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