding in from the set of Forget Me Not. According to insiders, our new favorite couple have been mixing business with pleasure. Witnesses claim Nicky’s visits to his ex-wife’s trailer aren’t to rehearse lines. In fact, there hasn’t been much talking at all (if you know what we mean). Nicky seems to be making up for lost time even though time is money and it’s costing the studio a lot. Plus, it wouldn’t be the first time he fooled around on a movie set. Naomi should know all too well. Sources close to the film director state that he isn’t happy about the reunited couple’s unprofessional behavior, but if you want our opinion, with a known track record of marrying lead actresses in his films, Eugene Aaron should be the last one to talk.

Having an A-lister at one’s fingertips must be a disorienting experience as Tally had an accident today on set and suffered a minor injury. If you care at all, like we do, rest assure she’ll be fine. For those that don’t, you can uncross your fingers and stop your prayers of gratitude to your gods. After all, she’s in very good hands and must be in real tight with God to have been blessed with one of the hottest men on the planet.

“What the fuck,” she whispered, her eyes widening at the false allegations.

There were over 600 comments beneath the salacious article and Tallulah lost a war with herself to not take a peek.

B2Kbae: I don’t think I’m artificial or anything and I do believe that beauty is the eye of the beholder and all that shit, but let’s be honest here. There’s a hierarchy even to that. A bottom-tier heifer shouldn’t be with a top-tier Zaddy. Point blank. #unpopularopinion

cheese’n’whine: My gurl Naomi must’ve done a real # on Nicky. Got him so discombobulated that he runnin back to his sloppy fat ex-wife thinkin she hot when she not.

Ben-Dover: you bitches hatin! His baby mama got a real cute face. All she gotta do is drop some lbs and she’d be good. I’d give her the D, but she gotta hit the gym first.

naominator:  I hope that fat bitch has a heart attack, so Nick can finally stop running away from the inevitable. Nick is Naomi’s soulmate and I know Naomi would be a great stepmom to Milo. She’s so good with kids!

Nickomi4lyfe: Tally must be into some voodoo shit. Why else would Nick give her the time of day? Or she’s got a deal with the devil. You know what? The latter’s more believable.

YUalwaysLion: Yo, fat hoes will do things ya’ll skinny chicks too stuck-up to try. She probably eatin his ass like a five-course meal then he treats her with an actual six-course one.

JUSTINTIMBERfake: I’d eat Nick’s ass too. Me and her can take turns.

BeyHiveBzz: If ya’ll can accept Our Queen-Mother Beyoncé loving camel-faced Jay-Z’s cheating ass, you can accept Nick getting back with his ex-wifey. #doublestandardsAINTcute

anonymous-87621: Don’t be too hard on Nicky. He’s a southern country boy who was raised on a farm. He can’t help but have a soft spot for pigs.

StraitOuttaAudaCity: @anonymous-87621, that’s so heartless, but you make ½ a good point. Nick IS a guy who had a traditional southern upbringing. He’s probably feels that he’s obligated to be with his baby mama for the sake of his kid and that sneaky cunt is using Milo for fat paychecks. But Nick’s a PHENOMENAL actor. He’s suffering through it, but he’s pretending he wants this. Give this man his Oscar already! #ICUnick  

anonymous-34283: I’m still trying to figure out how did such an adorable kid come from THAT? Nick’s handsome genes are dominant af. That kid should count his blessings.

The hurtful comments were like sharp stabs in her gut, but she kept reading—kept torturing herself. Her thumb scrolled through the opinions until her eyesight blurred with tears and she couldn’t stomach it anymore. She squeezed her eyes and let out a shaky breath to get ahold of her emotions.

Tallulah snatched up some toilet paper to soak up her tears and tossed it in a waste bin before she returned back to the bedroom. She carefully put the phone back on the charger and laid it down, creeping back into bed. She situated Nick’s arm back where it needed to be and weaved her fingers with his.

He curled his arm tighter around her and snuggled his bearded face into the curve of her neck, brushing his lips against her ear.

“You’re stubborn as hell. You know that?” It was a throaty accusation that fluttered against her skin as warm breath, making her shiver.

There was no use in her denying.

“If I hadn’t went checked out the website, I wouldn’t have known that there’s rumors going on that we’re screwing around on set. They’ve even used a camera drone to catch you coming out of my trailer,” she said.

“Apparently, I have an infamous reputation for doing that,” Nick yawned.

Tallulah pried his arm off her and sat up to get a good look at him, pursing her lips. “Yeah, they mentioned that too and the fact that your partner-in-crime was—drumroll please—Naomi Barrett. So, are you’re telling me that your publicized habit is nothing but baseless lie?”

Nick’s tongue glided across his teeth slowly as he contemplated her question. She arched an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest, waiting for a reply.

“I’m not going to deny that she and I fooled around on set because we did,” he said. “A lot.”

Tallulah tossed her head back and let out a bitter laugh. “So when you two do it, the world’s hunky-dory with it, but when we reportedly did it then it’s unprofessional behavior, it’s costing the studio oodles of money, and Eugene Aaron is furious with us.”

She tapped a finger on her chin and gazed up at the ceiling. “I wonder what gives Naomi a pass, but my reputation is getting dragged through the mud. Do you know?”

Nick sighed, “It’s not true so it doesn’t matter, Ray.”

“It matters to me, Nicholas,” she said, pointing to the door. “Our son is old enough to type in either of our names and read that goddamn article. So, can his little friends at his new fancy private school where you just handed over a 30-thousand-dollar check for tuition.”

“He won’t.”

“And how can you guarantee that?”

“Because I’ve already had a talk with him about not reading that ridiculous crap and if he somehow did then not believe a word of it. We did our secret handshake and he promised me no backsies,” he said. “A conversation that rings very similar to the one I had with you.”

That put her at ease slightly, but it wasn’t enough to combat her plunging self-esteem. Those comments calling her a pig, claiming she was ugly and fat, and wishing for her death consumed her like stoking fire that had no intentions of waning. How could people be so cruel toward someone they had never even met? Hiding behind their phones and computer screens with no regard toward the feelings of the victim of their vicious attacks.

“There are literally people out there that want me to die because they think I’m in the way of their fave couple getting back together,” she said, her voice cracking. “They’d rather our son have your ex as his stepmom than me be his mother because I’m overweight? That’s fucked up. How am I supposed to be cool with that?”

Her feelings got ahold of her again and tears spilled down her cheeks.

Tallulah snatched the covers off her and escaped the bed, marching into the bathroom to splash water on her face. She braced the bathroom counter and hung over her wet face over the sink, letting her tears and the cold water drip.

She blindly reached for a nearby towel and dabbed her face dry.

Straightening her back, she peered into the mirror, her eyes cutting away from her reflection and focusing on her ex-husband nearing her. Moonlight bleed through the glass windows abundantly and carved shadows in his thewy physique’s defined muscles as he padded toward her in merely sleep shorts. Every passing second she stared at his reflection, a rise of self-inflicted detestation built up within her.

“What’s this really about, Desiree?”

She frowned at the question, her mirror self’s face twisting into a scowl. “It’s about all these horrible things they’re writing about us. What else?”

“There is something else,” Nick said as he imprisoned her against the bathroom counter, “and it’s eating you up. Now, go on and say it out loud.”

In all of those mean-spirited remarks on that Hollywood Laundry post, there was one identified theme that she wondered if there a grain of truth to it which planted a seed of doubt in her.

Their gazes locked in the mirror and she posed bitterly, “Are you only trying to make this work between us because you feel obligated to for Milo’s sake?”

“Milo deserves a family, Desiree.”

Her heart sank like an anchor at his lack of refuting the accusatory question. A sad smile stretched across her lips and she nodded in agreement, feeling incredibly foolish for putting herself out there like that and not recognizing an actor giving an Oscar-worthy performance.

Tallulah let out a short soft pathetic laugh as if she had been on the joke along even though she was the only one with egg on her face. “Of course.”

He continued. “And you deserve something as well.”

A BooBoo the Fool award?

“And what’s that?” Her drained voice reflected her state.

“Everything, Desiree,” he said, “and I’m going to be the one that gives it to you.”

Tired of being the victim of his charming sham, she stated coldly, “I don’t want everything. I only want the truth. This is all an act, isn’t it? Maybe, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt by acknowledging there’s a genuine possibility you do miss what we were, what we had, and what I used to be, but eight years and forty pounds ago, Nicholas. I can accept keeping up a façade for Milo’s sake for the time being, but let’s put an end to this romantic bullshit like the foot massages and nighttime cuddling. It’s pretty damn obvious to everyone what’s going on, so don’t think you’re doing me any favors by pretending you’re attracted to me behind closed doors. If you’re worried that if you don’t do those things then I’m going to take Milo away, you shouldn’t be because I wouldn’t. I’ve hurt that little boy enough.”

Guilt injected into her body like a virus, effectively making her feel like a piece of shit for all the wrong she had done to her son. But she didn’t want an audience to her downward spiral, least of all her ex-husband.

“I’m going to bed now. You need to do the same,” she ordered, “but in your own bed, of course.”

She went to break free from how he caged her against the bathroom counter, but Nick grabbed her wrists.

“Let me go, Nick.” She gritted her teeth and struggled against his tightening grip.

“We’re not finished with our interesting conversation,” he said, resting his chin boldly on her shoulder and tilting his head against hers. She shrugged angrily as an attempt to knock his chin off, but his head rode it out with ease.

“Nick, I swear on all that is holy,” Tallulah began with a frustrated hiss.

“Don’t set yourself up for failure,” he warned. “I can assure you nothing holy is going to happen tonight.”

She stiffened. “N—”

He cut her off. “I let you speak, Desiree. Now, it’s my turn and you’re going to listen to every word I have to say.”

Her jaw hung open, words dying in her throat.

“This is what happens when you let strangers define your worth and convince yourself that their judgments are truth. When you let them tell you what I think and how I feel when you could’ve easily went to me yourself,” he said coolly in her ear. “Now, ask the fucking question, Desiree.”

His blue eyes radiated with simmering meanness in the mirror.

“Fine,” she snapped. “How could you go from the likes of Avalon Dillard and Naomi Barrett on your arm to your overweight ex-wife, hm? Better yet what makes me attractive enough to earn the attention of the Nick Bryant? And don’t you dare give me that ‘we’ve got history’ spiel or that ‘personality is what counts’ bullshit either.”

Nick chuckled darkly, running his tongue along his perfect teeth like a predator. “You want me to start from top to bottom or bottom to top?”

His inquiry shouldn’t have made her shiver in anticipation or sent a feverish heat crawling across her skin, but it did.

She uttered in a quiet unsure voice, “Top to bottom.”

He placed her hands palm down on the bathroom counter, using his freed hand to run his thumb along her bottom lip. “Let’s start with your chocolate brown eyes then. I can lose myself in them. They tell me everything about what’s going on inside your mind without you ever opening your mouth.”

She frowned. “Are you saying you can read me like a book?”

“I’m saying I could study you for hours and come out an enlightened man.”

Tallulah’s defenses faltered momentarily before she steeled herself again.

“I have to keep myself from kissing you, but you don’t make it easy for me when you tug that bottom lip or when you smile. It ain’t fair how I have to wait my turn to bite your lip or get drunk on your smile,” he stated as his thumb traced the plump contour of her lips. “And don’t even get me started about what you do to me when you take all of me into your mouth.”

She caught the digit with her teeth rudely as an attempt to show him that she still wasn’t convinced even though her mind blossomed receptively and if her mind had legs, they would be wide open. His blue eyes darkened as she bit down a little harder then she freed his finger.

He leisurely dragged his thumb from her mouth and down her neck before he splayed his fingers across her left breast and fondled it with a brazen squeeze. His other hand joined in and pampered her other breast, making her arch against him as he groped greedily. His thumbs toyed with her erect nipples that strained against her silk pajama tanktop. Her eyelids fluttered shut and she gasped. “Many a day, I’d bury my face into these beauties. Many a day where you woke up to me sucking and biting your nipples. Many a day where they’d bounce in my face when we’d fucked, always teasing and tempting me.”

He let a hand venture down to her belly and she broke through the haze of pleasure to grab his hand to keep him from going any further, her self-esteem getting the best of her. Tallulah shouldn’t have felt shy about him touching her belly in that moment considering well everything, but she was.

Nick trailed his tongue against her ear’s rim. “This is what you wanted. You wanted the truth and that’s what I’m trying to do, baby.”

Tallulah trembled, succumbing to his conquest of her. She lowered her hand back to the bathroom’s cold granite surface His creeping hand rested on her ample stomach—her Achilles’ heel. His fingertips brushed around her belly button.

“This is soft and delicate. This is warm and alluring. This is luscious and delectable. When you don’t let others mess with your head, you radiate this unequivocal confidence that I can’t help but be enthralled by,” Nick said huskily as his hands explored her assets appreciatively. “Your belly, your full hips, thick thighs, and that perfect ass. All your features you perceive to be embarrassing flaws are what make you the sexiest fuckin’ woman I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Every woman that came after you and before this moment were imitations compared to you, Desiree Tallulah Bryant.”

She parted her lips to correct him, but he brought his hand to her throat and squeezed it in warning. A gasp caught in her throat, growing into a lump with nowhere to go. A protest he didn’t want to hear because he said what he said and meant it. His eyes in the mirror told her so.

He used his free hand to crawl into her shorts, cupping her slick pussy. “And this is going to be my downfall, but maybe you need a reminder and some tough love. So, I’m going to fuck some clarity into you, Diamond.”

Nick let go of her throat and entangled it in her hair, using brawl to bend her over. She braced the glass mirror with one hand and the counter with another. He pushed his sleep shorts down halfway down his thighs, his hard cock coming free. He tugged her silk shorts down, letting them pool at her ankles. He rubbed and tapped his mushroom head in between her soaked folds, coating himself with her juices.

Then he plunged in without warning and she cried out at the invasion. Before she could recover, he rammed his cock in and out of her. Her eyelids screwed shut and her quivering mouth hung as he fucked her with brutal merciless thrusts. She moaned and panted as he worked her.

His grip tightened in her hair and he growled, “You want the truth, Diamond. I’m showin’ you the truth. Now, open your fuckin’ eyes and watch.”

Tallulah obeyed his command, fighting to keep her eyes open as a raw sort of ecstasy and pain ravaged her from the inside out. She watched her face contort as she endured. Her body jerk with each mean stroke before he slowed the rhythm with swaying roll of his hips, his dick filling her up slow and deep. Her eyes trailed up to his reflection, his blue eyes drinking everything in.

“There she is,” he said with a smirk as she finally regarded him.

He reared his hips back and drew himself nearly all the way out before he lodged his cock deep within her. She cried out, her knees buckling but he wouldn’t let her fall. She held his lustful gaze in the mirror as he pounded her into the counter.

He tilted forward and posed huskily in her ear, “Now, do I look like a man isn’t attracted to you, Diamond? Would I be owning this pussy right now if I wasn’t? And when I’m done ruining you on this counter, would I gobble this pussy up until there ain’t a drop left if I wasn’t? Hm? Would I?”

Tallulah shook her head and rasped, “No.”

“Good, I’m glad we had this productive conversation,” he grunted, punctuating his statement with a hard slap on her ass as he ruined her like he promised against the bathroom counter and in the moonlight. As he drilled into her, he reached around her full hips to dive his hand in between her spread thighs to rub at her clit, wrenching out a powerful orgasm out of her. Her milking pussy propelled him into his own.

Bonelessly, she slumped forward and pressed her sweaty cheek against the granite surface, his cum dripping down her thighs as he pulled out of her. He laid his bare chest on her back, kissing her neck and whispering how beautiful she was.

She bit her bottom lip to keep from crying, but she couldn’t stop her hot tears.

Day 2 on the road.

 

 

End Notes:

Finally found a Milo. Yay!

Pinterest Board: Unscripted by Missus James

Take 10: Unreliable Narrator by Missus James
Author's Notes:

unreliable narrator: a protagonist or narrator whose perspective is skewed to their own perspective, producing a portrayal of events that may or may not be accurate or truthful.

 

TAKE 10

Tallulah adjusted her dark shades before her personal bodyguard, Christophe, opened the boutique’s entrance door, ushering her into the chaos of flashing cameras, eager paparazzi, and a gathering public. He stepped in front of her, clearing a path to get to the tinted SUV awaiting her at the curb. She smiled weakly and bowed her head, trying to remain calm and focused. The last time her focus went astray in front of the paparazzi, she lost her balance on her four-inch heels, causing an unfortunate tumble to the ground like an elephant shot by a poacher.

As Christophe opened the rear passenger door, she turned halfway and gave a kind wave before she entered the vehicle. When the door was shut behind her, she let out a sigh of relief. Even after two months of this kind of life, she still struggled to endure the sheer intensity of being in the public eye and the target of glistening camera lens. Once her bodyguard eased into the front passenger seat, the SUV emerged into the traffic flow.

Lanya, her very own personal assistant, asked, “Enjoy your shopping spree?”

“I only bought one dress and a pair of shoes for four hundred dollars. I hardly think that constitutes of a shopping spree,” Tallulah said.

“Tally, only you would get an allowance of ten grand and only spend four percent of it,” Lanya sighed. “Stop being afraid of going all out.”

Tallulah rolled her eyes. “I’m not afraid. I just…hate spending money for the sake of it. Plus, it’s a movie premiere to a kid movie. I think that hardly constitutes a ten-grand budget. Now, let’s move onto more important matters. What’s your mother taking my decision?”

Lanya was Tammy’s youngest daughter, a recent college graduate with a B.S. in Business Administration under her belt. She needed a chance and Tallulah needed an assistant. It wasn’t surprising that they were a match made in heaven.

“Not… so great,” Lanya said hesitantly. “She thinks you’re wasting good opportunities.”

With a growing pile of auditions on her plate, Tallulah made the mistake of entertaining each one. Though she by no means thought a minor role was beneath her, she also no longer wanted to be type-casted as a black woman in a servitude or outspoken role with an itty-bitty speaking part. It just so happened most casting directors and producers offering her a chance to show off her acting chomps wanted her to play just that. Nor did it help that Tammy passed along every single request.

No longer were the days where any opportunity was better than nothing at all. Where an audition was the only thing that stood between paid bills and being out on the street.

Things were different now.

She was in a different place now.

After yesterday’s umpteenth audition, she left Tammy a carefully worded voicemail message this morning, requesting that she no longer wished to play boisterous or obedient black roles. She figured her talent agent wouldn’t take the news well, but she had to lay down the law.

Though her eyes weren’t set on an Oscar or any accolades with her performance in Forget Me Not, she had to establish herself as a serious player in this industry. If not, she’d be nothing more than “Nick Bryant’s baby mama who co-starred with him in that one Eugene Aaron film”. Even if becoming a big Hollywood star would never be in her cards, somewhere down the line she could proudly say that her selective filmography was admirable choice.

Tallulah situated her shades atop of her head to get a good look at Lanya, arching a delicate eyebrow. “Be honest with me. Do you agree with her?”

“I firmly believe in quality over quantity,” Lanya said, “but I’m no expert in Hollywood politics. My mom has been in this industry for nearly twenty years. So, it’s safe to say her experience and advice is invaluable, but she’s never managed someone of your caliber or unique situation, Tally. Maybe, you should talk to Nick about it. I’m sure he’ll have some great advice for you.”

She sighed softly at the suggestion and shielded her eyes once more with her shades, peering at the window.

The last person she wanted to go to was Nick over something like this. He already had enough on his plate. In the span of two months, he was pushed into the highs and lows of fatherhood, went a weekly session with an eight-hundred-dollar-an-hour therapist, and went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week. And sometimes, if it was a crappy week, he’d go three times a week.

With Forget Me Not’s production and reshoots completed, they both had nearly a year before their contractual obligations kicked in and a worldwide premieres and press tours for the film consumed every bit of their lives.

However, that didn’t mean they were completely free from Hollywood until then.

It was November now and January’s Oscars nomination season was a mere stone’s throw away. Nor was it a secret the studio behind Nick’s record-breaking spy thriller, Wicked People, had invested in a pricy campaign for him to be considered for a Best Actor nomination from the Academy.

While others worried about whether Nick would take home a shiny gold trophy that night, Tallulah worried about how he would react once when she once told him she wasn’t going to be his plus one on Oscars night. She couldn’t wear Lane Bryant on the red carpet. All the major names in the fashion industry wouldn’t dare touch her or her size-eighteen behind with a ten-foot pole. Lanya recommended trying to find a lesser known designer and though that was a wonderful idea, Tallulah wasn’t exactly sure if she had the nerve to hunt for one bold enough to put her into a dress worthy enough for the red carpet.

She even considered allowing Milo to go in her stead while she remained at home in cozy pajamas to watch everything from the comfort of a couch.

But for tonight, she needed to bring her A-game even if it was a premiere of a children’s film.

{}{}{}

Tallulah closed her eyes and sucked in a breath to steady her nerves before she accepted her ex-husband’s warm hand, allowing him to escort her out of the black limousine. Her crimson-hued suede peep-toe ankle boots stepped onto the intimidating stretch of red carpet. Immediately overwhelmed by the legions of paparazzi armed with their brightly-flashing cameras and hordes of ecstatic fans screaming. All held back behind velvet ropes, collectively exuding a raw palpable energy that Tallulah struggled to endure.

Milo took well to it all, waving to the eager masses who called out his name. After all, he was the one who was invited to the premiere of Fish Tales, his parents merely his plus two. Now that Hollywood—and the entire world—knew that Nick Bryant had a son, it was only natural to properly induct him into the ranks of Hollywood royalty and offer perks fit for little princes.

Merging into the trickling stream of Hollywood’s finest headed toward the famous Grauman’s Chinese theater, the family of three strolled down the red carpet, pausing ever-so-often to pose for the cameras. In every instance, Milo stood in front of Nick and Tallulah with a wide grin, tugging confidently at his dapper suit’s lapels. Occasionally, she gazed down at her son in those moments, a proud twinkle in her eye and a soft smile curling. She, also, ignored the odd feeling of Nick’s hand holding hers.

When it was time to move on, they barely walked a few feet before a brunette TV reporter slyly approached them with an inviting smile; her small production closing in.

She greeted, “Good evening, Bryant clan! Could you spare us a few moments of your time?” 

Nick smiled. “Only since you asked nicely, Donatella.”

The reporter blushed and bashfully rolled her eyes, squatting down to Milo’s level to interview him. Insecurity prickled at Tallulah after witnessing the exchange between Nick and Donatella when she remembered once upon a time five years ago, they were an item. And though a glitzy 6-carat princess-cut diamond ring graced her pale finger to show her martial commitment to a sixty-two-year-old husband/boss, it bothered Tallulah at how easily Nick could slather on his signature bachelor charm for the woman.

Even if she had to remind herself it was all an act.

Even if a slither of her believed underneath the façade there was a nugget of truth.

Donatella stood up and aimed a microphone in Tallulah’s face suddenly, catching her off-guard. “And you look utterly gorgeous tonight, Tallulah.”

A crimson illusion lace sheath dress she purchased from the boutique earlier that day hugged her body. But coupled with the shoes, it was probably the least expensive ensemble on the red carpet. However, coupled with the crimson lipstick and smoky red eyeshadow as well as the 4-thousand ruby drop-dangle earrings that Nick surprised her with, she was the best she’d ever looked.

“Thank you so much,” Tallulah said with a brilliant smile.

“Give everyone a twirl, Mom,” Milo encouraged.

Tallulah widened her eyes at the request, a nervous smile stretching across her lips. She looked pleadingly at Nick to defuse the situation, but he grinned at the idea.

“You heard the boy, Ray,” he said as he lifted her hand above her head, steering her into a slow turn for the camera. Halfway into the twirl, Tallulah caught sight of Naomi Barrett sauntering down the red carpet in a flowy emerald-green dress and matching bejeweled heels holding the hand of a young tan girl in emerald-green dress with realistic petals as its knee-length skirt.

Any confidence she may have felt for herself evaporated as she noted how stunning the redhead looked.

She looks like a Hollywood goddess, Tallulah thought, and I look like a no-name brand imitation.

A pleasant surprise rippled across Naomi’s beautiful face as her piercing blue eyes locked onto Tallulah’s gaze.

The little girl peered over as well and gasped loudly, “Milo!”

Then she let go of Naomi’s hand and darted over as Tallulah came back full circle.

“Hi, Julissa,” Milo said with a shy smile.

Tallulah’s eyebrows knitted. Julissa as in Milo’s little-friend-from-school Julissa?

Julissa crossed her arms and arched an eyebrow. “Did you ask your parents if you could sit with me and Mimi at the premiere like you promised?”

“Uh, not yet,” Milo whispered loudly.

“Well, isn’t this an adorable coincidence,” Donatella said into her microphone. “It seems as though Nick Bryant’s son and Naomi Barrett’s sister are best friends.”

Julissa frowned at Donatella’s commentary and reached out her hand for the microphone. Donatella blinked at the girl’s boldness but offered it to her.

“We’re not best friends. We’re boyfriend and girlfriend. Thank you very much.”

Tallulah’s eyebrows shot upward at the announcement and she let out fleeting shocked laugh.

What in the ever living—

“It’s time I crashed this little party,” Naomi replied as she approached the gathering with a dazzled smile, giving Tallulah a friendly cheek kiss as a greeting. “You look beautiful tonight, Tally.”

“As do you,” she said politely, accepting the kind gesture.

Naomi pulled back and blew Nick a kiss before she turned her attention to Donatella. “What did I miss?”  

The reporter extracted the microphone from Julissa’s and informed the actress of her younger sister’s televised announcement.

Naomi tossed her head back and laughed brightly. “I suppose it was bound to come out sooner or later. Right, Nicky?”

Her brain scrambled to comprehend all the details she hadn’t been privy to know until now.

1.     Nick sent their son to the same school as his ex-girlfriend’s sister.

2.    For months, he had an opportunity to fess up as to who Julissa was but chose not to.

3.    Apparently, both he and Naomi knew the two children were “dating."

4.    Nick didn’t immediately nip that “boyfriend-girlfriend” shit in the bud.

5.    She had no idea Nick and Naomi still spoke to each other in non-work-related capacity.

Tallulah held back the urge to shoot a what-the-fuck look at Nick.

After the red-carpet interview was over, Milo then took the opportunity to ask if he could see the movie with Julissa and her big sister Mimi to which she swallowed down her protests and gave her consent alongside Nick. It took everything in her not to snatch her hand out of her ex-husband’s grasp as they strolled down the red carpet’s final stretch, posing ever-so-often for the paparazzi childless. Her camera-ready face once soft and beaming with a smile, now unsmiling and runway-fierce.

Inside the theater’s lobby, free food and drinks awaited them. Tallulah wanted to slurp down a soda and stuff her face with buttery popcorn, but she noticed it was only the children who gravitated to the complimentary treats. Most likely because typical movie snacks weren’t in a Hollywood star’s recommended diet.

Her stomach twisted in hunger as Nick escorted her past the taunting display and into the screening.

It would be a long night.

{}{}{}

As Tallulah tucked her son into bed, he asked gently, “Mom, are you mad at me for not telling you about my girlfriend?”

“Of course not, Milo,” she sighed, “but you’re much too young to have a girlfriend yet alone worry about me being mad at you for having one. You’re eight years old and you have your whole life ahead of you. Julissa is your friend and she’s a girl, but she’s not your girlfriend. You feel me?”

He frowned. “Just about everybody’s got a boyfriend or girlfriend at school. Their parents let them go on dates and have sleepovers.”

Tallulah arched an eyebrow and pursed her lips. “None of those kids at your school are my son. You’re my only concern. There’s nothing wrong with a parent-supervised playdate, but an actual date is a no-go and sleepovers are out of the question.”

“But Dad—”

She cut him off. “But Dad what?”

“I asked him if…I could take Julissa out…on a secret date and he said…OK,” Milo admitted hesitantly.

Tallulah blinked. “So, you wanted your father to keep everything a secret from me?”

Milo casted his eyes downward. “I knew you wouldn’t let me date Julissa. I’m sorry, Mom.”

Masking her disappointment and hurt, she leaned down and kissed his forehead. “Get some rest. It’s been a long day. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

After making the trek to her personal wing, she sauntered into her room as Nick emerged from the bathroom in nothing but his sleep shorts. She gave him the silent treatment as she disrobed and marched into the bathroom to remove her ready herself for bed.

As she erased her makeup, he filled up the doorway, leaning against the frame with crossed arms. “Is it safe to assume I’ve done something wrong?”

The woman in the mirror narrowed her eyes. “Something would apply it’s only one thing. You’ve done a fuck-ton. When exactly were you going to tell me, Julissa was Naomi’s sister or that the school you sent our son to just so happens to be the same school your ex’s sister goes to?”

Nick closed his eyes and sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “I put Milo in that school because it’s one of the best, but Naomi’s…past endorsements of the place…did influence my choice. You and I only had a few days to get everything in order. I figured it was best to pick a school I was familiar with.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you concealed the little girl’s identity from me for two months, Nicholas,” Tallulah huffed.

He shook his head. “I didn’t think Milo and Julissa would gravitate toward each other. When he started gushing about her to us, I pulled him to the side to have a talk with him about how he felt about Julissa and he told me they’d be dating since the second day of school. Then he begged me not to tell you because you’d shut that shit down. He was happy and I wanted to keep him that way, so I kept the secret.”

Tallulah clenched her jaw but said nothing.

“A few days later,” Nick continued, “Naomi reached out to me about the whole dating thing and said it would be good for the kids. Julissa struggles with making friends because she…tends to be bossy and Milo needed a friend at his new school.”

“Milo is too young to have a girlfriend, Nick. He’s eight. Not eighteen,” Tallulah vented. “He should be worrying about being a kid and completing his studies, not going on secret dates with an eight-year-old girl. Furthermore, I’m hurt you kept all this shit from me, and I had to find out during a goddamn televised interview along with everyone else.”

He pried himself from the doorway and approached her, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing at her neck. “I take full responsibility for my actions. I should’ve told you everything from the beginning.”

Momentarily, she bit her bottom lip, her eyelids fluttering shut as his affection slowly worked on her. “Where’s Julissa’s parents in all of this?”

“Steven and Maria couldn’t have a say even if they wanted to.”

Tallulah’s face scrunched in confusion. “And why is that?”

“Julissa’s not their biological daughter.”

“So, what she’s adopted. They still have parental—”

Nick locked eyes with her in the mirror. “She’s Naomi’s biological daughter.”

Her jaw dropped. “I beg your pardon?”

“Naomi got knocked up by a Mexican gardener. Steven wanted to sweep it under the rug, and she wasn’t already for a child. Naomi went overseas to hide out during her pregnancy and when she gave birth, her father and stepmother turned around and adopted Julissa,” Nick enlightened. “When Julissa was two, Naomi wanted full custody, but it would’ve been this big scandal. So, to the public, she’s a hands-on protective big sister, but behind closed doors, she’s the boss.”

A secret for a secret.

 

Take 11: Subtext by Missus James
Author's Notes:

subtext: the deeper and usually unexpressed "real" meanings of a character's spoken lines or actions (if the viewer can 'read between the lines).

TAKE 11

The business to righting a wrong began at a café table underneath a blood-orange outdoor umbrella. The trio of actors fared exceedingly well at the kind smiles, quick hugs, and cheek kisses, but it was all a performance for staff and patrons around them. After halfway through their beverages and meals, the meeting's intent then made clear.

"I think it's absolutely adorable how in love Jules and Milo are," Naomi said before taking a sip of her drink. "At the end of the film, they shared their first little kiss."

Tallulah brought a forkful of salad to her lips then paused at the news. Why were young mothers like Naomi so eager to accelerate or sacrifice their child's childhood in exchange for a friendship? Tallulah's childhood-her innocence-was robbed from her. Not just by her mother's death, but by her parents' choices.

She refused to take that away from Milo.

"Love is a strong word to throw around, Naomi," Nick said. "They're only nine years old."

"We can't deny how they feel. Love transcends all things. Age, race, appearance," Naomi countered, eyeing Tallulah at the word appearance. Tallulah glided her tongue across her teeth and forced a tight but polite smile, deciding to eat her salad quietly in lieu of slapping the shit out of Nick's ex.

Nick narrowed his gaze at thinly veiled dig. "Appearances can be pretty fucking deceiving."

"Well, since we're on the topic of appearances." Naomi snapped her fingers, side-stepping Nick's comment. "I think our families should take a vacation to Disneyland so the kids can have their first official outing."

Nick clenched his jaw and carefully set his fork down. "No."

Surprise flashed in Naomi's eyes. "It'll be good for the kids."

"That's not what's best for our son," he said. "There'll be no official outings, dates, sleepovers. None of that shit."

Naomi's face reddened. "We agreed that-"

Nick, however, cut her down swiftly. "It wasn't our place to agree to anything without the input of my child's mother."

A hot tangle of satisfaction and love flushed Tallulah's system, his words patching up any metaphorical damage inflicted upon her due his deceit. She was still angry at him for all the secrecy, but she couldn't deny his effort. He was fighting for them. He was fighting for their family. Tallulah couldn't discount that no matter how pissed she was at him-at this whole situation.

Tallulah hid her slight smile by drinking her iced mint tea.

"Well, what's your input?" A flustered Naomi darted her scrutiny over to Tallulah. The p in input popped off her tongue like a fiery gunshot.

Tallulah resumed eating her salad, jabbing and consuming a ripe tomato slice. "I agree wholeheartedly with Nick."

"I beg to differ. It sounds like Nick's agreeing with you," Naomi retorted crossly, an allegation lacing every uttered syllable.

An allegation that didn't sit well with Tallulah.

Nick rose, retrieved his wallet, and dropped two Benjamins. "I think we've entertained this long enough."

"Now you want to run away, Nicky? You such a coward," Naomi hissed lowly.

"You can call me whatever you want, but I ain't gonna sit around and let you disrespect my wife." He aimed an accusatory finger at her, a potent wave of anger radiating out his pores. His ex-girlfriend shrank back accordingly, her brilliant blue eyes swelling in size.

Wife. Shock pulsed within Tallulah wildly at hearing that four-letter word. The word that was most definitely a mistake uttered in a heated moment, but it hung in the sunny California air like a tangible foreshadowing.

Attention was drawn in from all around. The patrons finally sieved the dark shades and casual clothes, unveiling the truth that celebrities were amongst them. Out came the cellphones. Through her dumbfounded daze, Tallulah overheard a collective chorus of phone cameras' snap-snap-snapping as patrons captured this unscripted scene.

Only God knew how many were recording it.

He grabbed her wrist and hauled her away. Reaching his Mercedes, he opened the car door for her. A speechless Tallulah slipped inside, her plush body sinking into the fine leather. He claimed his role as driver and peeled off, tires shrieking as his foot abused the gas pedal and his hands skillfully jerked at the wheel.

Beyond the engine's furious roaring, a bizarre silence infected the car. His driving's pulse slowed to a crawl as the infamous Los Angeles traffic clotted the roadways.

"I hate this fucking city, Ray," he spoke concisely, hatred carving into his face. His fists curled tighter on the steering wheel.

Tallulah gathered the nerve to stroke his arm, hoping it'd quell whatever fire raging within him. "Maybe, we should get away for Thanksgiving break. A family vacation would be good for us."

It would be their first one.

His muscles untensed at her soft touch and locked gazes with her, plunging her into an icy ocean of fathomless blue. A chill skittered down her spine as she drowned his eyes and his desperation swimming in these depths like a shark.

"Whisk us away, Nick," she whispered tenderly as she leaned in, planting an airy kiss on his neck. "Take us away from all of this. Take us to places we've never been."

All Tallulah had ever known was the Golden Coast and her love and hate for it was of equal measures. She was ready to experience the world beyond Hollywood. Beyond Los Angeles. Beyond California. This sun-drenched land of milk, honey, and fame changed, broke, and destroyed people. Nick was broken. He relied on liquor to numb his pain, but now, he had given that up. He had given up all his coping mechanisms for her and Milo even if it meant his pain would get worse before it ever got better.

His AA meetings were helping. His therapy was helping. Her and Milo's love for him was helping, but you couldn't heal in the same place that made you sick.

He needed a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air.

And she wanted to be at his side through it all, but it was nine days until the Thanksgiving holiday break. Ahead of them was nine days full of photoshoots, magazine interviews, a birthday celebration, and a school gala.

They could make it through this.

They had each other.

{}{}{}

The next morning an irritated Juan marched onto the patio; a signature scowl nailed to his face. The Bryant family was in the midst of having a poolside breakfast.

"Good morning, Mr. Vega," Milo beamed, chewing on his omelet.

The boy's sunny mood halted Juan's determined stride.

"Erm, morning, kid," he greeted, an awkward smile cracking through his annoyance. He settled into an empty spot, aiming a pointed glare at Nick.

Tallulah took it as her cue to smooth a tender hand over her son's head. "Alright, time to get ready for school."

Milo shoved a final forkful into his mouth, chewed vigorously, and swallowed, scurrying away.

"You've been avoiding my calls," Juan growled, a tight smile twitching.

"What can I say? I like it when you bitch at me in person." Nick drank his coffee, shrugging.

Juan exhaled sharply, massaging his left temple. "Alright, mind telling me what the fuck at Café Citron yesterday?"

"Don't ask questions you already know the answer to, Juan," Nick said indifferently.

"How bad is the damage?" Tallulah asked. "How did the media spin it this time?"

Juan furrowed his brow. "You haven't looked yourself?"

"No, I haven't. I learned a hard lesson the last time I did," she replied, flickering her gaze to Nick. A devilish glint illuminated his vivid eyes. Two splotches of heat blossomed onto her cheeks as they shared a collective moment only lovers were privy to.

Juan extracted his cell and read aloud article titles. "Nick Bryant & Tally Edmond secretly elope. California King Nick Bryant crowns baby-mama Tally Edmond as his new Queen. Naomi devastated by Nick & Tally's elopement. Unbothered married Tally Edmond eats salad while the world screams. Nick ties knot with Tally to stay in son's life."

Nick chuckled richly at the fourth title, shaking his head. Tallulah's mouth, however, fell open as surprise electrocuted her, Nick's ferocious defense replaying in her mind: "You can call me whatever you want, but I ain't gonna sit around and let you disrespect my wife."

She sputtered a nervous laugh. "It was a simple slip of the tongue."

"Simple things are always blown out of portion when it comes to celebrities, chica," Juan commented, sighing as he put away his phone. A blunder spurred a tempest of allegations and conspiracies.

Now, the whole world believed they were married.

"What are we going to do about this?" Tallulah flitted her anxious attention between the two industry masters, relying on them for a solution.

"Nothing," Nick replied tiredly. "Let them believe what they want."

She hated his nonchalance attitude.

A quiet anger braided her words. "They wouldn't have believed we're married if you hadn't called me your wife, Nicholas."

"Is it such a bad thing they do, Desiree?" Nick tossed back.

Juan cleared his throat uncomfortably, shifting in his seat. "I'll give you two some privacy."

"No need. Stay. I need to take Milo to school." Tallulah rose abruptly from her seat, marching away.

{}{}{}

As the garage door lifted to welcome the BWM, shock robbed Tallulah's breath as Nick waited for her. Her heart stammered as she eased the vehicle into the 8-car garage and shut off the ignition. She stewed in the driver's seat, her brain scrambling for an escape route. The entire trip home she analyzed a medley of strategies: head-on confrontation, quiet avoidance, defensive side-steps.

But as he coolly sauntered to the car, all those sound plans flew out the window.

Nick opened the door for her to exit-for her to face him.

Tallulah hesitantly stepped out.

"Welcome home, wife," he greeted humorlessly, a challenge flaring in his eyes for her to correct him.

She gifted him a pristine middle finger as she passed him, but he took ahold of her forearm and drove her against the car's hood, forcing her to sit on the heated metal.

"Comfortable?" He hiked an eyebrow as he released her arm, planting his hands on either sides of her bare thighs-caging her in as he leaned in dangerously close.

"So comfortable I'm almost thought I was on cloud nine for a second," she retaliated sweetly.

"You didn't answer my question I asked at breakfast, Desiree," he said throatily, his calloused thumb grazing her outer thigh; inspiring her capacity to think to quaver. "Don't leave me in suspense."

"I'm still trying to adjust to being a celebrity's partner. I don't know if I can handle being a celebrity's wife. Regardless of it's gossip or genuine. I don't have the mental or emotional capacity for that and I'm not sure when I will. I don't want this life to break me like it did my mom, Nick. I can't do that to Milo." Tallulah dragged her teeth over her bottom lip as a flood of emotions engulfed her, hot tears bubbling up.

He pressed his forehead against hers, cupping her cheek. "You've got to ignore them, baby."

She squeezed her eyes shut and sniffled, her tears breaking free. "It's hard, Nick. It's so fucking hard."

She had done so well in avoiding the gossip magazines, blogs, and entertainment shows like the plague, but at the base of her skull, a reminder pulsed like a steady heartbeat. Lies about you are out there, the tiny voice of insecurity whispered.

He brushed away her wet sadness. "I think I've got just the thing."

"What?" she croaked softly.

"Let's fuck with them, Desiree," he said. "We know they're there, but we're actors and what do actors do when the cameras are rolling?"

Tallulah whispered, "Act like they don't exist."  

"That's right, baby." He grinned, kissing her nose's tip. "We'll give them the show we want. Not what they twist around and make into something else. But in order for this to work, you've to flaunt it. You've got to own all the things I love about you. Can you do that?"

"I can try."

Nick shook his head. "No more trying. Say you can do it."

"I can do it," she reiterated like a bride saying her vows at the altar.

"That's what I like to hear. Now, c'mere." He gripped her thighs and dragged her close to him. She framed his bearded jaws with her hands as he claimed her mouth, plunging his tongue inside.

"You have a photoshoot today," she breathed in-between his domination.

"What's the point of having expensive cars if I can't ravish you on them or in them?" he posed in a husky growl that made her tingly and wet. A giggle hummed brightly in her throat at his frustration.

Nick wrenched a laugh out of her as he hauled her over his shoulder, carrying her off.

"Where are you taking me?"

"We've got to get ready. You're coming with me to the photoshoot."

His voiced intentions sucked the humor out of her lungs.

{}{}{}

"Yes, yes, yes. Perfect," Dmitri Chernov, the Russian photographer, exclaimed as Nick lounged in a clawed bathtub and smoked a cigar, allowing smoke to flutter out his parted lips. A perfect tailored suit clung to his body. The first few buttons of his button-down were undone as a teasing peek to his hardened physique. He stared dead-on into the camera, offering a confident smoldering look only a Hollywood king could muster.

A full-fledged photoshoot crew commandeered a Beverly Hills mansion for the day. As crewmembers and equipment clotted much of the space, Tallulah found a prime spot to watch the Nick Bryant in action. Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars played from nearby speakers to establish a mood.

"Let's get some shots of you looking away," Dmitri instructed. Nick lolled his head and pinned her with a single look. He ran his tongue across his teeth and casted a wink.

Tallulah crossed her arms and swallowed down a laugh, rolling her eyes.

"I like, I like," Dmitri snarled enthusiastically as he vigorously snapped photos. "Alright, I want some bed shoots. We'll lose the jacket and undo all the buttons."

A crew assistant arrived at the empty tub and presented an ashtray for Nick to snuff out the cigar. He rose and stepped out, heading straight to her as the crew swarmed around to move necessary equipment to the next location.

"You enjoyin' yourself?" Nick smirked as he shrugged off his jacket, passing it to the wardrobe stylist.

"I suppose I find some mild entertainment in watching you be a cocky rich bastard," she replied teasingly.

He feigned disappointment as he unbuttoned his shirt. "Just mild? I need to up my fuckin' ante then."

Eventually, Nick ended up on a rumpled bed. A hair stylist used a brush to ruffle his hair to achieve a sexy disheveled look. As Dmitri commenced a flurry of snapshots and barking out commands, a smug Nick laid a hand on his crotch.

Tallulah pursed her lips together to contain her laughter.

"Put your hand elsewhere," Dmitri directed to which Nick obliged, instead deciding to massage his pec sensually and toy a nipple. His choices garnered confused looks, but because of who he was, everyone just went with it.

Oh, the power of celebrity, but while everyone saw Nick Bryant, she saw Nicholas Bryant behind the blinding stardom.

And she was falling in love with him all over again.

{}{}{}

Tallulah's eyelids fluttered as her eyeballs rolled back to the whites. Her fingers braced the foggy glass as her slippery pussy glided up and down his cock at her pace. Nick's grip bruised her hips as she tormented him with a hellishly slow tempo. His red handprints decorated her bottom from where he struck her to establish dominance which graduated to grabbing meaty fistfuls to show his reluctant submission.

"You enjoying yourself?" she reiterated his photoshoot question in a husky whisper.

"You're gettin' cocky, Diamond," he breathed against her neck's column and dragged a rough hungry tongue up it. "Puttin' all this delicious pressure on me."

She curled her fingers around his throat and squeezed, tilting his mouth up to hers. She sucked in a sharp breath as she sunk onto him in a hard plop and grounded her ass in his lap in circular motions, her fingertips soaking in his trapped groan's vibrations.

Tallulah smiled as she caressed his lips teasingly with hers, drawing away when he tried to ensnare her in a dark desperate kiss. "Are you going to crack, Nicholas?"

"Naw, I'm gonna shatter," he growled, palming both her asscheeks as she broke him down with each masterful roll of her hips. She loved him this way. Wrapped around her finger. Completely at her mercy by his choice. It wasn't lost to her that Nick could've snatched away her control a while ago and ravished her in the backseat of a car the cost of Ivy League student loan debt. But he didn't. He wanted to be her victim. He wanted to be tangled in her web of seduction.

And that made her wetter than the Pacific Ocean.

"If you can't take it, do you want me to stop?" she whispered, dipping her tongue into his mouth like bait then reeled it out. A dark anger burned in his blue eyes at her toying. She was playing with fire. She was tiptoeing an ultra-thin line between being in charge and him taking charge.

That exhilarated her.

"Don't," he answered, his tone raw with quavering restraint.

The word sent electricity to her throbbing clit, further powering her cockiness.

His objection to her stopping unlocked something inside her. Unable to bear her own devious rhythm, she rode his cock in wild abandon. An unadulterated pleasure engulfed her in droves. He reestablished his dominance by gripping a fistful of her hair and forcing her mouth onto his, pulling her into a furious world-dissolving kiss that was all thrashing tongues and mean teeth.

An animalistic need to cream on his thick cock consumed her.

"You're mine," she whispered roughly, biting his bottom lip hard then let go. "Mine. Not theirs."

Theirs as in the world's. Evidence of today's photoshoot would soon enough be plastered all over an international magazine, blogs, online forums, fan sites, and entertainment news segments.

But the world couldn't have him.

He was hers.

"Always. You own me, baby," he guaranteed throatily as his calloused hands held onto her hips while she rode him frantically, steering herself toward a head-on collision with an inevitable orgasm.

She caught a glimpse of him entranced by her pursuit of rapture as if he didn't want to miss a single moment. A silent cry wrapped in a smile heralded her undoing. Her muscles spasmed as she climaxed hard. She stilled her tempo as she reaped her reward. Her body was a quivering bundle of live nerves. She dropped her sweaty forehead against his neck's crook as she descended from her orgasmic high.

Nick claimed her hand and made her curl it around a hard roof handle.

Immediately, she knew what that meant. He purposely held back falling victim to his own climax. He was still seated deep in her; rock hard and ready for another round.

"Hold tight, Diamond."

She obliged, gasping sharply as he drove his hips upward.

Take 12: Candlelight by Missus James
Author's Notes:

candlelight: refers to lighting that is provided by candlelight, to provide a warm hue or tone, and connote intimacy, romance, and harmony

 

TAKE 12

Tallulah ruffled her voluminous curls, simulating an air of allure and confidence in her mirror. Her effort, however, shattered within seconds as she realized how silly she looked. She shrugged on her clutch’s gold chain-strap and strutted out her bathroom. She ventured across the glass mansion’s vastness and up the stairs.

She slowed her pace as she approached Milo’s ajar bedroom door. She peeked through the opened slither to witness Nick assist their son with mathematics homework. Except Milo seemed to be the one coaching him through it.

“15 ninths is an improper fraction,” Nick stated, a confused frown carving his handsome bearded face as he examined the math problem. “The numerator is larger than the denominator. That’s how I learned it.”

“It’s not called improper anymore, Dad. It’s called a fraction greater than one,” Milo explained.

Nick donned a mildly annoyed expression. “That doesn’t sound very catchy.”

“Fifteen-ninths is another proper way of saying 1 whole and 6 ninths.” Milo patted his father’s back sympathetically. “I know it’s a lot to process, but we’ll make it through this.”

Staying hidden, Tallulah swallowed back a giggle. Her heart warmed as Milo showed a puzzled Nick the 21st century way of converting ‘fractions greater than one’ to mixed numbers. A doorbell echoed throughout the homestead, marking the little homework session’s conclusion and the arrival of Ester, tonight’s babysitter.

Tallulah, finally, widened the door, prompting Nick and Milo to look over her. A scarlet-red off-shoulder ruffle-neckline bodycon dress embraced her curves. Peep-toe Louboutins adored her feet. A creamy red stained her lips.

“You look beautiful, Mom.” A proud excitement brightened Milo’s face. On the other hand, Nick’s mood darkened.

“Thanks, kiddo. Ester’s here. If you finish up your homework in twenty minutes, you might able to fit in an hour of video games before bedtime.” Tallulah crossed her arms, winking playfully.

Milo’s eyes grew at the prospect and he immediately dove back into his homework, his pencil writing furiously. Nick gracefully accepted his son’s abandonment and smoothed a fatherly hand over the boy’s light ash-brown hair. The gesture induced a happy glance and a loving smile from Milo before he returned his hectic attention to his schoolwork. Tallulah retreated into the hallway and Nick followed her out, returning Milo’s door to its previous ajar state.

She proceeded to the task of letting their trusty babysitter in. After a brief exchange, Nick escorted her to a chauffeured luxury car he booked for their outing. Before the chauffeur drove out the Bryant estate’s electric gates, Nick curled an arm around her waist and ushered her onto his lap.

He stroked her thigh, provoking goosebumps. “I think you want me to misbehave and sin tonight.”

“I’m offended by that accusation, Mr. Bryant,” she replied in mock injury. “I believe you’re capable of being an angel.”

“How can I be an angel when you’re dressed like a she-devil?” he countered.

“If I’m a she-devil then where’s my horns?” she asked teasingly.

He smirked as his palm slid higher up her thigh and caressed the side profile of her ass. “I ain’t interested in horns. I wanna know where your tail is.”

She giggled as she rested her hand on his and steered it back down her thigh, depositing it on her knee. “Down, boy.”

Nick laid a kiss on her red-painted lips then uttered throatily, “Woof, woof.”

Last Thanksgiving, she and Milo ate turkey-and-gravy microwave dinners and binged on cartoons. A week ago, they celebrated the holiday in Kauai, sun-napping, sandcastle-building, ocean-splashing, and stargazing. Time away from The Golden State further solidified their budding familial bonds. Time away also gave Tallulah the opportunity to explore her feelings for Nick. At Dmitri Chernov’s photoshoot, she recognized she was falling for him again.

Yet an insecure piece of her kept her from submitting entirely to love. Paparazzi, biased media, and a worldwide army of fans fueled her hesitancy. How many women would kill to sit in Nick Bryant’s lap at this moment? To have Nick Bryant as their child’s father?

She was living the dream.

And yet…

“I’m right here, Desiree.” Nick captured her chin softly, drawing her out of her troubled thoughts. “Don’t leave me behind and get lost in your head.”

“You’ve got me in your lap, Nicholas. I can’t stray too far.” The genuine seductress she wanted to be tonight dissolved in a vat of guilt, but she mustered up a believable smile. Like the saying goes: Fake it until you make it. It was the number one rule of survival in Hollywood.

Even this ‘marriage’ was fake.

He regarded her momentarily before he kissed her, exhibiting his true feelings. Her eyelids fluttered shut and she surrendered to him, matching his tender tempo note for note. Reality disintegrated, their united passion enveloping them. Her thumb caressing his cheek’s masculine curve as they robbed each other of breath and thought. The chauffeured car hit a mild pothole, the jilt thereby transporting Tallulah back to reality. Nick, however, was still ensnared by their make-out session, dialing the intensity from affectionate to ardent.

She broke away, a breathy nervous laugh slipping out of her. The sheer power of a top-notch matte lipstick anchored the bold red hue to her lips and nowhere near his. She still, however, erased an invisible smear off his mouth with a swipe of her thumb to break any awkwardness she created.

His teeth gently caught the digit and he gave it a nice suck. A heated thrill rattled her senses.

“What’s gotten into you tonight?” she asked teasingly as he freed her thumb.

“There ain’t nothin’ wrong in a man lovin’ his woman,” he replied.

Tallulah immediately recognized his clever scheme to shower her with affection on the car ride to the restaurant in preparation for a night of public displays of his loving. After getting back together, their outings consisted of hand-holdings and quick pecks. His PG-rated public acts of endearment was a perfect example of his restraint. She appreciated him for dialing it down.

At home, Nick unleashed all his pent-up passion on her.

“You aren’t going to keep your hands to yourself tonight, are you?” she asked.

“Not a chance in hell, baby,” he stated, a devious grin carving across his lips.

Tallulah rolled her eyes. “I shouldn’t have worn this dress.”

“It ain’t about the dress. It’s you. The dress is just a candy wrapper I gotta get rid of to get to the gourmet chocolate,” he said.

She burst out laughing. “You hate chocolate.”

“And yet I eat you up any chance I get,” he breathed in her ear, prompting her laughter to cease and her heartbeat to flutter frantically inside her ribcage. He capitalized on the moment and kissed her sensitive earlobe, stealing her breath away. Tallulah then recognized she didn’t fear what else he’d steal from her by the night’s end. Instead, she worried all that she’d give to him willingly under the public’s judgmental gaze.

{}{}{}

Intimate seemed like an odd name for a food establishment. However, if you managed to squeeze your name on the mile-long reservation list, you’d discover the four-Michelin-star restaurant’s name was more than fitting. The dim candlelit atmosphere ensured anonymity and privacy. The curtained private booths ensured intimacy.

Tallulah slipped into their reserved booth’s right side, blinking her surprise as Nick slid in right after her thereby caging her in. Their server undid the curtain ropes, enabling a red velvet shield. She cracked open a leather-bound menu and examined her options as he settled his arm onto her shoulder and leaned in to do the same.

His proximity disrupted her ability to read.  

She shook her head, smiling. “You have your own menu, you know.”

“Sharing is caring, Desiree,” he said.

When it came to restaurants she’d never been to before, she had a one-step method for deciding what to eat.

1.      Look at the price.

Once upon a time, she believed twenty bucks for an entrée was the definition of splurging. Nowadays, she had to add height to those monetary limits, but even then, she didn’t feel comfortable throwing cash left and right just because it was at her fingertips. Yes, living in luxury had its perks, but she wasn’t going to let it change her—or Milo.

Though she was no longer a penny-pincher, she was still sensible.

Tallulah steered her eyes to him when he uttered her first name.

“Don’t worry about the prices. Let me spoil you,” he said. Even after years apart, she hated how attuned he was to her, always intercepting her thought frequencies. Maybe, it was because she was fundamentally still his Desiree that he married nine years ago.

She sighed gently. “I’m trying to.”

In the end, she settled for a seventy-dollar salad and he decided on rosemary lamb chops. Once the curtains rippled back into the place after the server’s departure, Tallulah reached for her flute of chilled water to give herself something to do. As she sipped, she drunk in the private booth’s gorgeous décor. A miniature chandelier over the table to cast a soft amber light. A genuine painting of a classy 1930s couple on a moonlit grand balcony decorated the wall. Her mind wandered to the San Diego steakhouse she and Nick worked.

She remembered how pictures of famous paintings graced the walls to inspire and stir a sense of self-importance to its middle-class patrons as they indulged themselves on fifty-dollar steak and thirty-dollar wine. She remembered how poorly she was treated and tipped compared to her slender white coworkers. A universal theme which followed her everywhere like a bad omen. It didn’t matter if she was a steakhouse waitress, an actress, or an A-lister’s baby mama, the world relished in mistreating an overweight black woman.

But she supposed it was fate.

If a drunk customer hadn’t berated her, Nick wouldn’t have comforted her in the alleyway. Back then, she hadn’t paid him any mind. It was acting school, work, and her troupe. He, on the other hand, was the resident jokester, wielding his southern charm to lighten up the mood. He teased, played around, and flirted. His easy-going philosophy on life didn’t appeal to her, so she didn’t feed into it.

After her shift was over, he found her sobbing on a stack of wooden crates by a smelly dumpster. He lessened her pain through his humor—made her smile through her tears. Even though they’d work together for a year, that night opened her eyes wide, forcing her to notice him in a different light. The next night he asked her out. Within a year, they were married and stayed so for two more. And through the ocean of time that’d passed between them, destiny brought them back together.

Looking back at their past made her look back to him with a renewed focus softened by time-tested love.

She tilted her head to the side. “Do you remember our first date?”

“Of course. I took you to Dulce. It was a Saturday. You wore a flowy blue skirt, a shirt of The Wiz film poster, gold Converses, and a red poppy headband. I couldn’t keep my eyes off your lips,” he said, trailing his gaze down to her mouth. “They were a rich red and plump, and every time you smiled or laughed when you talked about actin’, I wanted to kiss all that lipstick off your face. You let me take you home and you branded my cheek with a sweet kiss. I wore it like a badge for the rest of the day around my apartment. My roommates ribbed the fuck out of me for it, but I didn’t care. I was hooked.”

“After one date?” she giggled.

“Desiree, I’d been tryin’ to get your attention, but you never noticed. You’d post flyers for your troupe’s performances in the breakroom and I’d go if any of ‘em lined up with my days off. And if they didn’t, I’d switch a shift with someone, so I could,” he admitted. “My plan had been for you to look into the crowd and notice me, but that didn’t work either.”

Her jaw dropped. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“No need. I knew sooner or later you’d need someone and I’d be that someone,” he said. “I just bided my time.”

“You seemed very confident I’d be single and willing,” she said.

“I knew you would. You were meant for me and you still are.” Nick bent his head to press a kiss onto her forehead and her eyelids slid shut to savor the moment.

As the velvet curtains parted with the arrival of their dishes, he kept going as he laid an unhurried trail of pecks down her nose’s bridge. Impatiently, she took his lips, garnering a rumbly chuckle from him. Her stomach’s protesting grumbles interrupted them, which they reacted by laughing.

“With all these kisses, I thought I kept you well-fed,” Nick stated as he cut into one of his glazed lamb chops and sawed off a piece, wanting to feed it to her.

She accepted the offering, giggling in between her chewing.

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“That was fucking wonderful,” Tallulah sighed contently, laying her head onto Nick’s lap as their chauffeur carted them down Beverly Hills. She relished in him stroking a path along the curvy ridge of her waist, hip, and thigh. Behind closed eyelids, memory of their first date swirled in her mind. Her tastebuds tingled for a cold dessert.

She admitted tiredly, “Ice cream sounds nice.”

“I was hoping we’d have dessert at home.”

Tallulah lolled her head to peer up at him. “I think our definitions of dessert vary greatly.”

Nick smirked. “Doubtful. It’s universally acknowledged that chocolate is a dessert.”

“Yeah, except I want to eat my dessert. You want to screw yours,” she noted.

He glided a calloused thumb across her lower lip. “Can’t we both have our cakes and eat it too?”

She answered instead by drawing his digit into her mouth, lightly twirling her tongue around it. A dark heat clouded his intense blue eyes. He instructed Wilbur, their chauffeur, to drive them to Creamy Dreamy on Wilshire Boulevard. Many minds thought alike on that Thursday night as the couple entered the shop.

Nick’s presence electrified the atmosphere, amassing reactions of shock. Camera phones snapped photos and recorded videos blatantly and shamelessly. Hushed excited chatter swirled around them. The queue moved up at a steady pace until it was Tallulah’s turn at the counter.

“Um, I’ll take the Apple Pie Cream Dream,” she ordered.

A blonde freckled employee stood there utterly dumbfounded; her stretched eyes completely latched onto Nick’s face. Finally, she snapped out of her stupor and presented a nervous smile.

“Yes, absolutely. Coming right up, ma’am.” Her jittery hands massaged together the ingredients on a countertop with utensils. She offered up the cup of ice cream to Tallulah and immediately directed her attention to Nick.

“Is there anything I can get you, sir?”

“No thanks, my dessert’s at home,” he stated, the shop employee hanging on his every word. Tallulah fought the urge to elbow his ribs. He paid for her icy treat and landed his hand on the small of her back, navigating her to the exit. Witnesses might conclude he was eager to leave due to the garnered unwanted attention, but Tallulah knew he could care less about that. Nick desired to get home and get her into bed as quickly as possible.

However, she wasn’t ready to go home yet. Oh, no. She wanted to milk this moment for all it was worth before she offered up her cookie to him. She casted him a deceptively sweet smile as she steered off his intended course and sat down at an available table.

She used her spare hand to pat the empty chair beside her. “Sit down, Nicholas. What’s the rush?”

She fed herself a spoonful as she batted her eyelashes. He rubbed his tongue across his canine tooth, impatience flaring in his eyes. He obliged her and claimed the seat, leaning over to issue a low warning into her ear.

“When we get home, you won’t be able to sit down for week, Desiree.”

When we get home,” she reiterated nicely. “Until then, you’re on my time, buddy.”

Tallulah made a point to savor her next helping of ice cream slowly.

“Gimme some then. I need something sweet to tie me over,” he said.

To appease him, she reluctantly gave him a spoonful of her dessert. “Satisfied?”

“Now, I am,” he said around the spoon still in his mouth as he plucked the cup out her grasp and helped himself to another taste.

“Ass,” she laughed as she crumpled a napkin and threw it at his head, not caring others recorded the incident on their phones.

He retrieved the balled up napkin and dabbed his lips’ corners. “Just what I needed. Thanks, baby.”

Unable to stop smiling, Tallulah crossed her arms and wagged her head at his audacity. Nick presented an olive branch in the form of her stolen spoon and another dose of apple pie ice cream.

They shared looks of playful affection as she ate what was hers.

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After relieving Ester of her duties and bidding her good night, Tallulah strutted to her bedroom with Nick at her heels. Before she could open the door, he hemmed her against it, roughly pushing her hair aside to give his dessert a love bite on the neck. She arched against him and fell her head back against his shoulder as he fondled her left breast hungrily, giving her a taste of his passionate aggression.

“You ready for the last course of the night, baby?” he growled in her ear.

She nodded eagerly, desire buzzing through her like an electrical current. Upon entering her room, all fervor evaporated as they found Milo slumbering peacefully in her bed’s center. The two went to their respective sides of the bed. She plucked off her heels. He shrugged off his dinner jacket, removed his belt and oxfords, and untucked his shirt. After they settled into bed, Milo unconsciously bowled into Nick, nuzzling his young cheek against his father’s chest.

Unable to take their eyes off each other, the two listened to their son’s faint snores until their wills to stay awake winked out like candles.

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HOLLYWOOD LAUNDRY EXCLUSIVE

Nick & Tally get sweet on each other on date night!

Our favorite newlyweds hit the town tonight. According to our sources, Nicky flexed his celebrity status muscles and called upon dark forces to snag a reservation at Intimate, one of the hottest restaurants in Beverly Hills. How else was he able to get a spot on a reservation list booked TEN MONTHS in advance? Though it's to be speculated he made the reservation months ago when he and his on-again-off-again-never-again ex Naomi were still an item and he didn't want the reservation to go to waste. I guess we'll never know.

After snuggling up in one of Intimate's ritzy private booths, the married couple stopped in at Creamy Dreamy in Beverly Hills for dessert and playtime. Photos and videos are making rounds on social media. We've handpicked the most delicious ones for you. Eat your hearts out, Nickomi fans! 

It seems the Bryants are in bliss, but how long before this honeymoon phase comes crashing down?

COMMENTS:

Ben-Dover: i don't think Nick fakin' it, ya'll. dead-ass he look happy af. his baby mama could still lose some lbs tho...

Nickomi4lyfe: This is stockholm syndrome pure and simple. Blink twice if you need help, Nick!

BeyHiveBzz: YASSSSSSSS QUEEN! Show 'em how it's done, Tally. 

cheese'n'whine: I can't stan Nick with his baby mama, but that dress fire tho. I ain't gonna lie. 

anonymous-83747: That's not love or marriage. That's a friendship. 

AaliyahIsAnAngel: @anonymous-83747, ummm, hate to break it to you but you can be friends with your spouse. 

naominator: I can only imagine what's Nick's going through trying to keep up this charade.Can you imagine the psychological and emotional damage he must be going through? He's being held hostage. With Naomi, he was free and happy. Tally is fucking sick. Someone needs to teach her a lesson. 

MIMIisQUEEN: @naominator, co-signing this.

Naomi4ever: I'm about done wit bias af Hollywood Laundry. You always put down Nickomi stans. If it wasn't for us, this website wouldn't even be that popular. Stop biting the hand that feeds you. Tally is paying you, isn't she?

 

End Notes:

Wow, this update has been 1/3 written for a while, but I'm so glad I was able to finish it this weekend. It's my goal to update SUGAR DADDY or UNSCRIPTED every weekend. So far, I've updated two weekends in a row! WOOT! I'll admit that since I last updated this story in November, I didn't know where I wanted to go. The good news is I have mapped out the rest of the plot for UNSCRIPTED, so I know how I need to trunk along. It's about to be a wild ride is all I can say. 

Thank you for your patience, your feedback, reviews, and support. It means a lot to me. 

Because I wrote two updates to SUGAR DADDY in February. I'd like to write 1-2 more updates of UNSCRIPTED in March. 

Take 13: Climax by Missus James
Author's Notes:

climax: the highest point of anxiety or tension in a story or film which the central character/protagonist faces, confronts, or deals with the consequence(s) of his/her actions

Take 13

Thirst leeched her throat dry. Her eyelids pried open sluggishly, allowing her groggy mind to remember her usual predicament. The one where her ex-husband embraced her snuggly against him, making her the hostage little spoon. Some nights it was easier to slip away undetected, but others required a more tactical approach. She chewed her lower lip as she surgically detached herself from him.

As she eased back the sheets, she glanced over her shoulder to ensure she hadn’t woken him, relief rippling through her as a slumbering Nick didn’t budge an inch. She crept out of bed, a shiver rattling down her spine as her bare feet landed on an unforgivingly icy floor. She slunk out and journeyed to the kitchen. Though an impressive supply of glass-bottled premium water chilled in the Sub-Zero fridge, it was more comforting to utilize the faucet.

After guzzling down two helpings, she handwashed her cup and stationed it on a dish drying rack.

She gave into the routine urge to venture to the glass mansion’s second floor and edged her son’s door open, padding into the prehistoric-themed chamber. Milo slept soundly in his bed, having kicked off his covers. A smile quirked onto her lips as he took up one of his father’s sleeping habits: no shirt, sleep bottoms only. She tucked him back in to protect him from the icy draft and bestowed him a goodnight kiss on the forehead.

The sight of a bare-chested Nick seated upon the edge of her bed greeted her as she re-entered the bedroom.

“Do you know what time is, Desiree?” he posed.

Tallulah blinked. “Bedtime.”

“It’s nine minutes after midnight which means it’s the fifteenth,” he informed.

She padded toward him, groaning, “Ugh, don’t remind me. We have to drop Milo off at the winter slumber party then we go to that sweater party at Eugene’s.”

Anxiety weighed on her at the day ahead.

A feeling she hoped a couple more hours of rest would alleviate.

“You don’t know what today is, do you?” The genuine question halted her stride.

Tallulah gave him a weak clueless smile. “Um, Saturday?”

Nick rose and advanced her, overshadowing her. “It’s been eleven years, Desiree.”

Confusion reigned over her. It’s been eleven years since what? Her brain scrambled to determine the significance of eleven years.

“Oh, god. It’s our wedding anniversary,” she gasped as the realization crashed onto her head, amending her statement quickly. “I mean our ex-wedding anniversary.”

Up until she crossed paths with her ex-husband once more, Tallulah relied on the coping mechanism of burying the bones of their dead marriage to survive. Being a single mother and a struggling actress, she prohibited herself from sulking and mourning every time she encountered a billboard, movie poster, or television ad of Hollywood heartthrob Nick Bryant. Years ago, she reassigned December 15 as another ordinary day to endure, disremembering its importance for her own good. 

And yet after all this time, he held onto the date. Tallulah’s imagination brewed up theories of how he observed this day since their divorce. Had he drunk himself to a near death? Had he resorted to the comfort of another woman? Had he whisked off to Europe or East Asia to find himself?

Guilt chewed at her conscience for forgetting. “Nick, I’m s—”

He pressed a calloused finger to her lips. “There’s nothing to apologize for, Desiree. You forgot the date, but you remember that day.”

She swallowed her reply and nodded, but the emotion still nibbled at her. He withdrew his silencing digit and captured her hand, guiding her away from the bed.

“Where are we going?” she asked, furrowing her brow.

“On a trip down memory lane,” Nick divulged as he ushered her to her favorite relaxation spot: the scenery-facing armchair by her panoramic windows. “Sit.”

As she lowered her bottom onto the soft cushion, her eyes dragged up the landscape of his sinewy figure, pale moonlight draining onto his back.

“You were ten minutes late because Finn’s car battery died, and you had to catch a ride someone else from your troupe. I was a nervous wreck, but then you scurried into that courtroom in an adorable short white tulle dress,” he said as he knelt before her. “You took my breath away. I committed that moment to memory and let it haunt me like a ghost for nine years.”

Tallulah’s gaze softened as she trailed off, “Nicholas…”

“The judge blushed when I kissed you and struck his gavel to get me to cut it out.” A cocky grin stained his mouth. “It was excruciatingly difficult for me to stop.”

“You made me blush too,” she giggled.

He reminded, “It’s a groom’s duty to keep his bride blushing and I took that responsibility very seriously. What happened next for us, Desiree?”

“You whisked me off to Playas de Tijuana. Our honeymoon suite overlooked the beach,” she recollected, dead memories reviving in her mind. If cruising across the US-Mexico Border in a shabby 1991 Geo Storm could be constituted as whisking her off. They opted not to do a wedding reception and Nick funded their seven-day honeymoon with much-earned overtime pay from months of double kitchen shifts.  

“What’s the very first thing you did?” he quizzed, his rough fingertips caressing her shins.

She closed her eyes, digging deep in her memories. “I was practically dying in my high heels. I plopped into a chair by the view and I tried to take them off, but you wouldn’t let me lift a finger.”

“Then what, Desiree?” he probed as he gathered her left foot in his possession and massaged it. She melted into her armchair and lolled her head, moaning in delight at his expert touch.

“Then you gave me a heavenly foot massage,” she replied throatily, bliss flaring in her veins as his thumbs kneaded her sore arch, “and after that, you—oh.”

Her eyes rounded in surprise as she recalled what her groom did to her next. Eleven years later, she found herself in a parallel situation with her ex-husband.

Mischief glinted in his vivid pools of blue. “You’re such a good storyteller, Ray. Don’t leave me in suspense. I want to know what happened next.”

“You, uhm.” The words dissolved in her throat as her ability to think fractured after he bent his head and planted a lingering kiss on her ankle. “You went down on me for the first time.”

He showered leisured kisses and licks along the valley of her shin. “As your boyfriend, you wouldn’t let me taste you. As your fiancé, I got to lick you once before you stopped me. All it took was one lick to get hooked. For five months I had to wait to become your husband so I could eat you up.”

Three months into dating, she gathered the nerve to evolve their intimacy beyond fervent make-out sessions. He attempted to go down on her, but insecurity fueled her turndown. Instead, she begged him to fuck her. On the night of their engagement, celebratory liquor waned her unease but the moment he lapped her pussy, it ushered a different scope of bliss and vulnerability, terrifying her. She fetched his head from between her thighs and kissed him desperately, whispering her need of him.

He didn’t try again which convinced her he’d given up on the idea altogether until their honeymoon. In their newlywed suite, he slipped off her white-lace panties and dove his head beneath layers of tulle to bury his tongue into her sweet center. Instinctively, she tried to stop him, but he gruffly commanded her to hold onto the cushioned chair’s armrest and ‘don’t fucking let go.’ He gave her no choice but to obey thereby forcing her to face her insecurities. His devouring of her drove her to tears as she couldn’t process how wondrous he made her feel.

As the sun descended into the Pacific Ocean, she basked in its rich fiery hues as her orgasm crashed and hurled over her like waves, his greedy mouth dragging her to the deepest depths of pleasure.

After that day, she never denied him—or herself—again.

“Open up for me,” he decreed huskily, his heated breath fluttering on her kneecaps. An army of goosebumps to march across her flesh and a fit of shivers to rattle her body.

Tallulah didn’t hesitate to part her thighs, pulling up her nightgown’s helm to unveil herself.

Nick’s tongue wettened his mouth, a smirk forming. “Well, what have we got here?”

As of late, she began to like going to bed commando. A choice which paid off. She buffed her nails spiritually to laud her excellent decision-making skills. 

“A midnight snack,” she whispered as she smoothed her fingers over her bare mound then cupped her entrance, imprisoning it to deny him of it. “It doesn’t come free though.”

His love for a challenge danced in his eyes as he hiked an eyebrow. “Oh? What’s the price?”

“Beg for it,” she proposed, smiling. “Unless you think it’s beneath you.” 

“I ain’t above beggin’,” he assured, his Kentucky accent shining as glorious as the moonlight staining them. A tiny squeak escaped her as he grabbed her thick thighs and wielded his impressive strength to draw her ass to the armchair’s edge.

He bowed his head and laid a kiss onto her hand’s backside as its other side guarded the object of his desire. “Please, let me in. I’m feigin’ to suck that little clit of yours.”

His plea’s subject pulsed its approval. He steered his tongue along an airtight cease between her middle and index fingers like a dog seeking comfort.

“I’m starvin’, Desiree,” he breathed as he nuzzled his cheek against her, kissing along her inner thigh. “I gotta eat you up, girl.”

Tallulah gazed down at him, savoring his acts of desperation. She coveted the sight of him knelt before her, begging for her to give herself to him. Beyond the panoramic windows was a world populated by fans who’d sell their soul to stand by Nick Bryant’s side, but she possessed the power to bring the powerful man to his knees willingly.

No one could take that from her. She felt utterly invincible. A rare bodily sensation slickened her pussy.

Pleased by his presentation, she uncovered her folds.

Nick draped her legs over his shoulders and feasted on her. A sharpened gasp rushed down her throat as his tongue punished her clit with erotic thrashes. Her chest rose and left to her quickening breaths as his mouth orchestrated her ecstasy. She peered down to him, drinking him all in as he ate her all up.

One moment bled endlessly into another until she abandoned all sense of time—or any sense at all for that matter. She was caught in a state of purgatory between pleasure and torment. Nick had reverted back to his mean self. No longer a desperate man. Now, like a magic trick, he transformed her into the desperate one as he nipped and laved her clit, inflicting her with pain and soothing away his cruelty with greedy tongue swipes.

“Be nice to me,” Tallulah pleaded, earning his chuckle.

The rich sound’s vibrations soaked into her clit as he imprisoned it in his mouth for a deep suck which made her toes clench.

He liberated the swollen nub momentarily but refused to abandon it completely as his rough thumb stroked and strummed while he addressed her. “It’s too late for that now, Diamond.”

Her head fell back against the armchair’s softness, notes of disappointment and bliss coiling around a deep-chested groan.

“Do you want me to beg?” she whimpered, arching against his petting thumb.

“No, diamonds don’t crack,” he reminded.

“I want to crack. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Please, Nick,” she implored, unconsciously rocking her hips.

“You’re goin’ to take it, Diamond. You’re goin’ to take it and more.”

Tallulah pouted a quivery bottom lip. “Why are you doing this?”

“I want you to commit this day to your memory. I’m goin’ to carve this date in your mind with my tongue against your clit. I’m goin’ to pound it into your head when I yank you onto this floor and fuck the shit out of you,” he vowed. “That’s why I’m doin’ this.”

She couldn’t protest or argue against his pledge. Anticipation and arousal pulsated through her body like an electrical current. His words set her afire and only he could relieve her.

“Now, be my good girl and accept your fate,” he instructed as his head descended in between her separated thighs, resuming his mission of ravishing her glistening crease. She resigned herself as his prey and splayed a shaky hand over her mouth to withhold the swell of cries raging within her.

“Don’t you fuckin’ dare,” he growled into her slit. “You better gimme those pretty sounds. I own every single one.”

A stubborn streak got ahold of her and she utilized her teeth to pin her lower lip as a precautionary display of defiance. After all, diamonds don’t crack, and she wanted to show him how resilient his Diamond was.

A stunt which initiated a war of wars. The spoils intended to be her climax fashioned as her downfall.

Nick parked his thumb atop the hidden root of her clit and coasted rearwards to pry back her sensitive fleshy hood and expose her firm pink bud in all its spit-shiny glory. His tongue washed her vulnerable clit, lapping at a delicate system of nerve-endings which fired violent shocks of rapture throughout her body.

She trembled as a cry clawed up her throat, demanding to be heard. She detached her hand from her mouth, depositing it onto the armrest for a pillar of strength. Do not crack. Do not fucking crack, she demanded of herself as he assaulted her button of pleasure in feathery rapid flicks. It took everything within her not to succumb to the devastating urge to add shrilly vocals to her internal turmoil, but her ex-husband was a formidable foe.

They both knew he’d be declared victor. His daunting stamina and determination would secure his inevitable triumph.

“No, no, no,” Tallulah beseeched breathlessly as their feud neared its end and snatched a fistful of his hair to anchor him, her actions contradicting her words. Her twin set of nails dug into the armrest. They chained in each other in a battle of stares.

Give in. Give up. Gimme what I want, his intense blue eyes transmitted as he wagged his tongue’s tip on her unshielded nub. She lost their staring contest as her eyelids clamped shut and her jaw fell open as her self-restraint withered away and an orgasm sprang forth, rolling her through as a thunderous force.

Her thighs embraced his head as she cried out.

He didn’t relent, leeching every drop of her orgasm. She collapsed against the armchair and sobbed as she’d done eleven years ago on their wedding night. Tearily, she admired the moonlit foothills and the city of amber lights and greenlit dreams beating and thriving within the valley’s heart.

Her axis tilted as Nick plucked her from the seat and brought her to the soft luxury shag rug. Her nightgown was stripped away and she shifted onto her side and snuggled her cheek against the area rug as she suffered from a post-orgasmic daze. He hooked a brawny arm around her neck and palmed her breast as he spooned her.

“Drape your leg over mine and slide me into you,” he ordained huskily in her ear, rocking his rigid length against her plump ass. She gave into his demands and glided his veiny cock between her drenched folds, gasping loudly and bowing her spine as he surged into her.

As Nick established a rhythm of deep, hard, and furious, Tallulah understood the gravity of this affair and her role within it. They weren’t fucking each other. That implied mutual participation. No, it wasn’t that at all. He was fucking her. Sometimes, you fucked. Sometimes, you got fucked and there’s nothing you can do but accept it and lose yourself in such a dark divine moment.

Tallulah yielded to him, each aggressive thrust making her plush body jiggling. She adored him like this. Savage, vicious, demanding. Manifesting his need of her with every insistent possessive drive of his hips.

“Look at my precious Diamond takin’ all this dick,” he taunted in her ear. “You fuckin’ love this, don’t you?”

And so it began, a favorite game of theirs. The one where he got off on asking her obvious questions and she got off on lying to incite him to pound her pussy harder.

“No,” she muttered, a squeal punctuating her lie as he blessed her with a rude thrust.

He panted, “Then why is this pussy so slippery wet for me, hm?”

“I’m thinking about someone else,” she fibbed.

Nick gripped her thigh and cocked it upward, measuredly corkscrewing his hips to burrow into her to the hilt. Her eyelids twitched and fluttered, her eyeballs rolling backward as he triggered a dynamic burst of gratification.

He nipped her earlobe and chuckled, “That’s the wondrous thing about phenomenal dick. If you know how to work it, it malfunctions brains. You still thinkin’ about ‘im?”

“Yes,” she sputtered out as he engineered a mercurial tempo intent on unraveling her.

His looped arm coiled tighter around her throat, his palm kneading her breast roughly. “I know we’re playin’ and yet I can’t bear the thought of you belongin’ to another bastard, Diamond. I gotta to keep you to myself. You know how greedy I am.”

Tallulah groaned out his name unawares and her voice suffered jerky hitches, his urgent impales affecting the stretched syllables. The back of her head plopped onto his shoulder as she melted into a state of utter submission as his angled strokes hit her toe-curling back-arching sweet spot.

His bruising grip abandoned her hoisted thigh and he seized her cheek, steering her lips into a hungry proprietorial kiss. As he battered her cunt and claimed her mouth, she balanced on the knife edge of an explosive orgasm, his cock shoving at her to take plunge. He drunk her scream as his passion alit an internal fuse, detonating her climax like a flurry of fireworks. A kaleidoscope of vibrant rapture blinded her, delicious shudders jarring her skeleton.

She crumbled limply against him as he escalated his momentum. He severed their ardent kiss and rested his damp forehead against her temple, grunting as he reared and surged into her drenched canal. A groan bled out of him as he lodged his dick into her and stilled, filling her with spurts of his seed.

Both were reluctant to stir as their bodies cooled on the fluffy area rug and breaths evened. Tallulah’s eyelids grew heavier as exhaustion infected her. He unseated his cock from her creamed entrance and extracted a thick furry throw off the adjacent loveseat, blanketing them.

As she lulled to sleep, the date imprinted itself onto her brain, immortalizing its significance. No longer did she need to forget December 15th to protect her heart.

Now, she’d always remember it to protect the man her heart once again belonged to. 

End Notes:

fanning self

 

I hope ya'll enjoyed this update as much as I had fun writing it. For our next update, our leading man shows everybody on live television he ain't playing games when it comes to his leading lady. 

 

Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

 

Have a wonderful Friday!

Take 14: Buzz by Missus James
Author's Notes:

buzz: slang for the sense of excitement, expectancy, and hype that surrounds a film, an actor, or director

 

TAKE 14

The first week of the New Year served a vehicle of firsts for Tallulah. In the early hours of January 1st, a sober Nick carried her drunken ass into his West Village townhouse after they attended an old rocker’s NYE bash, christening their vacation bed with an alcohol-induced sloppy top. On January 2nd, Nick took her and Milo to a hole-in-the-wall joint in the Meatpacking District where they munched on their first slice of NYC pizza. On January 3rd, their little family did touristy things to sate Milo’s thirst for exploration and adventure, paying visit to the Statute of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the Museum of Natural History.

However, on the fourth day, Tallulah was faced with a terrifying first arranged by the collaborative efforts of her ex-husband’s publicist and her own talent agent: a magazine photoshoot and interview. The arrangement had been made shortly after the celebrity gossip blog Hollywood Laundry “aired” Nick’s dirty laundry and paparazzi photos of their first family outing.

A flood of lucrative proposals congested Tammy’s email box as magazines, tabloids, and entertainment television programs clamored for dibs on her first tell-all interview. Juan advised her to select celebrity publication heavy hitters like People or InStyle, but Tammy pushed for a televised sit-down interview with Entertainment Tonight or Inside Edition.

Nearly every emailed pitch centered around one single question: “Why did you keep a child secret from his father?”

Tallulah recognized what she had done was harmful to Nick and Milo, but she refused to further tarnish her reputation by knowingly walking into an interview intent on justifying the worldwide ridicule of her. In the sea of impending public relation disasters, one proposition held promise. Big Bold Beautiful, a leading plus-size lifestyle magazine, offered a different angle: “How did you survive single parenthood, a discriminating industry, and fatphobic haters like a boss?”

She had never thought of herself as a survivor or a boss, but the pitch empowered her to do so. Now, she hoped the photoshoot and interview would inspire and empower big women everywhere.

The magazine provided a complimentary chauffeured ride to their headquarters within a Fifth Avenue skyscraper. Lanya and Christophe accompanied her there. The infamous traffic jam gave her time an abundant of time to overthink. As she maintained a calm disposition, internally she suffered through a nervous breakdown.

What if she botched the interview? What if she looked like an ugly fool in all her photos? What if this exposure did more damage? What would Nick do? What would Nick say?

Why didn’t you ask him when you had the chance, you idiot?

“I don’t know why,” she muttered aloud, gently tapping her temple against the tinted window as a tiny act of self-inflicted punishment.

“I’ll be sure to forward the information to Ms. Edmond and I’ll contact you soon regarding her decision. Have a good day.” Lanya concluded the business call, plucking out her Bluetooth headset’s rubber ear plugs. “That was Nikita Spire, the owner and lead designer of House of Spire.”

Tallulah appreciated the conversational reprieve. “Never heard of her.”

“But you have heard of the luxury fashion brand High Spiral? Well, Nikita was the creative director for twenty-three years,” Lanya informed, “until she found out her CEO husband enjoyed taking clothes off models more than dolling them up with his wife’s designs. However, she agreed not to air his affairs if they split and she could keep the last name to start her own fashion house. Well, he’s been slandering her to scare away any potential business. She needs a big-name client and you need a dress for the Oscars. It’s a win-win.”

She winced at the mention of the Academy Awards, becoming increasingly less receptive to the idea of being her ex-husband’s companion to the biggest event in the film industry. In the beginning, being unable to find a designer for a red-carpet-worthy dress was the perfect excuse to witness Oscars Night unfold on a 90-inch flatscreen television.

A dream never to be if she agreed to partner up with Nikita Spire.

“You can’t not go, Tally. If you stay home, the haters win,” Lanya counseled. “You can’t grace the pages of Big Bold Beautiful claiming you’re a boss and not own up to it. If Nick goes alone and he wins Best Actor, you’ll be called a selfish bitch. If he goes alone and loses, you’ll be called an unsupportive bitch.”

Tallulah countered, “And if I do go, I’ll be called the fat unworthy bitch who doesn’t deserve to be at his side.”

Lanya boosted her plucked eyebrows, presenting a manicured finger to accentuate a point. “But you’ll be a fat unworthy bitch serving looks in a dazzling custom gown as Nick Bryant escorts you down the red carpet. Unworthiness would never look so good.”

Her personal assistant’s vivid encouragement sparked a realistic fantasy. As she got lost in her imagination, her wobbly reception firmed up. As she imagined herself arm-in-arm with Nick, she quickly discerned the error of her ways. Regardless of whether he won or lost, she’d never forgive herself if she stayed behind. Years ago, they routinely laid in bed, dreaming of starring roles and Oscar wins.

Back then, the dream seemed impossible, but now, it was as real as life itself. The announcements of the 91st Oscars nominees was eighteen days away, creating mounting tension. The studio behind Nick’s spy thriller, Wicked People, intended to jet its leading man anywhere to keep the film in the public’s eye. A logical tactic as it coughed up over ten million dollars to bankroll its campaign for Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay.

The Bryant family and their entourage didn’t come to the Big Apple solely to bring in the New Year. Tomorrow, Nick was scheduled to do a televised interview with a popular late-night talk host. An appointment which had been in place well before that fated day her world collided into his once again. Tammy and Juan thought it best to book the Big Bold Beautiful gig on a justifiable date to maximize convenience and eliminate cross-country travel.

“Alright, you win,” Tallulah exhaled defeatedly. “When can she fit me in?”

You decide,” Lanya said. “Her schedule is wide open for you.”

The Academy Awards was seven weeks away. As Nick Bryant’s plus one, she had to slay on that red carpet to make a statement: He was hers and she wasn’t going anywhere.

“Arrange an appointment for the ninth at ten o’clock,” she instructed.

Lanya’s adept thumbs danced across her smartphone’s keyboard to input the mandate on a lengthy to-do list. “I’ll get right on it.”

An hour later, she was on the 23rd floor of a skyscraper headquarters of a mass media corporation which owned and published over 100 magazine brands. A melanin beauty served as her hairdresser, taming her tresses with a ponytail, sectioned plaits, bobbing pins, and ingenuity to fit on a mesh cap. A bone-straight wig was placed on her head like a crown, its blunt bang veiling her forehead. A platinum-haired makeup artist transformed her plain features into a sophisticated full-beat look, gifting her glamorous cat eye so thick and sharp it weaponized her face. As her makeup was applied, a session manicurist freshened up her nails.

Tallulah peered into the Hollywood vanity mirror adorned in light bulbs, a boss lady staring back right back.

“Wow,” she uttered softly as she delicately grazed her temporary locks. “Can I take you guys home with me?”

Her question garnered laughter, but she was more than half-serious. She needed miracle workers to prepare her for the red carpet. Tallulah was no amateur when it came to makeup, but she had never looked this stunning in her entire life. The magazine’s beauty professional duo knew how to make a plus-sized woman feel big, bold, and beautiful.

The photoshoot’s wardrobe stylist outfitted her with a rich wine-hued half-sleeve bodycon pencil dress and four-inch pumps.

“Well, damn.”

Tallulah’s attention strayed from the diligent woman cinching her into an extravagant box belt. Air evaporated from her lungs as her ex-husband sauntered into her dressing room, garbed in an olive-green parka, a black beanie, impenetrably dark shades, street clothes, and snow-fighting shoes. His arrival altered the atmosphere’s texture.

Relaxing on a complimentary couch, Lanya straightened her spine and uncrossed her legs as shock visibly seized her, signifying to Tallulah her personal assistant had no clue about this visit. Lanya and the magazine staff willingly departed to allot the couple a sense of privacy, but the wardrobe stylist stayed behind as her job was not yet done.

“Nick, what are you doing here?” Tallulah remained still to act as a living doll as a simplistic but elegant tennis necklace wreathed her neck.

He grinned and hiked his eyebrows. “You seriously thought I’d miss your first photoshoot?”

“You didn’t say you wanted to come,” she voiced as a petite diamond watch enclosed her wrist before the stylist quietly peaced out.

“It’s called a surprise, Desiree,” Nick teased. “A favorite tactic of mine I use to always keep you on your little suckable toes.”

A flash of arousal poured down her spine as she envisaged him backing her into the foldable makeup chair behind her, slipping off her high heels, and using his mouth to worship her feet.

Tallulah cleared her throat. “How did you get here? Where’s Milo?”

“I took the subway and walked the rest of the way,” he answered, advancing to her. “New Yorkers don’t give a fuck who you are as long as you stay out their way. As for the little rugrat, he’s back at the townhouse with Aishwarya teaching her how to play Minecraft.”

He then grasped her hand. “Now, let’s have a good look at you.”

He twirled her slowly, admiring her at all angles. Over his shades’ rims, his eyelids lowered half-way as a veneer of desire stained his gaze focused solely on her.

“I love your shine, Diamond,” he complimented, steeping his tone in a suggestive huskiness as he lured her into his arms.  

“You only call me that when you’re doing something naughty to me,” she noted.

Nick skirted his arms around her waist, smoothing his palms over the lush hills of her ass. “I was getting to that part.”

He dipped his head to kiss her, but she panicked and dodged him. “You better not, Nick. I don’t want to mess up all everyone’s hard work. I came to them looking like trash and they really outdid themselves.”

He struck her right asscheek, kindling a squeak and a momentary grimace out of her.

“Ow, what was that for?”

“I ain’t gonna let you put yourself down at your own goddamn photoshoot, Desiree,” he said, his southern accent springing to life, “nor am I goin' to stand by and let you tell a boldfaced lie to me or yourself. You ain’t ever looked like trash a day in your life. I should know ‘cause I wake up to you in the mornin’ and I hold you close at night.”

A slight smile twitched her lips upward. “You’re an excellent cheerleader. Maybe, I should buy you some pom-poms.”

A crew member rattled their knuckles on the dressing room’s door. “Mrs. Bryant, everything’s ready for you.”

Every time someone addressed her as Mrs. Bryant, it felt oddly right even though it was a complete falsehood. The world still believed she and her ex-husband eloped lavishly back in November. Because she was forbidden from directly reading sensationalized entertainment gossip stories, Lanya was tasked with keeping her informed on circulated lies.

Tammy regularly contacted her about seven-figured offers for wedding photos. Desperate gossip rags resorted to bribery, but their loyal staff refused to entertain the idea of deception. Tallulah was grateful to be surrounded by individuals who cared about her family’s security and privacy. All rare finds in a celebrity-studded world where trusted faces lurked behind the anonymous close sources feeding hungry gossip columnists.

Nick rested a tender kiss on her nose. “Now’s your time to shine, Diamond. Dazzle ‘em.”

The photoshoot’s first location was in a corner office located on the 23rd floor’s opposite end. Photography equipment and crew clogged much of the capacity, edging up to the mahogany executive desk. The photographer instructed her to sit in the high-back tufted office chair and prop her feet up. She did as told, crossing her ankles.

Nick leaned against the office’s back wall, regarding her steadily. When their stares intercepted, he looked over his aviators and casted a wink.

“Gimme a resting boss face,” the photographer directed.

Tallulah obeyed and labored to keep from squinting at the camera’s rapid flashes as the photographer fired away. With each shoot, her empowerment withered and her insecurities flourished.

Do I look stupid? I feel stupid, she thought.

The photographer ceased and went to the computer monitor his camera was tethered to, studying the captured shoots. She discerned a trace of disappointment in his expression, but she reasoned it was her worry polluting her head with illusions.

“Let’s try a different pose,” the photographer encouraged, his sympathetic delivery confirming her suspicions. “Stand up. Hands on the desk. Show us you’re the boss of the world.”

She executed the first two directives but floundered pathetically at the final one. She could act her ass off, but she couldn’t pose for a goddamn picture?

Nick pried himself off the wall and approached the photographer. “Mind if we take five?”

The photographer agreed to the request. The volume of bodies dwindled until only Tallulah and her ex-husband remained. He crossed the distance between them and rounded the immense desk.

“How bad am I?” she groaned.

He plucked off his shades and propped the pair atop his head, the wrinkles around his brilliant blue eyes crinkling as a telltale sign of his amusement. “You aren’t bad.”

“But I’m not good either,” she countered.

His warm rough hands cupped her cheeks. “If you want to survive this photoshoot, you’ve got to have confidence, Desiree. You don’t trust yourself.”

“You picked up on that, huh?” she sighed.

“Everyone did,” he said, smirking, “but I know exactly what you’re capable of. You love to boss me around and you make me stiffer than starched pants when you do it.”

His analogy induced her laughter. “Because it’s you.”

“Then pretend nothing else and no one else exists beyond you and me,” he counseled. “You get this indescribable look in your eyes when you show me who’s boss. And holy fuck I love that cocky ass smile you give me when you’ve got me eating out the palm of your hand. You’re not doing this for them. You’re doing this for us, but most importantly, you’re doing this for yourself.”

Nick sandwiched her against the desk’s lip. “And the sooner we get this shit done, the sooner I can kiss that lipstick off your face.”

Tallulah used her index finger to poke his chest’s center. “That’s if I think you’re worthy.”

“Mm, that’s my girl. Put me in my place,” he purred as he grasped her hips. He eased a step back to provide a slither of space and gently swiveled her around to face the photoshoot equipment.

Her eyelids drifted shut as he brushed aside her wig tresses and his mouth skimmed along her ear’s edge.

“Hands on desk. Show the world you’re the boss of me,” he muttered, altering the photographer’s former behest. He abandoned her as the magazine’s photography unit funneled back once the time ran out on that five-minute break.

He left her, but his words stayed behind as the fuel to her determination—her confidence. Behind a dark glistening camera lens, the photographer directed her, an impressed smile widening as she executed every cued pose. As flashes assaulted her, an assertive feminine persona stirred within her, a fierceness varnishing her face.

Nick watched on as this facet of herself caught fire, confidence smoldering bright in her eyes. Stationed near the office’s rear wall, he lingered beyond the crew and equipment, his heavy gaze broadcasting a message to her.

He couldn’t wait to be burned by her.

{}{}{}

Milo Lachlan Bryant was truly the son of actors. He had perfected a puppy-eyed technique and performed it to the fullest as he dropped to the kitchen floor on his knees and clasped his hands together. Such a shame his mother was his only audience.

As their holiday vacation neared its end, Tallulah gave all staff the Saturday night off. A perfect time for drinks and clubbing in a city that never slept. Though it took a bit more elbow grease to dismiss a reluctant Christophe, but she provided repeated assurance she and Milo would be fine. Her staff often forgot she survived the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood and single motherhood for over eight years. In all honesty, it was nice to have the four-story West Village townhouse all to themselves.

“Please, please, please, Mom,” he pleaded. “Just this one night.”

Tallulah poured herself a glass of chardonnay, pretending to be unaffected by his little performance. “The Extra Late Live Show isn’t meant for children, Milo. If it were, it wouldn’t come on at 11:35 which is generally well past bedtime for eight-year-olds.”

Milo opened his mouth to make another plea or a counterpoint, but she shot him a motherly glare which clamped him up. “I know you want to see your dad on television, but sometimes, we don’t always get what we want. This is one of those instances, Milo. Now, go get ready for bed.”

Tallulah sipped on her wine as he pouted and skulked away.

In cases like this, she hated being his villain, withholding him for his father even if it was the televised version of the man. However, The Extra Late Live Show catered immensely to its adult audiences, its infamous host a master of sharp sarcasm and crude humor. Its hold-no-bars philosophy attracted millions every Saturday night, crowning it the highest-rated show on its network. A perfect platform to keep the masses interested in Wicked People.

The right amount of buzz could make or break an Oscars campaign. Lobbying, ads, parties, private screenings, and talk show rounds were weaponized to ensnare the powerful academy members. Over nine thousand film professionals would be able to cast a nomination ballot on this upcoming Monday. Many of which rubbed elbows with Jarrett Spencer, the offspring of an Oscar-winning actress and an acclaimed executive film producer. His bloodline of Hollywood pedigree secured him the late-night talk show gig.

Tallulah drained her wine; anxious for the show to begin.

“Three hours to go,” she muttered as she fixed another glass.

{}{}{}

“Allow me to introduce the one and only Nick Bryant,” the talk show host announced, rousing a strong gust of applause. The guest of the hour swaggered onto the sound stage, acknowledging the energetic audience with a charmed grin and nod. The two men shared an amiable handshake before they settled into their respective places: on a couch and behind a host’s desk.

Tallulah curled her legs onto the couch she lounged on, imagining how perfect and untouchable her ex-husband looked to the hungry masses who watched on from within the live studio and homes. His celebrity status swathed him in a godlike aura and fashioned him into an idol destined for shallow worship. If only his fans understood he didn’t want to be seen as a wet dream. He wanted to be recognized as a flawed flesh-and-blood man.

She memorized and adored all his flaws.

A studio camera panned to fangirls wagging their homemade posters, shrieking ardently, “Nicky! Nicky! We love you!”

Nick grinned and casted a dreamy wink at the cluster of admirers high up in the studio’s seating, kindling higher-pitched screeches.

“Alright, alright, ladies. We get you want him to make you a single mom for nine years,” Jarrett cracking, triggering robust laughter.

Nick seemed unphased by the joke, his grin widening.

The talk show host shuffled to his topic cards, smirking. “Speaking of which, we conducted a national survey about your overnight rise to fatherhood and found 94% of women disappointed for obvious reasons, but a resounding 97% of men expressed relief knowing that their wives’ celebrity husband also has difficulty pulling out.”

He laughed, shrugging, “When it’s sensational, you’re doomed.”

Tallulah choked on her wine mid-sip as shock seized her throat. Her eyes bulged as her brain apprehended her ex-husband admitted her pussy was sensational on national television.

“Fatherhood normally drains the life of a man, but it seems to have done the opposite to you,” Jarrett noted as the classic cityscape backdrop dissolved away to introduce a slide presentation of father-son photos from Nick’s social media. A swimming lesson at their Trousdale home’s pool. A sandcastle contest on Kauai’s pristine beach. A three-day-old snapshot of Nick crouched behind a fascinated Milo pointing up at a Corythosaurus fossil in the American Museum of Natural History.

The crowd chorused a sound of adulation.

“I gotta admit the kid’s got amazing genes.”

Nick eyed the endearing images and stroked his thick beard. “He gets it from his mom.”  

A studio camera zoomed in on the talk show host’s face to catch a flicker of subtle comical expression of disagreement. His lips twitched as he withheld a laugh and cleared his throat to dispel the urge. A scarce flock of shattered titters filled the air.

Disappointment swelled in Tallulah’s chest at the unvoiced insult.

“Right, of course,” Jarrett concurred lamely, proceeding to the next topic card. “Wicked People has been touted as—”

Nick narrowed his eyelids. “It’s one thing if you’re a disrespectful jackass to me for cheap laughs and ratings, but I won’t let you disrespect my wife.”

“I’m sure your wife has a lovely personality,” Jarrett said.

“I know she does, but this isn’t about her personality. You taunted her appearance,” he said.

Jarrett insisted, “I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t need to. Your actions spoke loud enough for everyone to hear.”

Attempting to dissipate the elevating tension, he chuckled, “Listen, man. If she’s your cup of tea then drink away. I’m honestly glad you’re off the market. It’s hard to shop for a top-shelf babe when you’re my competition.”

It was obvious he anticipated a positive crowd reaction to his light-hearted rebuttal, but all he got was crickets. The failed joke was downright painful to witness. Even though he didn't deserve any bit of her sympathy, secondhand embarassment coursed through her. 

“I wouldn’t get your hopes up, Jarrett. You might come back from your shopping trip empty-handed. It’s common knowledge ladies with good taste are allergic to guys who lack it,” Nick disputed coolly.

The audience erupted into a fit of surprised ooh’s.

Tallulah choked a gasp.

“If you’re trying to hit me below the belt, it’s not going to work, my friend.” Jarrett smirked.

“I don’t think I could even if I tried. Since there isn’t much below your belt, I doubt I’d do you damage,” Nick articulated, a deviousness glinting in his blue eyes.

Her palm muffled an ‘oh-shit’ remark at her ex-husband’s brilliantly ruthless comeback. A multitude of laughter flooded in, its profuse abundance signifying the conflict’s victor. A ruffled Jarrett flashed a tight smile at a different camera.

“We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors,” he spouted.

A snippet of the show’s theme song played as a camera crane swooped away from the TV set, a title card pasting itself over the shot.

{}{}{}

HOLLYWOOD LAUNDRY EXCLUSIVE

Don’t start none, Won’t be none!

It’s no secret Perfect Angle Cinema, the studio behind the widely acclaimed Wicked People, has pulled all the stops for its darling film to be an Oscar contender. With nomination season a stone’s throw away, they sent their star-power atomic bomb to ignite more buzz, but we’re sure they didn’t expect such an explosive result. Nicky visited the Extra Late Live Show as the last stop on the Oscar campaign and had to take down jackass Jarrett Spencer a much-needed notch.

After receiving third-degree burns on live television, Jarrett became a burn victim after losing a heated confrontation backstage. According to our sources, it took five security guards to pull Nicky off and hold him back. Papa Spencer, a Perfect Angle Cinema executive producer, allegedly wasn’t pleased with his heir insulting his leading actor’s wife nor was the network after #jackassJarrett and #extraLAMEliveshow trended all over social media.

An impressive 5.3 million posts lambasted the talk show host for his behavior.

Word has it, a televised apology is expected on next Saturday’s episode.

Don’t start none, won’t be none!

  COMMENTS:

bonehugs&harmony: The southern rose up outta Nicky and got him out here throwin bows for his bbymama and shit. He’s a real one.

BeyHiveBzz: #jackassJarrett really tried to come for Tally. Keyword: TRIED.

Anonymous38471: It’s always dudes who are bottom barrel scum aim for “top-shelf babes”

HotGirlMegatron: Nicky said his woman’s goodies was SENSATIONAL. You love to see it, hunty!

Scorpio88: #unpopularopinion but no pussy good enough in the world to go to jail over.

FloridaMan904: I’d go to jail for Tally’s kittycat. He wouldn’t be with her if she weren’t giving him that good cat’s meow in the bed.

And-I-OOP: How did Nicky know the tea on Jarrett’s tiny peen?

ratchetTonguepop: @And-I-OOP, they got the same ex. Jarrett dated Avalon Dillard in 2015 and Nicky got with her in 2017. All that good D must’ve knocked all the hot tea outta her.

naominator: Esta no es la Nicky que conocemos en absoluto! >:{

DragonballDurag: LMAO! Nick going buck over Tally got @naominator falling out in Spanish.

 

End Notes:

I've been trying a new writing strategy to churn out updates quicker. Unscripted has seven more chapters to go and the fun's really about to get started. The next update is Valentine's Day which happens to be Tallulah's birthday. Ya'll know how Nicky likes to celebrate special occasions. 😜

 

Feedback is greatly appreciated!

Take 15: Complication by Missus James
Author's Notes:

complication: a plot event that complicates or tightens the tension of a film

TAKE 15

The bone-rattling beat carried Tallulah to a different plane of reality. The six daiquiris in her stomach acted as a conduit. A dizziness swam in her head, inducing her carefree reaction to the neon strobe lights and the techno beat.

Tonight, she was apart of an annual gettogether to celebrate February 13th which was Galentine’s Day. All those in attendance were old buddies from her old troupe days. Everyone planted roots in Los Angeles to pursue careers in the film industry. Dominga paid her bills as an extra on television and movies. Sonya worked as a theater teacher at an elite private school where the wealthy shelled out thirty-thousand-dollar tuition checks. Valerie was a secretary to a big-shot film executive. After graduating from film school last year, Alexandra became an intern in a popular show’s screenwriting room.

Chaos and obligations plagued their lives, always complicating the frequency of their meetups. So, they devoted a single night to let their hair down and go wild. In previous years, they could barely get into a Los Angeles club, but a name-drop flex secured a VIP booth and all its perks. The name Tallulah dropped belonged to the unpleased man she abandoned at home when Valerie rolled up to the Trousdale glass mansion.

Her departure or the purpose behind it didn’t incur his displeasure. It was the clingy carmine-hued off-shoulder ruched drawstring mini dress she sauntered out in. She told him not to wait up. To which he replied gruffly: “You’ve given me a reason to.”

She assured him she rarely got hit on at clubs.

“That ain’t much of a reassurance. There’s a stark difference between rarely and never,” he countered.

She never went partying on Galentine’s Day expecting a free drink, a dance partner of the opposite sex, or to be flirted on. Though she didn’t admit it aloud in fear, she’d always known she wasn’t a “top-shelf” babe so she never held high expectations at a superficial LA club, but on occasion in the past, loneliness, lowered expectations, and liquor led to lousy sex with a nameless loser. However, she withheld that tidbit to quell his jealousy and pecked his lips to soothe his male ego.

The premium rum laced in the daiquiris watered her confidence and withered away any inhibitions, fueling her every fluid full-bodied sway. Neon strobes highlighted her light sweat. Electric music charged her, pulverizing her ingrained worries. She wasn’t Tally Edmond, the small-time actress. She wasn’t Tallulah, the devoted mother. She wasn’t Desiree, the California king’s consort.

She just was.

She rose her hands overhead, giving herself to the moment as if converting herself to a new religion. The throbbing bass baptized her, and she merged an untroubled creature.

“Girl, let’s get some water into you!” Sonya exclaimed, towing a disappointed Tallulah through the swelling current of fast dancing and back to the roped VIP section.

“The dancing queen has finally returned,” Valerie teased.

She flopped onto the curved leather couch and propped her cheek on Dominga’s shoulder, smiling drunkenly up at her old friend.

“Oh my god, you’re so far gone.” Dominga cocked her head back and laughed, patting Tallulah’s other cheek encouragingly.

Sonya handed her an opened bottle of water. “Drink up, honey.”

“I’m fine,” she slurred in a whiney pout then took a few deep gulps, relinquishing the half-empty container to rest her head on Dominga’s lap. Her eyelids slid shut as her body’s adrenaline plummeted.

“I’ve never seen her like this before,” Alexandra noted worriedly.

“Considering the last four months she’s had, you’d be like this too,” Valerie said. “Let her be a wild child. She deserves it.”

“Well, while all ya’ll and Miss Wild Thang were was wilding out on the dance floor, she left her phone on the table and Nick’s been lighting it up for the last two hours,” Alexandra briefed in a matter-of-factly tone.

Sonya snapped, “You better not have—”

“What the fuck was I supposed to do? I got distracted with a hot dude trying to holler at me and I didn’t see Nick left her twenty text messages,” Alexandra growled. “I didn’t want him to think she was dead!”

Dominga rubbed Tallulah’s bare shoulder, sighing heavily, “What did you tell him?”

“I texted everything was fine, and his reply was he’d be the judge of that himself,” Alexandra stated.

“You had one job, Lexie!” Valerie criticized.

“Uh-uh! We are not going to pull this all on me! For the last five years, I’ve volunteered to watch over our things so nothing gets stolen. Nowhere in that list of responsibilities entail running cellular interference,” Alexandra justified defensively.

Valerie added hesitantly, “She’s right, ladies. We’ve never had to worry about significant others on Galentine’s Day.”

“That’s because none of us have significant others,” Sonya declared.

Dominga reminded, “One of us does now and he’s on his way here.”

“Do you think we can sober her up some?” Alexandra queried.

“Naw, she’s a lost cause. She’s way too plastered,” Valerie guaranteed.

The conversation’s subject drifted in and out of a nap, only rousing when the waitress breached the roped section possessing a tray of more drinks.

“We didn’t order any of this,” Alexandra announced, wagging a no-nope-naw hand gesture at her throat.

“Free drinks courtesy from an influx of gentlemen at the bar taken by your lady in red’s compelling dance routine,” the waitress teased and cocked a chin up at Tallulah, dispensing the medley of delicious poisons onto the table.

After emptying her tray, she used her free hand to extract cocktail napkins from her apron’s pocket, bestowing them to Tallulah. It took a few moments for her drunken mind to discern the napkins weren’t for dabbing at pretty mouths and soaking up spills but instead for dialing up. She’d never gotten a guy’s digits before yet alone eight. Though she had no intention of making a phone call, the napkins stroked her confidence.

It was funny how when she was single no one wanted her, but now as a taken woman, she appreciated in value to a male’s gaze. Or maybe, it was who’d taken her which stimulated such bold interest. Either way, it amused her drunken ass to no end.

Sonya, the slender Nigerian stunner, got two numbers. Valerie, the resident redhead, received three. Alexandra, the bottled blonde caramel-hued honey, got five. Seven come-holla-at-me’s placed Dominga, the Brazilian beauty, as the first runner-up in an unofficial contest she’d normally be crowned winner.

“Do I get a prize?” Tallulah asked distortedly, fanning herself with the napkins.

“Yes, of course. You win a free ride home and a good old-fashioned ass chewing by your man who’s on his way right now to come get you,” Sonya broadcasted.

Tallulah’s proud smile dissolved, her eyes stretching. “What? Why?”

Her questions were answered when Valerie grabbed her forgotten cell amongst the chaos of empty glasses and free colorful cocktails, offering it to her.

9:32PM Nick: You enjoyin yourself?

9:52PM Nick: I guess you are.

10:15PM Nick: I know you need a night off, but fuck I miss you

10:32PM Nick: Got me up in this bed feigin for you

10:59PM Nick: I know you’re turnin heads at that club

11:05PM Nick: I get you’re out in the town livin your best life but shoot me a damn text

11:23PM Nick: Can’t get you in that motherfuckin dress out of my head

11:25PM Nick: When are you comin home so I can peel it off you?

11:27PM Nick: Startin to think you left me feelin some kind of way on purpose  

11:36PM Nick: (photo attachment)

A snapshot of him graced the stream midway into the unanswered text messages. The nightstand lamp on his bedside illuminated his half-naked state. His hand laid boldly on a thick bulge which restrained against his boxer-briefs. A sobering bolt of arousal pierced her inebriated hazy panic.

11:36PM Nick: You ain’t on curfew, but how long are you goin to keep me and him waitin?

11:43PM Nick: You look like an innocent angel, but I know you’re not

11:43PM Nick: You’re givin me too much hell and it’s makin me hard as fuck

11:54PM Nick: Here’s a warning out of courtesy

11:54PM Nick: I’mma fuck you like I despise you

12:00AM Nick: Happy Birthday.

12:06AM Nick: You probably got bastards all over you right now.

12:06AM Nick: You’re all fuckin mine. Remember that.

12:07AM Nick: I’ll know if a motherfucker’s hands were on you on that dancefloor

12:07AM Nick: Fuck, I shouldn’t have let you leave the house in that dress.

12:11AM Tallulah: Everything’s fine.

12:11AM Nick: Naw, I’ll be the judge of that. Hang tight.

He sent his last text message over thirty minutes ago.

“Who…texted…for me?” she stammered drunkenly.

Alexandra rose her hand. “That’d be me.”

“You read all of it?”

“Every single word,” Alexandra admitted, smiling knowingly. “The screenwriter in me couldn’t resist.”

“Oh, god.” Embarrassment coated Tallulah’s voice and she guzzled down a raspberry-infused cocktail to purge herself of it.

Dominga snatched up the cell. “What’s all the fuss?”

As she scrolled and scanned, her hazel eyes bulged, and she unleashed a brilliant laugh, reverting to her Portuguese mother-tongue. “Céus!

Valerie and Sonya acquired the device next, huddling close to read the text messages like two eager teenaged girls. In moments, Sonya clenched her invisible necklace of pearls.

“I can’t believe Nicky is an uppercase zaddy now. Who knew underneath all that beefiness was a beefcake,” Valerie preached, biting her bottom lip longingly.  

“Her cell isn’t waterproof. Stop salivating all over the damn screen, bitch.” Sonya side-eyed the redhead, handing the phone back to Dominga.

“Oh, he’s texted you again,” Dominga announced then shamelessly reported what the message was. “He’s outside and he’s waiting for you. The party’s over.”

Tallulah plucked a turquoise-colored cocktail garnished with an orange-peel spiral and slurped down it as her last hurrah. “I don’t want to go yet. The night’s still young.”

“I think you’ve had enough, sweetheart.” Alexandra fished the drained martini glass out Tallulah’s possession.

“It’s time for us all to leave. We’ve been here since eight. The night’s old and needs to settle down for retirement, Ray,” Valerie said.

Sonya cocked her head, her gaze dissecting Tallulah’s reluctance. “This whole thing is wearing you down, isn’t it? Getting back together with Nick?”

A quiet realization blanketed the group.

The Academy Awards was ten days away and unbearable pressure mounted within her. A few weeks back, Perfect Angle Cinema’s intense campaigning paid off when the Academy announced the nominees for each category, securing nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor.

As an action star, he guaranteed studios billions, but no one seemed to take him seriously beyond guilty pleasure blockbusters. After three previous nominations and three losses, she understood earning prestige recognition for his acting performance would break the industry mold he’d been fitted into.

Regardless if he won or lost, she wanted that night to be perfect for him which meant she had to be perfect too. She collaborated tirelessly with Nikita Spire to fashion a jaw-dropping masterpiece. On the film industry’s biggest night, your armor either made you a red carpet darling or a disappointment. There was no in-between.

The world already expected her to fail, so the scheduled ambush she had in mind required a lot of her. Snags derailed her sanity. Earlier today, she visited the House of Spire’s sewing workshop, she was informed the unfinished gown suffered a major setback, but she saw it, she nearly had a mental breakdown.

Lanya grabbed her shoulders and shook her out of it. Nikita profusely assured all matters would be resolved well before the Academy Awards. To settle her nerves, Lanya encouraged a shopping trip at her favorite plus-size boutique to buy a perfect dress for tonight’s Galentine’s Day outing. She only bought the mini dress to feel better, but she hadn’t anticipated it to put Nick in his feelings as made evident by his text messages.

Tallulah shook her head at Sonya’s question, the alcohol loosening her slurred tongue. “It’s…not him. I thought the world was against me, but I’m starting to think it’s the whole fucking universe.”

Stinging tears blurred her sight and she crooked a finger to brushed them away at her eyes’ waterlines, not wanting to ruin her makeup. It wasn’t a superficial action. Nick had a knack for detecting tiny details, especially it came to her. Even after nine years apart, he was a master at understanding her right down to her atoms and DNA coils.

“I need to make it out of February in one place, but if something else goes wrong, I’m going to lose my mind,” she confessed to her oldest friends, sniffling. “I didn’t want to think tonight.”

“According to ‘em text messages, Nick wants you to lose your mind when ya’ll get home,” Dominga teased and stuck her tongue out, winking naughtily.

They all shared a good laugh.

Tallulah willingly footed their entire tab and they evacuated the club. She stumbled and staggered in her heels, inspiring Sonya and Alexandra to sandwich her and drape her arms across their shoulders to assist as if she were a wounded soldier on a battlefield.

Dominga dialed one of her suitors’ numbers. As she veered from the group, Valerie called, “Dom, where the fuck are you going? We rode together!”

“I found a ride. Don’t worry about me,” Dominga ensured, firing a wink over her shoulder.

“A dick doesn’t count!” Valerie shouted back.

Domingo swirled on her six-inch stilettos and shimmied her shoulders, crooning, “Says who, baby?”

A hoodied man slyly emerged from a row of cars, blindsiding the flock of ladies. A panicked Valerie whipped out her pepper spray keychain at the ready to do some damage to protect the group. However, it required only a split second for the women to determine the stranger’s identity.

Nick didn’t flinch at the threat of being pepper-sprayed.

Lowering her defenses, Val gasped, “Holy fuck, Nicky!”

“Good to see you too, Val,” he said, smirking. “Impeccable reflexes, by the way.”

“She’s all yours, Nicky,” Sonya grunted as she and Alexandra safely passed the intoxicated birthday girl off to him. Tallulah’s forehead bumped against his hard-muscular chest hiding underneath his hoodie. She wobbled on her heels and he captured her hips as her knees buckled to prevent her fall.

As a precaution, he hauled her over his shoulder. Tallulah slumped defeatedly over the hard plane of Nick’s shoulder.

“Are you feeling, Ray?” Alexandra quizzed as the old gang accompanied his journey to a black Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

“Upside down,” she admitted sloppily, earning a brief rumbly laugh and giggles.

Sonya opened the front passenger’s seat and Nick carefully deposited her onto the luxuriant leather seating. He sealed her inside and she careened, plopping her cheek against the coldish tinted window. With her ear pressed against the glass, she unwittingly eavesdropped on the muffled conversation between Nick and the gals.

“Go easy on her, Nicky,” Sonya petitioned, crossing her arms. “She’s…fragile right now. The world’s coming at her too hard.”

Nick rubbed his nape, sighing, “I’m tryin’ to soften the blows, Yaya.”

A dull ringing clogged Tallulah’s ears, thwarting her ability to listen and focus. She dozed off, ignorant to how much time slipped by. The distinct whine of an opening car door lured her awake. Her attention lazily drifted to Nick as he claimed the driver’s seat.

Their sights intersected as a key twist brought the engine to life.

“On a scale of one to ten, how drunk are you?” he questioned.

“Eleven,” she croaked.

Nick shook his head. “After eight drinks, I can see why.”

“Snitches,” she murmured.

He drove out the club’s parking lot, merging into the flow of traffic. “It’s no secret you’re a lightweight, Desiree. You know your limits. Tonight, you risked your health by exceeding them.”

She cooed, “I wanted to have fun.”

“No, you wanted to play a dangerous game of forget,” he lectured coolly. “Tossin’ back two or three drinks is fun, but when you guzzle down eight that means you want to forget your problems, your worries, and yourself. Been there, done that. Now, what’s wrong?”

“Everything’s fine,” she lied.

Nick tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “Stop actin’ with me. We aren’t on set. There aren’t any cameras around. This is real life, Desiree. This is our life.”

“Alright, I’ll admit it. I got out of control, but it was only this one time,” Tallulah argued, her speech’s flow clumsy and full of faults.

“One time,” Nick chuckled humorlessly, wagging his head. “One time becomes one more time and one more time becomes a lie you keep tellin’ yourself. It’s easier to help ourselves with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless fucking than ask for help. Then you turn into what I used to be. Then you turn into Veronica and Milo turns into the ten-year-old you.”

Her mother’s name daggered her spirit and a pained sob sputtered out of her. She hunched over as if he stabbed her gut. Guilt bled from her as abundant tears. Within a few hours, she and Nick were scheduled to board a flight to Mexico. Finn offered to spoil his godson rotten while the boy’s parents enjoyed a romantic birthday getaway.

Tallulah was grateful Milo slept peacefully elsewhere in Los Angeles unable to witness how much of a wreck she was. If he could, he would never unsee it. With a childhood like hers, she knew that best of all.

“Don’t talk about her,” she pleaded, shaking her head.

“Then let’s talk about you,” he said. “Tell me what’s goin’ on. I can’t help you if you won’t let me in.”

“You can’t save me from myself, Nick,” she snapped, a thick rawness impregnating her voice. “This shit isn’t easy for me. I’m trying to be more confident. I’m trying to be stronger. I’m trying to prove I’m worthy of—”

Anger blazed bright in his blue eyes as he interrupted her. “Worthy of what?

“You know exactly what, Nick,” her tongue flung sharply. “The world thinks I’m not worthy of what we have.”

Nick growled, “I don’t give a fuck what the world thinks.”

“Well, I do! Dammit!” she roared.

She stamped her hands over her mouth, regret surging through her veins. The bitter truth didn’t agree with the alcohol in her belly. Nausea twisted her insides.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” she gagged.

As they drove through a Beverly Hills neighborhood, he veered off to a curb and she slung her car door open, hopping out. Grass crunched underneath her teetering high heels as she scuttled to decorative bushes on the street corner mere feet away. Her vomit watered the healthy leaves.

She panted heavily as the wave of illness waned. However, her relief only lasted a handful of moments before another urge to puke consumed her. She gave in, but this time, Nick held back her tresses from behind her. He coached her through a breathing exercise to steady her nerves. She leaned against him, her pillar of support, as he unhurriedly escorted her back to the vehicle. Exhaustion robbed her ability to discern time. In between sluggish blinks and weary breaths, she no longer recuperated as a car passenger but as a woman being carried through the moonlit glass manor in a man’s arms.

He rested her on the bed as if she were made of delicate porcelain then cared for her in ways she didn’t deserve. A capful of mouthwash to cleanse her palate. A stout wastebasket to spit in. He relieved her sore feet of uncomfortable four-inch pumps. She lolled onto her side and snuggled her face against a pillow, relishing the coolness against her heated flesh.

“Can you plug up my phone?” she murmured tiredly.

Nick slipped her clutch-purse’s strap off her bare shoulder and unclasped it. He withdrew napkins and shuffled through the pile to satisfy his curiosity; his tone poised as he addressed her.

“Desiree, what the fuck is these?”

“Those mean nothing to me,” she yawned, halfway to surrendering to slumber.

“I shouldn’t have let you wear that dress,” he grumbled.

He disposed off the napkins and plugged up her phone on her bedside’s nightstand. He claimed his spot behind her and nuzzled his head against her shoulder’s crook, lounging an arm over her hip.

“Are you asleep?”

“Mostly,” she whispered.

“I know you’ll forget everything about tonight, but I’ll remember for the both of us. You say I cannot save you from yourself as if it’s absurd, but it’s not, Desiree. You and Milo saved me from myself,” he said. “Whether you like it or not, I intend to return the favor.”

His weighty words meant little to her befuddled brain.

A drowsed Tallulah dabbed his bearded cheek as if she understood him crystal clear. “Mm-hm, that’s nice.”

“Rest up, Desiree. You’re gonna get fucked in eight different ways for those eight napkins you brought back home,” he promised in her ear hungrily.

“Can’t wait,” she mumbled obliviously before a deep sleep dragged her under.

 

End Notes:

I had only anticipated the Galentine's Day club scene to be 1.5K maximum, but sometimes, characters don't as they're told and this scene became a whole damn chapter because of heavy topics and high tensions. I think this chapter is a fitting transition to what's about to happen in the next update. That chapter will be JAM-PACKED with d*ck and messy drama, hunty. But ya'll, I got a KIIIIIICK out of writing those text messages. 

Have a wonderful Sunday! Off to write the next update! 😜🛏️🍆

 

Take 16: Pornographic by Missus James
Author's Notes:

pornographic: refers to a film that exploits or graphically depicts sex, often rated XXX

TAKE 16

Tallulah needed a miracle to survive this hangover. Preferably an IV drip of holy water. Instead, Nick, the resident hangover expert, fed her miserable ass avocado toast and supervised her as she washed down aspirin with two bottles of water. A shower did little to liven her zombified senses which put her at a disadvantage as she attempted to recall last night’s events. All her memories were disjointed blurry fragments. An handpicked outfit awaited her on the bed as she ambled out the bathroom in fluffy towel. She appreciated Nick’s taste as she put on a gray striped shirt, black jeggings, and a baggy jean jacket.

“The bags are in the trunk,” Nick informed as he infiltrated the room, checking his wristwatch. “We need to leave now or we’ll miss our flight.”

He found her bent over tying her classic Chuck Taylors and gave her ass a love swat. “Hurry up. The sooner we get to Mexico, the sooner I  can strip the birthday girl down to her birthday suit. She’ll watch me eat her sweet birthday cake then I’ll give her something to blow on.”

His expressive plans injected liquid lust into her bloodstream and circulated through her entirety.

She raked her teeth over her bottom lip at the delicious sting then straightened her spine, swirling her heels to face him. “If the birthday girl is blowing, doesn’t she have to make a wish?”

“Oh, she’ll be wishing and begging for all sorts of things by the time I’m done with her,” he guaranteed, a guileful gleam in his eyes as he ran a tongue across his teeth predatorily.

A week ago, Nick warned her of his plans to celebrate her birthday. From what she gathered, much like their honeymoon eleven years ago, she anticipated not leaving the booked penthouse much—if at all.

A chauffeur carted them to LAX and Nick dealt with their carry-on bags. The check-in queue for American Airlines was ridiculously long. A teenaged girl belonging to a family of four ogled Nick suspiciously, snapping photos and typing away at her cell. Expectedly, the TSA line wasn’t much better.

Tallulah endured the security measures first. After retrieving her things from a plastic tray at the conveyor belt’s metal counter, she furrowed her brow as a TSA agent instructed Nick to step aside. Her luggage bag made the cut, but his didn’t. At a separate counter, gloved hands unzipped his carry-on and sifted through its contents. The agent’s eyebrows shot up as she discovered whatever stirred concern. She relinquished it to its owner. As they departed from the airport security zone, Tallulah asked him what that was all about.

“Your birthday presents,” he answered. She blinked in surprise, her jaw hanging open as she deciphered the exact nature of her birthday presents.

“No time to waste, sweetcakes. We’ve got a flight to catch,” Nick prompted teasingly over his shoulder, his confident stride carrying him closer to their flight’s terminal.

They flew first-class on a full flight. Apparently, February was a popular month for snowbirds and families to skedaddle to Mexican resort cities for sun and fun.

Shortly after the airplane ascended off the tarmac, she adjusted her stylish shades, propped her cheek on Nick’s shoulder, and dozed off, the last night’s unclear events still draining her energy away. During the 150-minute flight to Los Cabos, a flight attendant offered booze, but the couple declined. Tallulah lost a taste for liquor and intended on swearing off it for a long while. She slurped down lots of complimentary water until her bladder screamed for relief.

In between first-class and business class, curtains encased a narrow entryway which held a lavatory. Tallulah slipped inside and handled her business. She unlocked and opened the door, revealing her ex-husband. Naturally, she assumed he wanted a turn, but when she attempted to sidestep him, he clasped her nape proprietorially and forced her back into the cramped space, sealing them both inside.

By his doing, their mouths smashed and his tongue breached the seam of her lips to tangle with hers. His grip on her nape tightened while his unoccupied hand drove between their sandwiched bodies to roughly stroke her pussy through her jeggings. His illicit kiss enthralled her. She understood the wrongness of this stolen moment, but she didn’t want it to end. She didn’t want him to stop, but he did, impelling her to whimper as his teeth seized and released her bottom lip to exhibit his dominance over her.

His petting didn’t relent, engineering a flood of wanton need and crude pleasure to overwhelm her. She cocked her head back, grinding into his palm. She moaned his name, inspiring him to smile darkly.

“I bet this pussy is soaking wet for me, isn’t it?”

She shuttered her eyes and nodded distraughtly.

“Good. I plan to lick it dry,” he promised, sealing it with a final kiss.

Nick abandoned her in the lavatory. She panted to recover from him; her body a jittery mess. She faced the sink and pulled off her shades to douse her bothered flesh. She returned to her seat five minutes later and pressed the overhead flight attendant button. A cocky Nick smirked as she politely requested a cup of ice. She crunched and crunched, alleviating her sexual frustrations.

The airplane landed at Los Cabos International Airport a quarter past one o’clock. A chauffeur awaited them near the arrivals entrance doors, holding a Brian Lochlann sign. Brian Lochlann was one of Nick’s false names he used during his travels to protect his privacy. The chauffeur carted them to the luxuriant beachside resort twelve miles away. Once in the lobby, a receptionist serviced them.

She typed away on her keyboard, a sympathetic frown blooming. “I’m sorry, Senor Lochlann, but a late checkout hindered our cleaning staff’s ability to prepare the penthouse for your arrival. Though they are working diligently, it’s still not done yet. Please, accept our sincerest apologies. Perhaps, you and your wife would enjoy courtesy drinks at our five-star bar for this inconvenience.”

“No need. We’ll wait here in the lobby,” Nick stated.

“Our bellhop will take care of your luggage,” the receptionist informed, ringing a service bell to signal one over. She instructed the young man in Spanish. He nodded, gathered their luggage, and departed. Nick remained at the reception desk to confirm his list of accommodations were in place.

An abundance of seating areas dotted the palatial lobby and Tallulah chose an armchair near an artificial waterfall fountain. She crossed a leg over her other as she played a crossword game. Halfway into her third round, a text notification materialized on her cell screen. Her heartbeat quickened as she saw it was from Nick. She looked up to find him still at front desk. Tallulah chewed her lower lip as she tapped on the digital warning to unwrap the message.

Nick: I have so many things in store for you.

Nick: But I can’t decide how I want you first

Nick: Since you’re the birthday girl, which would you prefer: handcuffs, blindfold, or both?

Tallulah: None of them above

She knew how cruel Nick could be. She needed her hands, sights, and wits to survive him and his plans.

Nick: Alright, both then.

She pouted but didn’t text him back.

It took another hour for the housekeepers to finish cleaning the penthouse. During that time, she avoided Nick’s gaze as she stewed on his words: I have so many things in store for you. The bellhop escorted them across the atrium and boarded an exclusive elevator bank to the resort’s eight-grand-per-night signature penthouse suites. Theirs was on the topmost floor. A housekeeper hurriedly pushed her cart out as they stepped onto the private floor.

Tallulah smiled kindly at the gorgeous uniformed woman, but she was met with a glare. She wasn’t offended as she understood it was a difficult task to scrub a penthouse from top-to-bottom in such a short time.

Mammoth arrangements of red roses in towering crystal vases garnished the 8-thousand square foot penthouse. The aroma of fresh flowers assaulted her nose. An astonished Tallulah explored. The three bedrooms drenched in candles and rose petals overlooked the turquoise ocean. An adorable V-Day teddy bear sat on the dresser opposite to the master bed. A voluminous terrace contained a firepit, an infinity pool, a home cinema, and furniture perfect for relaxation and sun naps. Beyond the terrace, a perfect view of the vast sky and glittering ocean stretched on for her viewing pleasure.

Nick embraced her waist from behind as she admired the scenery.

“This place is gorgeous,” she gushed.

“Wait until I take you under the moon and stars,” he said. “You scream at the Milky Way when I make you cream on my cock.”

Not if or how-about. He made up his mind about this and he intended on fucking her on this very terrace underneath the night sky sometime in the immediate future. Her pussy moistened at the prospect.

“Are you ready for me, Desiree?” he queried throatily.

She breathed out a shaky excited yes.

“Take every stitch of clothing off,” Nick commanded; desire marinated into his command.

“Out here?” she asked, frantically glancing about the terrace as if she could diligently pinpoint the hiding places of paparazzi and voyeurs.

He spun her to face him. “With all this sunlight, I want to drink you in then take you inside and feast on you. It’s just us, Desiree. No one can see us if we’re in the top penthouse.”

She reflected on his assurance and nodded. Hesitance controlled her body as she stripped down, imagining there was a live audience. She salvaged her vulnerability by cupping her breasts, guarding her nipples from his eyes. The sun beamed down on her as she and her faults stood before him.

Nick observed her silently, his expression unreadable. She fidgeted underneath his indiscernible gaze. The intimate quiet lingering beneath the ocean breeze, rustling of waves, and distant screech of seagulls unsettled her.

“I want to see all of you, Desiree,” he ordered.

She lowered her hands reluctantly and tilted her chin up to align their sights as he invaded the slither of distance between them. His calloused palm cradled her cheek as his mouth swooped down to capture hers. His tongue caressed hers tenderly. This kiss was a gentler beast compared to the one he ambushed her with in the airplane lavatory. On the sunlit terrace, she blossomed for him, the salty wind sweeping her insecurities and uncertainties away.

Sweet affection gave way to spirited passion as their tongues danced and lips moved to a needy rhythm. Her arms coiled around his neck and lured him to bridge their height differences. He palmed her ass then braced her thighs, using his brawn to hoist her. For as long as she’d known him, his might had always been a marvel to her. His muscles never strained or struggled when he rose or carried her. It further proved he could handle all of her.

She lorded over him and turned the tides of dominance to her favor. Their mouths engaged in a war of greed as he navigated them back into the penthouse, journeying toward the master suite. He narrowly avoided a hundred rose arrangement only to bump into another. He growled a curse as the vase wobbled, but the sheer amount of floral stabilized its posture.

She broke the kiss to giggle.

“I doubt you’ll find anything funny when I fuck you silly,” he theorized huskily.

The statement chopped clean through her lighthearted mood. Excitement pulsated within her like a secondary heart, blasting spurts of arousal to her moist pussy. He parked her onto the immense bed adorned in rose petals but didn’t join her. He instructed her to crawl to the bed’s edge and sit on her knees.

She obeyed, aching to know his next decree. He towered over her like a silent cruel god contemplating how to punish her. He slithered a satin eye mask out his pocket, trapping her eyes behind the smooth fabric. She reached up to graze the blindfold, but Nick captured her fingertips, steering her forearms to turn her outstretched wrists up.

A hard bubble of breath catching in her throat as metal sung. Handcuffs wreathed her wrists firmly. A heavy hand grasped her chin and angled it high. He branded a searing kiss on her mouth, its heat imprinting his ownership of her heart and soul forevermore. He severed the connection and she blindly sought his lips, yearning for him to come back to her.

He pushed her onto her back. “Lace your fingers, put them on your head, and don’t you dare move them.”

She stewed in profound anticipation as his footsteps roamed and hands rummaged through all his secret weapons. Her boisterous heartbeat engulfed her sense of hearing, leaving his lecherous caress on her parted thighs to announce his return to her. His touch was half-worship half-assertive as his rough palms spilled down her thighs and eased them wider.

Something that wasn’t him coasted between her folds, coating itself with her essence. Its fat trip drew an invisible ring around her clit, coaxing a hungry moan out of her. It glided down to her entrance and sunk in one curved inch by inch, nestling perfectly against her hidden spot. Rubbery prongs sandwiched her clit. Without warning, the toy awoke. She cried out and arched her back as powerful vibrations soaked into her pussy.

“How does the birthday girl feel about her first present?” he inquired cockily as he fucked her in shallow slanted thrusts to trigger her sweet spot and long ears strummed her pink nub meanly. Acute pleasure soared through her, driving her to writhe.

Tallulah deemed his question as rhetorical, so she didn’t answer. Not that she could anyway. He and that toy reduced her to a state of being where her mouth only huffed, gasped, and cried. Instead, her body should’ve sufficed as an reply. He got his answer as she rocked desperately to meet the toy’s thrusts. He got his answer as she grounded her clit against the battering rabbit ears. He got his answer as she arched her spine to exhibit the potent trajectory of wanton ecstasy firing through her as he wielded her birthday present against her. He got his answer as her thighs quivered and her chest heaved.

Even as she fell apart, her obedience remained in tact as she kept her cuffed hands on her head, clenching her tresses to battle the urge to reach out to her lover and tormentor. A violent orgasm denotated within her. The toy’s relentless pulses attacked her, escalating her to new frightening heights. As her intoxicant climax died, so did the toy. He slid it out delicately. A move contradictory to how roughly his tongue dived into the lips of her center to lap up the cream of her arousal.

“I’ve been dying to taste this pussy all day,” he groaned. “I can’t get enough.”

Her self-control and compliance to his authority collapsed hand-in-hand. Her imprisoned hands landed on the crown of his head as if she feared he’d leave. He didn’t hold back as he feasted on her. His wolfish mouth produced a symphony of vulgar wet noises which coaxed more sweet moisture from her. He trapped her sensitive nub in his mouth for a crude suck that curled her toes and wrested another orgasm.

He kissed her pussy goodbye and flipped her onto her belly, knocking out what little air she had left in her. Her teeth pinned her bottom lip to stifle a moan as his palm struck her ass.

“I told you to keep your hands on your hand.” His belt buckle clinked as he undid it. Metal teeth unzipped. Clothes rustled. He grabbed her hips and forced her onto her weakened knees. Her body wasn’t ready as his stiff cock drove into her. His intrusion was unkind, its power impelled her knees to give out. She flopped forward bonelessly, escaping his cock.

“Uh-uh, Diamond. You’re going to this dick like a good birthday girl,” he asserted gruffly, snatching her hips up to plant her on her knees.

Tallulah didn’t possess the strength to support her upper body, so she pressed her cheek helplessly against rose petals and luxuriant bedding. An unparallel dick-down demanded surrender and acceptance. His proprietorial gripe on her left asscheek piloted her to bounce on his shaft. The position’s angle gave her no relief, his strokes hitting her secret just right. Her sated and saturated pussy swallowed every ruthless inch of him. His grunts were uncivil and feral, which complimented the bestial nature of how he rutted into her.

Her imprisoned fists clenched the bedding as she unraveled, her core clasping him in a tight frantic tempo as her third orgasm shredded her apart. He fucked her through it in pursuit of his own undoing, spearing through her spasming canal.

He growled an expletive as he spilled into her. His brawny grip was the only thing keeping her in place, but when he released her, she slid off his dick like a glob of damp brown flesh.

“Happy birthday day, Diamond.”

{}{}{}

Hours after nightfall, Tallulah laid atop Nick. Her ear rested on his pectoral, his steady heartbeat a sweet melody. His fingers skimmed up and down her backbone. Neither were asleep. Both were lazily content.

“Best birthday ever,” she whispered.

He chuckled softly. “Sing your praises when it’s over, Desiree. The birthday fun’s only begun. I got a lot more up my sleeve.”

She nuzzled her cheek against his chest. “Can’t wait.”

“You said that last night too,” he briefed.

She propped her chin on his chest to look at him, arching an eyebrow. “Why do I have a feeling I said and did a lot of things last night?”

“Well, you ignored my texts, so I had to come get you,” he said. “You were so drunk I had to carry you back to the car. We were having a mighty important conversation, but you got sick and I pulled over so you could throw up in the bushes. Once we got home, I discovered eight phone numbers in your purse.”

An embarrassed Tallulah grimaced through his recollection, but gaped in delight when she heard his last sentence. “Eight phone numbers? Are you serious?”

“As a heart attack,” he stated dourly, bitterness frosting his blue gaze.

She rolled her eyes, unable to contain her unfolding smile. “Is Nicholas Lachlan Bryant—dare I say—jealous?”

“You damn right.”

“Those numbers and the guys attached to them mean nothing to me,” she swore.

“You said that too,” he divulged.

She tilted her head. “Did you believe me then?”

He brushed aside a tress which curtained her right eye. “I believed everything you told me last night.”

“What else did I tell you?” she asked eagerly.

“The truth as to why you’ve been so stressed lately.”

Her smile crumbled away, her playfulness evaporating. “Oh, I see.”

“You’re not worthless. You’re utterly fuckin’ priceless to me, Desiree. If the spotlight and fame is too much for you, I’ll walk away from actin’,” he said.

Unadulterated shock yanked her into an upright position and her thighs straddled his waist. “What? Nick, no! Acting is your passion.”

“No, you’re my passion,” Nick amended as he laid beneath her, rising his palm to cup her cheek. “All those years ago, I only fell love with actin’ because you loved it. After Thibault’s arrest and our divorce, actin’ was all I had left of you. Now, I have you back in my arms, you really think I’m gonna let it be the thing that destroys you or our family? I think the fuck not.”

Her shock dwindled, a gentle tenderness flourishing in its stead.

“Nick,” she trailed off, snuggling her cheek into his comforting palm.

“I can live without actin’,” he said, his digits grazing a birthmark on her neck, “but I can’t live without you. Been there, done that and it ain’t happenin’ again. I love you and only you, Desiree. Flaws and all.”

Her chest tightened as emotions swelled in her heart. Her gaze became watery.

“I know I said you get control how fast or slow we go and I know we’ve been only back at this for four months, but I never stopped lovin’ you, Desiree. You ain’t gotta say it back. I just—”

Tallulah swooped down to interject his speech with a warm kiss and a heartfelt confession. “I love you too.”

“Say it again,” he demanded throatily.

“I love you too, Nicholas Lachlan Bryant,” she repeated, pecking his lips. “Flaws and all.”

A sweet peck mutated into a sloppy passionate kiss. “It’s been so long since I’ve heard you say those words to me.”

He growled in protest as she retreated, smiling slyly.

“I love you. I love you. I love you,” she chanted as she showered a trail of lingering kisses down his neck and chest, branding a final kiss over his heart. “I don’t want us to walk away from acting, Nick. We’ve come too far to fade away into the shadows. For years, I’ve wanted to be taken seriously as an actress. The Oscars and Eugene’s indie film could change our careers. I can’t say I’ll have my shit together by tomorrow morning or next week because I won’t, but I will try on my own to do better for you and Milo. I just need time and…love.”

“I’ll give you all that and more, Desiree,” he vowed.

Tallulah traced a fingertip around his nipple, relishing how swiftly it stiffened. “Mm, what exactly does more entail?”

His cock thickened against her bottom and his hips bucked playfully to propel her to bounce once. “You’re sitting on more, Diamond.”

“I’ve always wanted to see more up close.” She gave him a naughty wink as slithered down the landscape of his sinewy body and disappeared under the sheets to see, feel, and taste more.

 

End Notes:

After writing this chapter, I realized Mexico needs another chapter. I am unsure of its length, but ya'll need to see Nick and Tally in Mexico living their best lives before the messy saga begins. I hope you enjoyed this update. I'm truly in love with my new writing routine. I don't think I've churned out this many updates so consistently in years, but I'm here for it! 

Take 17: Montage by Missus James
Author's Notes:

montage: refers to a filming technique, editing style, or form of movie collage consisting of a series of short shots or images that are rapidly put together into a coherent sequence to create a composite picture; usually suggests and conveys meaning or a larger idea or theme, or denotes the passage of time

TAKE 17

“Listen, I think it’s great and all you’re getting your brain fucked out your ears in Los Cabos, but you’ve still got to deal with the real-life shit back in California,” Nick’s publicist barked into Tallulah’s ear.

Garbed in one of Nick’s shirts, she padded into the kitchen, answering in a chipper singsong tone, “Hello to you too, Juan.”

“Erm, hey, Tally,” Juan greeted, attempting to soften his signature jagged delivery. “Uh, where’s Nick?”

She extracted a glass from the cupboard and pressed it against the fridge dispenser’s tongue, summoning ice to tumble and clink as they piled up. “Oh, he’s indisposed at the moment, but you can leave a message with me and I’ll make sure he gets it.”

“There is a fuck-ton of scheduled appointments he needs to confirm with Aishwarya. Barber, sauna and masseuse, fitness trainer, final fitting with the designer, and there are three afterparties he’s set to attend,” he paused, then added, “with you as his plus one. The Governor’s Ball, Vanity Fair, and the studio’s afterparty. The event organizers need to know both your meal selections for the sit-down dinners. Speaking of dinners, remind him not to eat after six o’clock. He also needs to do his goddamn exercise routines. All of this is outlined in the emails I sent him as well as the text messages and voicemails.”  

Tallulah strutted back into the master suite and relished the sight of Nick in all his nude glory as he sported a thick erection. “I’ll be sure to tell him. Have a lovely day.”

She hung up before Nick’s publicist could fire any more demands into her ear and tossed the cell onto the bed. “That was Juan.”

Nick  acknowledged her arrival by lifting his head off the mountain of pillows. A muffled umph filtered through the panties stuffed in his mouth. A familiar satin blindfold graced his eyes and handcuffs wreathed his wrists resting above his head.

Yesterday, she was his prisoner.

Today, he was hers.

“He says you need to check your emails.” She rattled the cupped ice to rouse his curiosity and heighten his anticipation.

His bound hands flexed and clenched eagerly.

She settled the glass onto the nightstand and fished out a cube, straddling him. He was the perfect embodiment of self-restraint as she drew delicate watery strokes on his chiseled physique. When she circled the ice around his nipple, he exhaled sharply through his nostrils. She smirked at the chink in his armor and weaponized the ice to torment his nipples, dipping down to warm them with languid laves. The contrasting attacks induced deep-chested growls.

Tallulah ungagged him, keen to hear his filth.

“Always givin’ me hell, angel,” he panted, wetting his lips hungrily.

“That’s because you don’t deserve heaven yet,” she taunted.

A wanton huskiness stained his proposition. “Sit on my face and I’ll bring heaven to you.”

A bolt of arousal struck her, but she refrained from giving into it—from giving into him. She was on a mission and she wouldn’t be deterred.

“I think I want you exactly like this. Hot, bothered, and helpless,” she purred, slithering another icy piece into his mouth to offer some relief. He crunched furiously and gulped, evoking a throaty giggle out of her. She fed him more ice and instructed him to hold them there as she kissed down his body.

He nearly choked as she swallowed all of him.

{}{}{}

Once upon a time, Veronica taught her daughter to appreciate the sunlight. The lessons were on rare sunny days of sobriety. Their lives were stormy and volatile, making mother-daughter time a cherished occasion. Due to the fact Tallulah inherited her mother’s flawless hazelnut complexion, Veronica teasingly dubbed sunbaths as roasting.

“For black beauties like us, roasting brings out all our richness.” Her mother always touted as they lounged blissfully on their towels in the unkempt backyard and basked in the comforting sunshine.

After her mother overdosed, Tallulah lost her taste for roasting, but she didn’t neglect Milo of childhood days of fun in the sun. They regularly visited their old apartment complex’s community pool and crowded beaches. He’d splash in the Pacific waves and tides while she’d watch on from the shore in a beachy sundress.

This trip’s theme was indulgence and she decided to put her butter-hued retro bikini to good use. She sauntered onto the penthouse’s terrace. On the opposite end, a dedicated Nick executed his prescribed exercise routine. While he did intense abdominal crunches, she settled on a reclined double-wide outdoor chaise. She leisurely greased sunscreen on her brown skin and rested her back on the warm cushions, savoring the heat from above.

As time breezed by, she sat upright and moved her tresses aside to access the knotted strings at her nape which kept her swimsuit top taut. A single tug undid bond, her bikini’s cups plummeting. She reached around to untie the lower pair of strings. Peeling away the garment, her shielded gaze caught a rapt blue-eyed one. It was only then she realized a panting Nick paused on his fitness regime, his sheen of perspiration glimmering in the sunlight.

She peered over her sunglasses’ rims to wink at him before she discarded her bikini top and resumed lolling on the chaise. His labored grunts reached her ears as he conducted push-ups, lunges, squats, and unfamiliar maneuvers. He exuded determination. She rotated on her belly and propped her cheek atop her crossed arms, feasting her eyes on him until she dozed off.

Rough hands eased her swimsuit bottoms down her legs, gently pulling a delicious cat nap away from her. The buttery pair landed on her discarded top. Nick’s gym shorts resided directly beside the pile. Before her drowsy brain could comprehend what that meant, a strong arm looped around her torso and towed upward, angling her hips.

She moaned and arched against him as his teeth caught her earlobe and nipped it lovingly. His body blanketed hers, eclipsing her from the sun.

“The moment you took that top off, you became my muse to finish my workout so I can work you out,” he enlightened gruffly.

Her jaw dropped as he burrowed his dick into her, his weight flattening her against the chaise as he fucked her in urgent strokes. Every insistent thrust stoked the raging heat within her lower belly.

I’m going to break you into a sweat, his body communicated.

He didn’t want her to last.

As sure as the shining sun above, she didn’t want to either.

{}{}{}

Brown eyes. Brown eyes void of life’s spark, but potent enough to curse a ten-year-old girl with a lifelong trauma. So much promise and hope, but her mother’s dead eyes took that from her.

Tallulah clawed out of her nightmare, bolting upright. As she trembled, hot tears blurred her eyesight. A sob crawled up her throat and sputtered out. Her heart drummed a panicked rhythm, its song haunting her ears. A big hand gently clasped her chin and steered her traumatized gaze.

“It was only a nightmare, baby,” Nick cooed as he drew her into an embrace, leaning his chin atop her head. “Only a nightmare.”

She wept. “I hate him. I hate him so fucking much for taking her away from me—for taking my childhood from me. Neither of us had a chance.”

“He’s rotting in prison for life,” Nick reminded. “He can’t hurt you anymore, Desiree.”

“I don’t want him rotting in a prison cell. I want him rotting in a pine box, Nick,” she snapped.

After a beat, Nick sighed heavily, “I’m not disclaimin’ the fact Thibault’s a monster ‘cause he is, but after he got busted, he could’ve ratted me out to save his own ass but he didn’t, Desiree. He definitely could’ve ratted me out or tried to blackmail me once I made it big but he hasn’t yet. If he did, being yours would’ve been a dream and not my reality. If he did, Milo would’ve grown up with me in prison beside his grandfather.”

Tallulah absorbed his words, hating how right he was. Like a phoenix, she dragged herself out of the ashes of her fucked-up childhood, building a new life for herself. Over the years, Thibault had the power to set her world on fire again, but he hadn’t.

Yet, she added internally.

Maybe, he grew tired of his wicked ways. Or maybe, he wanted her to marinate on the fear of him in possession of such a secret. She was uncertain what kind of man prison shaped Thibault into, but she was certain she didn’t want to find out.

“I still hate him,” she muttered, nuzzling her cheek into his bare chest.

Nick reclined, taking her with him. “After everything he’s done, it’s your right to.”

A pregnant silence descended upon them, but neither surrendered to sleep yet. Tallulah illustrated invisible shapes on his flesh, worrying more nightmares would prey on her if she closed her eyes.

Resting his forearm across his brow, he stared up at the ceiling pensively. “My pop wasn’t an easy man to love. He worked me like a dog from dawn to dusk. I thought he hated me. I thought he was punishing me for just breathing.”

A sad chuckle rumbled in his chest, the melancholy sound dying away moments later. “I didn’t have the nerve to ask him. Not until stage four liver stage put him on his deathbed. All ‘em years of drinkin’ caught up with him. Ma’s passin’ from pneumonia escalated the inevitable. I knew if I didn’t ask him why he was so hard on me, I’d never know the truth. You wanna know what he told me?”  

Nick never spoke of his parents—of his childhood. He grew up on a two-hundred-year-old family farm passed down from his mother’s side. His father worked a coal miner until a tunnel collapse forced him into early retirement, resigning himself to life of a farmer. His parents’ stringent upbringing couldn’t falter his good-humored nature. He inherited their stubborn spirit and stalwart work ethic, but being a jokester brought him joy and lots of trouble.

When he was nineteen, he lost his mother. When he was twenty-one, he lost his father. The losses were the driving force behind his crossroad journey to a new life in California.

Tallulah whispered, “What did he tell you?”

“There are two kinds of folks in the world: coals and diamonds. Everybody starts out as a coal, but it’s how well you endure pressure that makes you into a diamond,” he reiterated, imitating his father’s deep timbre.

Her eyes rounded in shock and she lifted her head, a realization dawning on her.  

He continued, “Your childhood didn’t break you. It put pressure on you and as a result, you became a diamond. My diamond.”

Now, she knew the inspiration behind his pet name for her.

“Why haven’t you told me that story before?”

His solemn stare trained at the ceiling refused to waver and he combed his fingers through his messy hair. “I suppose seein’ you in tears—in pain—put enough pressure on me to.”

“Thank you, Nick. I know that was a lot for you.” She plopped her cheek onto his chest against, splaying her hand over his heart.

After a beat, he asked, “Do you want…to hear another story?”

Tallulah’s lip corners curled. “I’d love to.”

{}{}{}

“Three of a kind,” Nick announced smugly as he laid his cards on the table, showing off an 8 of spades, an 8 of hearts, an 8 of clubs, a king of spades, and a 2 of hearts. “A deal’s a deal, Diamond. The bra comes off. I need somethin’ tasty to motivate me. Can’t wait to suck on ‘em later on when they bounce in my face.”

Tallulah pouted defeatedly. “Oh, no. What in the world can beat your three of a kind? I guess this straight flush.”

A devious glee etched onto her face as she smacked down her five cards all belonging to the suit of diamonds. How fitting. Nick smirked as he discerned the four, five, six, seven, and eight cards. A number sequence which totaled his loss of this round of strip poker. They both had victories and losses, leaving four articles of clothing left.

Well, now three.

“Underwear off, lover boy,” she teased, rubbing her palms together greedily.

Nick stood to shed his boxer-briefs, leaving him only with a blue-and-white University of Kentucky baseball cap. Tallulah cranked her neck and bit her bottom lip as she unabashedly admired his state of undress and his half-hard cock. He reclaimed his seat, gathered the cards, and performed an artful reshuffle, a competitive tenacity ablaze in his brilliant eyes.

“Let’s raise the stakes,” he challenged.  

“You’re only saying that because you’re on your last leg,” she jested lightly as she examined her nails to feign lack of interest.

He quipped, “Naw, I can’t be on my last leg when I’ve got a hardy spare.”

Her heart pitter-pattered at the suggestiveness entwined in his thick tone.

“What’s your offer?” she asked drily, aching to pat her own back at how convincing she sounded.

Nick distributed the round’s hands. “This’ll be our final round. You win, you can ride me how you want. If I win, you gotta ride me how I want.”

He knew how to present with a bet she couldn’t refuse. She loved any and all variations of being on top. The mere thought made her pussy damp and throb needily. She pressed her thighs together to relieve the indecent ache.

Once again, she stimulated an unimpressed expression and propped her elbow on the table, plopping her cheek onto her fist. “Either way, sounds like I’m doing all the work.”

A dark smile graced his lips. “Not if I win.”

Arousal overflooded whatever part of her brain housed logic and reason. For a weak moment, she wanted him to win. She even contemplated folding regardless of how strong or weak her cards were.

“Alright, you’ve got yourself a deal,” she agreed.

He cocked an eyebrow. “Shall we deal it with a kiss?”

Tallulah presented a lovely middle finger. “You can kiss my ass, Nick.”

“If I’m allowed to kiss it, can I eat it too?”

The question provoked her to choke on air. “Are you ready to lose?”

In the end, his royal flush overtook her full house, crowning him victor.

Nick crooked a come-hither finger at her.

{}{}{}

Tallulah pressed the private elevator’s down button and waited patiently for its arrival. A squeal fell out of her as Nick embraced her waist and hoisted her, intent on luring her to the penthouse. She suppressed her laughter and wiggled in his arms, ordering him to put her down.

He reluctantly obliged and buried his bearded face into her neck, growling, “I’m not done with you.”

Holy fuck, he was insatiable. Last night, he fulfilled his promise and fucked her underneath the starry sky. Now, it was barely noon and he already bedded her twice. Well, maybe bedded wasn’t an accurate term. That implied they had been in bed when he took her which wasn’t the case either times.

This morning, she awoke alone, only to find an unclad Nick doing push-ups on the floor. She greeted him with a chipper good-morning and a playful pillow bop on the head. He acknowledged her by yanking her and crumpled bedsheets to the floor. He threw both her legs over his shoulders, unraveling her with deep circular thrusts. In the shower, he drove her up the slippery wall literally, impelling her to claw the steamy glass door for purchase.

Tallulah sighed, “Nick, we can’t stay this entire vacation locked away in the penthouse. We need fresh air—”

“There’s fresh air on the terrace,” he interposed a counterpoint.

“True, but it’d be nice for us to go down to the beach and,” she stopped, her speech disintegrating on her tongue as he suckled on a notable weak spot right below her ear.

His warm breath fluttered against the wet patch he created. “And?”

“And feel the sand under our toes,” she gulped, involuntarily arching against his hard body. “Plus, it’d force you to behave and give us a break.”

His lips trailed to her ear, coiling his arms around her waist tighter. “I don’t need a break.”

“Fine, I need a break,” she admitted weakly, reaching behind her to graze her nails down his groomed beard as his tongue teased her earlobe.

The elevator doors parted with a lyrical ding. Nick was glued to her as she moved onto the elevator.

On the way to the ground floor, he backed her into a corner and cleverly squeezed in a makeout session. When his time ran out, he claimed her hand and he led her off the elevator as if his kiss hadn’t discombobulated her. Like a clumsy fool, she briefly stumbled behind him as she attempted to regain her bearings.

The resort had direct access to the beach. They strolled along the shore hand-in-hand.

She nudged her shoulder into him. “See, isn’t this nice?”

Nick grinned. “I stand by what I said. I ain’t got a problem enjoyin’ the beach from the terrace.”

“Yeah, but there are so many things you can do down here than up there on your precious terrace,” she stated matter-of-factly. Then swiftly added, “G-rated things.”

He chuckled, “Such as?”

“Collecting seashells, write messages in the sand, build a sandcastle, kite-flying, a nice romantic sunset picnic,” she listed.

He nodded approvingly. “I’ve got one.”

Her eyebrows jerked up in delight. “Oh?”

“Getting you slopping wet.” Mischief glinted in his eyes.

Before her joy dissipated completely at the vulgar suggestion, Nick scooped her up and charged into the tides. She alternated between shrills and laughs as the waves rolled into them, succeeding in making her slopping wet. Safe from cresting waves, he set her down. The water was chest-deep for him and neck-deep for her. Her feet barely scraped the underwater ground.  

“I got you,” he promised, bracing her hips.

“I know.” Tallulah smiled as she wrapped her arms around his neck, pecking him.

A tender moment swathed them as they gazed at each other lovestruck until she dunk his head underwater.

 

End Notes:

It was a lot of fun making a literary montage of Nick and Tally's time in Mexico. Now, it's time to get back to LA. Ya'll won't believe what's about to happen next. 😜

Take 18: Antagonist by Missus James
Author's Notes:

antagonist: the main character, person, group, society, nature, force, spirit world, bad guy, or villain of a film or script who is in adversarial conflict with the film's hero, lead character or protagonist; also sometimes termed the heavy.

TAKE 18

Only four days remained before the Academy Awards. An obnoxious tick-tick-ticking sounded in Tallulah’s head the moment the pilot of their homebound flight turned off all the NO CELLPHONE USE signs as the plane wheeled to its designated gate. A flood of notifications of text messages, missed calls, voicemails, and emails sent their cells into a fit of buzzy hums once airplane mode was switched off. An informational overload she tried to choke down.

A voicemail assured her that House of Spire’s team of dedicated seamstresses mended the snags that nearly unraveled her sanity. A text message informed her that Lanya scheduled a pre-Oscars spa day as a massage and tame her nerves. The beauty team consisting of a hair stylist, a nail technician, and a makeup artist sent an email confirmation of the appointment. Her personal shopper, Wilks, texted her photos of cobalt blue heels, labeling each with the names of luxury shoe designers she had no clue even existed.

Nick held her hand as they journeyed to baggage claim. Well, more like he walked ahead of her, guiding her through the crowds while her attention remained stuck to a group text message. When he stopped to give an elderly couple the right-of-way, she accidentally bumped into his back. The collision knocked the device out of her possession. She squatted to retrieve it and looked up at him.

“Sorry.” She gave him an apologetic look.

He offered his hand to help her up and she accepted the gesture, depositing her phone in her purse. They strolled side by side with his arm around her waist and her hand in his back pocket. She felt his phone vibrate and vibrate and vibrate, but he made no attempt to acknowledge it.

Her brows knitted together. “Aren’t you going to answer that?”

“I’ll answer it on my time. Not theirs,” he said. “You should do the same, Ray. I promise the world won’t end.”

Tallulah sighed, “No, the world won’t end, but the world will definitely be watching us on the red carpet four days from now.”

Waiting for me to fuck up and for you to act up, she added internally. The last time Nick made a public appearance was on Extra Late Live Show where he defended her honor on national television and backstage. The host, Jarrett Spencer, made a public and private apology. Not wanting to escalate the matter, she forgave him, but Nick hadn’t and wouldn’t which proved to be an issue when it was announced Jarrett would be a red carpet interviewer.

Before she bumped into Nick earlier, the Galentine Gang sans Valerie had texted her on the matter:

Sonya: Sis, keep Nicky away from that jackass.

Dominga: Facts!

Alexandra: The screenwriters I intern for have a running bet Jarrett will shit bricks if Nick just so much as looks at him.

If Tallulah had a taste for gambling, she would’ve betted all her money on that too.

“Which means you’ll have to behave and keep your hands to yourself,” Tallulah said before letting out a tiny gasp as Nick pinched her ass slyly.

“Behave? Sure. Keep my hands to myself?” He chuckled. “Outta the question, Ray. You need to make peace with that.”

“I don’t mean me, Nick. I meant a certain late talk show host,” she said whispery-like, witnessing his smile wane.

He grunted a hm and she blinked a pair of puppy-dog eyes at him.

“Don’t give me that look, Desiree,” he said.

“Why, Nicholas? Is it working?” she probed, pouting to enhance her little act.

“I’ll give you a lesson on what’s working and what’s not when we get home,” he said slightly gruff as they reached the carousels of moving baggage.

She bit her bottom lip to keep her smile hostage as she gave his left asscheek a good hidden squeeze before relinquishing his pocket. “I’d love to know where that falls.”

A playful wickedness glint in his eyes as he looked at her, going to retrieve their luggage. A chauffeur waited for them in the pick-up zone. While their driver handled the luggage while they sat in the town car’s backseat.

Next stop: Finn’s.

Finn lived in a two-bedroom upscale condo in Venice with all white walls, all polished wood floors, and an ocean-breezy balcony to die for. While they were away on a romantic getaway, their kid’s godfather ensured all his wants and needs were met. From the texted photos and daily phone updates, Milo Lachlan Bryant was well-fed from the local Venice eats, well-tanned from his afternoons on the beach, and had became a little cinephile binging on Nick’s, Tallulah’s, and Finn’s filmographies all thanks to his godfather’s impressive collection.

When Nick rapped his fist on the condo’s door, Finn answered.

“Right on time,” he said, gesturing for them to enter. “How was Mexico?”

Nick smirked, “We weren’t there for sightseeing if that’s what you’re asking.”

“It was sunny and lovely,” Tallulah said with a roll of her eyes, resisting the urge to punch him in the ribs.

Finn matched Nick’s smirk, glancing between the couple. “Will we be expecting a new addition to the Bryant cast in—say—nine months?”

Tallulah blinked in surprise before snorting out a laugh. “Absolutely not.”

“Keep an eye out.” Nick’s answer overlapped hers, sucking all the humor out of her. It took everything not to gawk at him. Luckily, Milo came charging out of the guest bedroom, tugging his two-wheel dinosaur carry-on. She rewired all her focus onto him as he gave her and Nick big I-missed-you hugs.

After giving Finn their thanks and saying their goodbyes, the trip down to the waiting car featured Milo excitedly giving them his recap of the last few days, unknowingly ratting out his godfather. Bedtime at midnight. Cereal sprinkled over ice cream for breakfast. After-dinner walks to a cupcake shop to flirt with the pretty baker.

The clogged traffic made the drive home agonizingly long, but in the backseat situated between his parents, Milo had more stories to share until he was all storied out. Once home, the family of three unpacked. Tallulah and Milo occupied the pool while Nick cooked dinner with the groceries Aishwarya and Lanya delivered the day before.

While Milo swam and splashed, Tallulah relaxed on a drifting pool lounger floatie. Or at least, she tried to relax. Keep an eye out. That’s what Nick told Finn. Four simple words that carried too much weight to be a joke—to be ignored. Never once in the months since they had rekindled their relationship did she consider having another kid or the idea he might want to.

Keep an eye out. 

“Dinner’ll be ready in twenty minutes,” Nick announced, prompting her to loll her head in his direction. Through her violet-tinted shades, she observed a wet Milo climb out of the pool and grab his towel, draping over his head. Nick gave him a fatherly grin, rustling the boy’s towel over his hair playfully.

After Milo went inside to take a quick shower, Nick rounded the pool, following along her pool lounger. “You’ve been quiet as a mouse since you’ve got back from Finn’s and dare I say avoiding me.”

A mild breeze pushed her toward the tiled pool’s wall.

She propped her shades atop her head to lock eyes with him. “When Finn joked about us having a baby, what you said to him was a joke right?”

Nick squatted to address her, his shadow casting over her. “Do you want me to say it’s a joke?”

She raked her teeth across her bottom lip, a nervousness tightening her throat. “So, you weren’t kidding then.”

“I didn’t know it was a bad thing to want to build a family with the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

“You don’t need to build something you already have, Nick,” she countered. “Aren’t me and Milo enough?”

He shook his head, threading fingers through his hair. “That’s not fair, Desiree. And you know it.”

“What’s not fair? Being content with what we have?” She frowned.

Nick rose, an unreadable flashing in his eyes. “It ain’t got nothing to do with contentment.”

“Then what?” she asked.

“There’s a time and a place for everything and right here and now ain’t it,” he said as he walked away.

{}{}{}

Dinner was overtly tense. Luckily, Milo didn’t notice as he scarfed down his first homecooked meal after days takeout and desserts. Afterwards, Nick recruited him to help clean off the dinner table and do dishes, once again leaving Tallulah behind.

“Need an extra hand?” she offered while Milo stood on a step stool and washed the dishes, pots, and pans with a soapy sponge while Nick dried.

“We’ve got this, Mom,” Milo assured, invested in his chore.

Not bothering to look back at her, Nick said, “You heard the boy, Ray.”

“I’ll just leave you to it then,” she replied, retreating to her bedroom like a villain having lost a war.

To ease her nerves, she whipped out some candles and lit them, chose a jazz station from her integrated stereo system, and ran a bubble bath in her clawfoot tub. She turned off the lights, pinned her hair up, and climbed in, sighing as her body slid underneath scented bubbles and hot water. Now back after a getaway of sun and fun, she never anticipated she’d feel like a stranger in her own home.

Behind closed eyelids, she played that poolside conversation:

“Aren’t me and Milo enough?”

“That’s not fair, Desiree. And you know it.”

She shook her head softly, whispering to herself, “I don’t get it. What did I say wrong?”

More importantly: What did she say that wasn’t fair?

Tallulah heard the bedroom door open and shut. She heard footsteps nearing the bathroom door. Then the doorknob twisted slowly. She kept her eyes closed, pretending to relax as Nick approached.

“You ready for me?” he questioned.

She nodded once. “Yes.”

He stripped down to nothing, the amber glow of the candles partnering with shadows to highlight his handsome face and fit physique. He settled in on the opposite in and pinned her with a come-hither look. She obeyed, crawling in between his legs. He seized her nape and reeled her into a kiss. A tiny moan in her throat as his tongue tasted hers.

It took every ounce of her will to pull back. His lips chased after hers, but she shook her head softly.

“We need to talk about that conversation we had at the pool,” she said. “What did I say that wasn’t fair, Nick?”

He draped his muscular arms along the tub’s rim, his eyes flashing with displeasure. Whether it was due to her denying a kiss or her question, Tallulah wasn’t sure. Or maybe, it was a little bit of both.

A silence grew between them, thickening as the seconds ticked by.

He casted his eyes elsewhere.

“I want what was taken from me, Desiree,” he said. “I want to watch your belly grow week by week. I want the doctor visits and the ultrasounds. I want you to pick any room in this house so we can turn it into a nursery. I want to hold your hand when you’re in labor. I want to hear those first cries. I want to cut the umbilical cord. I want the sleepless nights and midnight bottle feedings. I want to see those first steps. I want to hear those first words. I want to be there for all of it.”

He pinned her with an unreadable expression.

“You resent me, don’t you?” she asked, tears prickling her eyes. One rolled down her cheek.

“No, I don’t,” he said as he crooked a finger to brush it away. “I couldn’t even if I wanted to. The night I met my son, I was mad at you, but I was madder at me for not noticing the changes to your body at the divorce proceedings. I was madder at me for checking in on you even if you didn’t want anything to do with me. I tried to forget you, Desiree.”

He leaned forward, closing the narrow sliver of distance between them.

“I tried so goddamn hard, but I couldn’t,” he breathed, capturing her lips. Her eyelids fluttered shut and her wet hands cupped his bearded face. She melted against him, their mouths working in heated tandem. She couldn’t forget him either. Every time she looked at their son Milo, she saw Nick in his eyes.

Bathwater sloshed as she straddled him. He wrapped his arms around her, his soapy hands caressing her bare back. She shivered, loving the way his fingers tenderly gazed trails up and down her backbone.

She broke the kiss to cock her head back, savoring his touch.

“For nine years, I dreamt and reminisced about you. I know the industry hardened us, but it didn’t change the plans we had for us, Desiree. We wanted a big house and a big family,” he said, pecking the column of her throat. “We’ve got the big house now, Ray, which only leaves…”

Nick trailed off, kissing the tops of her breasts.

She threaded her fingers throat his hair.

“You still want a big family with me, don’t you, Ray?” he questioned huskily, sliding his hands to cup her ass under the bubbly bathwater. “Hm?”

“Now, look who’s not being fair,” she sighed jokingly. He was playing hardball and she was losing.

He didn’t look amused as he gave her ass a delicious squeeze. “I asked you a question, baby.”

“Yes, Nick. I still want a big family,” she whispered, giving him little pecks at his lips, “but I love our little family too. Is it selfish of me to want to enjoy just the three of us for a little bit longer? Plus, I don’t know how Milo will feel about sharing you with a baby. You just came into his life. Maybe, he wants you to himself.”

“On multiple occasions, he’s informed me he’d like to be a big brother,” he stated.

Tallulah dropped her jaw, her eyes widening. “And what did you tell him?”

“To be patient,” he answered. “That’s two against one, Desiree.”

She un-straddled him and turned to rest her back against his chest, afraid he’d witness her worries and fears. She grabbed her washcloth, but he took it from her with ease, taking it upon himself to bathe her.

“Tell me what’s wrong, Desiree,” he ordered calmly, dragging the washcloth across her knee and up her thigh.

She closed her eyes, trying to relax. “I had a rough pregnancy with Milo, Nick. The divorce proceedings made my blood pressure as hell. The doctor put me on bedrest, but I still went into labor two months early. I was able to have a natural birth, but he couldn’t breathe. They had to resuscitate him. Then he spent a month-and-a-half in NICU.”

Her voice cracked and she inhaled deep to erase the tightening pains in her chest.

“I want you as my partner even if it means being in the spotlight, but I don’t want history to repeat itself because the industry, the paparazzi, the blogs, the magazines and your rabid fans would stress me the fuck out,” she sniffled, shaking her head. “I refuse to let them watch me go through another difficult pregnancy.”

“I’m here now and I’ll protect what’s mine, Desiree. You hear me?” He abandoned the washcloth and clasped her chin, steering it so their gazes could meet.

She nodded slowly, drawn in by his brilliant eyes. “Loud and clear, Nick.”

{}{}{}

 

Moaning softly, Tallulah stirred from her sleep as the ringtone assigned to Lanya filled the air. She blinked sleepily at the phone on her nightstand, lifting her head off the pillows.

“Don’t answer it,” Nick grumbled behind her as the big spoon in their sleeping position. They fell asleep with his hand blanketed her tender breast, but now that he was half-awake, a thumb lazily toyed with her nipple. She winced slightly. After all, he enjoyed sucking, licking, biting, and tugging at her nipples any chance he got on their romantic getaway.

“It’s Lanya. She wouldn’t call this late if it wasn’t important,” she said tiredly, brushing off his fingers.

She reached for the phone and answered it. “Hello?”

“Oh, thank god, Tally. I just off the phone with a friend and he told me your sextapes is trending,” Lanya said frantically, breathlessly.

Tallulah sat up immediately, shock gripping her throat. “My what?”

“At midnight, a site of your sextapes went live. It’s called NallyVacay.com,” Lanya informed. Nally was the celebrity couple name his approving fanbase called them and as for the vacay, that couldn’t possibly mean…

She quickly got off the call with Lanya and went to the website, all the air evaporated from her lungs as she read the introductory summary:

Welcome to our site, little voyeurs!

Here you'll have free acess to a collection of hot-hot-hot videos starring the King of Hollywood, Nick Bryant and his queen consort, Tally Edmonds. As you know, Nicky is no stranger to sextapes, but Tally is a talented newcomer. Watch as Nicky fucks her like the dirty little sluy she is.

Enjoy!

Videos of the intimacy they shared in the bedroom of their Mexico penthouse filled the page like a grid. A real-time visitor counter resided at the bottom of the page, its numbers churning fast. The site had only been live for three hours and the count just broke eight-hundred thousand.

Her tears blurred everything and she choked out a sob.

Nick sat upright, alert. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

Unable to look at him, she passed him her cell with a shaky hand then got out of bed. She darted for the bedroom door and flung it open. Her bare feet clapped against the cold marble floors as she raced to the mansion’s nine-car garage.

She climbed into the driver’s seat of the silver Land Rover and slammed the door shut. Her hands shot to the steering wheel and strangled it as she screamed like she was an impending murder victim. She pressed her forehead against the steering wheel, her body quavering as cries poured out of her.

The front passenger door opened and Nick claimed the empty seat. She didn’t have the energy to lift her head to look at him. And even if she did, he’d be a watery blur.

“Did you see the camera angle?” she panted out.

“Yeah, I did,” he answered.

It was stationary and focused solely on the bed. None of their intimate moments beyond the master suite was captured. She squeezed her eyelids shut, more tears cascading down her cheeks. She imagined the layout of the room again.

“That means,” she trailed off, her voice cracking.

“It means the V-day teddy bear was actually a teddycam,” Nick concluded.

She nodded in agreement, letting out a sad laugh. “I almost took it with me too as a souvenir. Maybe, if I had then—”

“It wouldn’t have mattered, Desiree. They’re wireless and can be transmitted to any device,” he informed coolly. “I’ve called Juan and Tammy. First thing in the morning, we’re having an emergency meeting to address to resolve the matter.”

As you know, Nicky is no stranger to sextapes…

Nick had five and even though she had admitted to watching one, she had seen all of them. Not all the way to the end, but a minute or two—or three or four—to convince herself he was better living his best life fucking actresses, supermodels, heiress, and popstars than trying to be a father to Milo.

She was one of the millions of little voyeurs of his sextapes and now, by daylight, a million and more will have seen theirs. Tallulah supposed this was a form of karma for not minding her goddamn business. She could only imagine how many of those videos were being downloaded and spread across the endless internet like wildfire.

“Even if you take that site down, those videos will be on the web forever, Nick,” she whispered tearily, looking over to him.

“I know, but whoever did this will pay for this, Desiree,” Nick said, reaching over to brush away a salty droplet.

She shook her head, dodging him. “You can’t guarantee that.”

Yes, I can,” he said, his tone serious. “I have my ways, Desiree.”

Tallulah tilted her head back to gaze up at the ceiling, wanting gravity to push her incoming tears back inside. “I want to be alone right now.”

He stared at her, refusing to budge.

She snapped her attention to him, slamming her palms against the steering wheel in sorrow and frustration. “Please, Nick. Leave now.”

Then with desperation, she whispered, “Please, please, please.”

He clenched his jaw tight and his nostrils flared as he granted her wish, leaving her behind. She reclined the driver’s seat and cried herself to sleep. After three hours of a dreamless slumber, she roused from the Land Rover and padded back into the house.

Once inside, she stood at a crossroads. If she went left, Nick would be waiting for her in their bed. If she went right and upstairs, then she could be with Milo.

So, she traveled upstairs and pushed open his ajar door, crossing his prehistoric bedroom to crawl into his bed. She snuggled against him, watching his eyelids twitch as he slept so peacefully and innocently while her world burned to ash. Seeing him at peace inspired her to nod off.

When Tallulah woke again, she awoke alone. Groggily, she deduced Milo must’ve snuck out of bed and got ready for his Thursday at school. A headache drilled into her skull and cradled her temple with her palm as if it’d alleviate the agonizing pressure.

She went to Nick’s old bedroom and plucked a bottle of painkillers from his medicine cabinet. She tossed two into her mouth and turned on the faucet to slurp from the cool stream. Then she splashed water onto her bothered skin to wake her up.

After patting herself face with a nearby towel, she went downstairs to find Nick, Juan, and Tammy discussing the matter on the poolside patio. Looking a hot mess, she went to join them.

They grew quiet as she sat down.

“What’s the damage?” she asked tiredly.

“You two are trending across all social media platforms. The celebrity gossip blogs and tabloids are having a field day. There will be a lot of television coverage too,” Tammy informed as she reached for Tallulah’s hand and gave it a sympathetic squeeze.

“What’s the visitor count now?” she asked, holding an intense starting contest with Nick.

Juan paled, scratching his nape nervously. “As of thirty minutes ago, it’s at 1.5 mil.”

She had cried so much she had no more tears. All she could do was nod and stare at the morning sunlight dancing cross the blue waters of their pool.

“On Nick’s instruction, we contacted the resort and threatened them with legal action if they did not investigate who had access to that penthouse before you two arrived and after you two left. Because the site has an US web host and it’s categorized as revenge porn which is illegal, we’ve given them 24 hours to shut it down or they’ll have to deal with the authorities,” Juan continued.

“And what happens if they find the culprit? They can’t be extradited from Mexico for their crimes,” Tallulah said, bouncing her knee nervously underneath the patio table.

“I called in a favor to tech-savvy associate in law enforcement and he traced the site’s IP address to LA which means either the culprit is using a VPN to disguise the fact he operates in Mexico or he has a inside contact at the resort and he operates here in LA,” Nick replied. “Either way, we’ll find him, Desiree.”

She rose from her seat. “Seems you all have everything figured out. I need some time to process this…matter.”

She walked back inside, aching for a shower to scrub her skin. The skin 1.5 million little voyeurs and counting saw on that website. She yanked her nightgown over her head and took off her undergarments with a quickness. Twisting the shower knobs, she got in, not caring ice-cold water rained down on her.

Tallulah tilted her head up, letting it baptize her. As the water went warm then hot, she wanted an empty mind. She wanted to simply exist, but she looked to the claw-footed tub through the steamy shower door, remembering the conversation had.

Nick (and Milo) wanted to turn their family of three to a family of four. How could she possibly want to bring another child into a world of voyeurs? Unless she imprisoned at the mansion for her entire pregnancy, ducking in and out of alleyways into tinted cars for gyno appointments only, she’d always be stressed out.

Hell, she had been so stressed out lately, she missed two periods and after this debacle, she’d probably miss a third. She smoothed a hand over her belly, her brow furrowing as she considered her symptoms.

Tender breasts and missed periods.

The bathroom opened and closed. Nick’s silhouette approached the steamed glass, shedding his pajama bottoms. He entered, approaching her from behind. He wrapped his arms around her waist, sliding his calloused hands up her curves. He nuzzled his bearded face against the crook of her neck, kissing her cheek.

He breathed in her ear, cupping her sore breasts gently. “I couldn’t sleep at all. If you’re not in my arms, I’m restless as fuck.”

“I’m know. I’m sorry, Nick,” she whispered, wincing at his touch.

Overwhelmed by a what-if, she detached herself from him and got out of the shower. He stayed in the shower, seizing her wet arm.

“Don’t run away from me, Desiree,” he pleaded, his eyes full of pain. “Don’t.”

When he looked at her like that, how could she deny him?

She returned to the shower and shut the door. He pulled her into a tight hug, burying his face into her shoulder. They stayed like that for what seemed like forever. She stroked his nape tenderly, realizing he was hurting just as much as she was.

As you know, Nicky is no stranger to sextapes…

But this time was different because it was them.

I protect what’s mine, he told her last night.

A task he believed he failed at.

“Thank you for protecting me. For protecting us,” she whispered. He said nothing, only coiled his arms tighter around her as if she’d spiral down the shower drain if he let her go.

Tell him, a little voice in the back of her head nagged.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Nick, I’ve missed two periods and…I’m starting to think it’s…not due to stress.”

He lifted his head off her shoulder, nailing her with his intense eyes.

“I think I need…a pregnancy test,” she admitted hesitantly.

Without a single word, he led them out of the shower dripping wet and over to the bathroom sinks. Confused, she watched as he squatted and opened a cabinet door, retrieving a pregnancy test.

“Take it now.” He offered it to her.

Tallulah glanced between him, his audacity, and it.

“Are you seriously giving me a dusty pregnancy test left behind by one of your exes?” she snapped, pointing an accusatory finger at the pink-and-blue box.

“No, I bought it after you missed your first period,” he informed, rising to stand over her again. “Now, take it.”

She gawked at him, her jaw hanging wide open.

“I—” Her words shriveled in her throat. She accepted the box, ripped it open, and got out one of the two pregnancy tests. He watched her like a goddamn hawk as she sat on the toilet and peed on the stick. Then she stuck the cap back on and laid on the counter delicately like it was the most fragile thing she ever handled.

After she washed her hands, he wrapped her in a fluffy towel.

“I still can’t believe you bought a pregnancy test after I missed my first period, Nick,” she said in disbelief, shaking her head.

“And I can’t believe you didn’t consider pregnancy a possibility after you missed your first period,” he said. “I believe I told everyone on national television, loving on you is sensational. And when it’s sensational, you’re doomed.”

She punched him in the chest, fighting back a slight smile. Underneath her knuckles, a chuckle of his vibrated through. For a moment, they weren’t victims of a revenge porn site. They were them. He captured her wrist and brought her fist up his lips, kissing each knuckle.

“What happens if it’s positive?” she asked.

“I’m gonna kiss the fuck out of you,” he answered, his warm tickling her knuckles.

“And what happens if it’s negative?” she asked.

“I’m still gonna kiss the fuck out of you,” he said.

Tallulah reached for the stick and looked at its little digital window, reading the word pregnant. Her heart leapt in her throat.

She gasped out, “Holy sh—”

Nick smashed his lips against hers.

End Notes:

It's been a whiiiiiiiile. I hope you enjoy this new installment. Our next chapter will focus on whether or not Tally will go to the Academy Awards with Nick now that everyone's seen them sex each other up. It'll also focus on how differently Nick and Tally are taking the news to her pregnancy. I've really missed these characters and this story. Feedback greatly appreciated. 

 

Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. It's been a wild year. Between teaching face-to-face during a pandemic to getting a literary agen and getting a book deal for a project I've worked on for a long time. 

Shout to KittyOh48 for the Nally celebrity couple name! <3

This story archived at http://https://www.valentchamber.com/viewstory.php?sid=3766