A celebrity can’t hide forever in a small town—not when love enters the picture.
Liam Blackwell’s career is in a slump and he needs a boost fast. What’s a celebrity to do when he needs experience in a small town? Go to Cedarwood. There are just three requirements—research the town, learn the script and don’t get romantically involved, because Liam hasn’t come out. No sweat, until a meeting in the center of town throws the plan all out of whack.
Stone McCartney lives for his job rescuing animals and finding them forever homes. He’s not looking for love, but when he sees Liam, he can’t help wanting to make a connection.
Can the budding relationship survive the ghosts from Stone’s past? Or will Liam and Stone part ways?
Reader advisory: This book contains a stalker, a shooting, and references to cruelty to animals.
General Release Date: 30th June 2020
“You want me to do what?” Liam Blackwell rolled his eyes and squeezed his phone. “Pat, I don’t know the first thing about small towns.” Christ. How could his agent think he’d be right for the part of a farmer in Ohio or that he knew a damn thing about farming? He’d never been on a farm. If she were there in the same room, rather than on the phone, he could explain better.
“I knew when you did that audition for the superhero movie that you were a candidate for this film. I sent the producers and talent scout that audition and that’s what got you the job. The director asked for you by name,” Patricia Michaels said. “Just do it. It’s a starring role, great pay and you get a percentage of the residuals. Why turn that down? You can get experience with this director.”
“How?” He tamped down his irritation. He needed the money. He had a lifestyle to maintain. He was still trying to get his last girlfriend to keep quiet about his sexuality. He wasn’t ready to come out. How was he supposed to play convincing leading roles in rom-coms if no one believed he was attracted to the heroine and not the other hero?
“Don’t you have a ballplayer friend? Tanner Fox, right? He lives in Cedarwood, Ohio. The last time I checked, it’s a sweet little town. They have quirks, but you might get the experience you need if you live there for six months. Call Tanner and get info about the town, then accept the damn role.”
Well, fuck. “I’ll call Tanner.” He groaned. “And I’ll take the role.” He massaged his temple. He had few options. The last time he’d worked had been over a year before. “I read the script. It’s not the kind of role I like. It’s simple.”
“Of course it is. He’s a farmer. He’s not a tortured artist or playwright. Jesus. You need a winner and this film is it,” Pat said. “I’ve never steered you wrong before. The studio and the director want you. No one else.”
“I’ll do my best.” He sank onto the bar stool. “You’ll send me the extra details, right? Like anything about Cedarwood?”
“On the way. Call Tanner.” She hung up, leaving him in silence.
Liam tossed his phone onto the bar and grumbled. A freaking small-town movie. God help me to not bomb.
His phone rang. Patricia. He should answer, but she’d hung up on him. He wasn’t in the mood to have his ass chewed again. He hated to be pushed, even if he deserved it. He waited until the ringing stopped before he retrieved the device.
A notification appeared on the screen. One voicemail.
He tapped the screen and retrieved the message from his agent. “Get your butt in gear. I sent the details in an email and I’ve got the contracts on my desk. You’ll report to the set in Washington in November. Now call Tanner and stop dicking around.”
He frowned. She wasn’t about to let up. November. He had until November…that was barely enough time to prepare for the role, let alone understand the small-town situation. He dialed Tanner’s number. There was no guarantee Tanner would answer. He’d seen a press release saying Tanner had married a doctor. There might have been a kid involved, but he wasn’t sure and didn’t remember.
After four rings, the call connected. “Hello, Liam. How are you?”
“Tanner,” Liam said. “I’m good. How’s life treating you?”
“Fantastic. I’ll resume my role with the local team as the assistant coach. Our son is starting the first grade and Dane and I are solid. I’m living the dream. What about you?”
“You have no regrets that you’re not in the major league?” He’d have been crushed to not be a star. He loved the spotlight. Doesn’t Tanner love it, too?
“I thought I would, but I’m good where I am. It’s funny. I never thought I’d like Cedarwood. It’s a small town. It’s quiet—save for the Coalition—but even they’ve slowed down their assaults. Why? Are you thinking of leaving show business?”
“Not really. I love the excitement.”
“Understandable. You love attention.”
“I do.” He chuckled. “I live for the spotlight.”
“I know,” Tanner said. “So what? We haven’t talked in ages. I’d ask you want you want because you never call just to talk. Look, I can’t set you up with anyone because I don’t know who to ask.”
“Huh? No.” His irritation showed up again. Why couldn’t Pat get him in with the right people in Cedarwood? She liked to convince people to fall into line. “I’m interested in visiting Cedarwood.”
“You are? Who is she?”
“No one,” Liam said. “I’m researching a role. I’m playing a guy who has a farm. A girl ends up stranded on the road in front of my farm and walks back to the house to get help. I take her in since it’s a stormy night. I think it involves snow. Anyway, it’s sweet and schlocky, but it’s a job. It should lead to something meatier the next time around.” I hope. “I called because I wanted to know if you knew the right place to stay when I come to town. Like a house for rent or something?”
“I do. We have a friend who has a duplex. You could rent half of the house. It’s in town, but it’ll give you a feel for Cedarwood,” Tanner said.
“Fine. When I fly in, I’ll find you.”
“How about I send you the information? You can set it all up and do what you want, rather than depending on me,” Tanner said. “I’ve got a house, man and child to worry about. You’re not on that list.”
“Are you jealous?”
“Maybe a little.” Or a lot. He wanted a lover who cared about him, not his movie persona.
“You bastard. You are. Why don’t you just come out? You’ll be happier.”
“No, I won’t.” He couldn’t risk his marketability.
“Why? Because you’ll lose out on roles? You know that’s shit. If you’re half the actor you think you are, then you can play any role, no matter if the character is gay or straight.”
He’d once thought that, but not now. “You don’t know the business.”
“Why not play gay characters? They’re in the movies and part of the culture. We’re not invisible any longer.”
“Visibility is a relative thing.” God, he sounded like an asshole.
“I call bullshit.”
“Call it all day long, but I’m not asked to play gay characters. I’m a pinup.” He rolled his eyes. He hated posing for the cheesecake-type shots, but women wanted to see him in as few clothes as possible. “Do you know my best download is that picture of me stretched out across the hood of that Jeep?”
“I’ve seen you at your worst. You’re not a pinup, but you’re right. You’ve got a body women want. Hell, I bet men want it, too.”
“The fans think I’m hot and I’m not going to argue,” he said.
“Fine. I’ll send you the info and get you hooked up with the rental car place, but I’m not your guide. You need to experience and figure out Cedarwood for yourself—like everyone else.”
Fair enough. “You’re an asshole.” He didn’t have to play the jackass role he’d perfected for the public. He could be nicer.
“No, I’m not letting you walk all over me,” Tanner said. “I remember the last time we chatted and you tried to use me.”
He hadn’t wanted to admit he could be such a jerk, but Tanner was right. “Okay.”
“Good.” Tanner paused. “You’re going to be fine. Be yourself. Most people won’t know who the hell you are and that’s a good thing. Don’t be the movie-star jackass. Be the nice guy that’s buried deep inside you. They’ll like you. It’ll take a little bit, but they’ll come around.”
“Thanks, Mr. Greeting Card-slash-Motivational Poster Man. I’ll be in touch.”
“Just don’t be an asshole.” Tanner hung up.
Liam stared at the bar top and sighed. Tanner had a point. He could be a self-serving, greedy, needy pain in the ass. He’d let Hollywood and the business run his life. Ruin my life, more like it. He doubted he’d be happy in Cedarwood, but if no one knew him, he could be the guy beneath the veneer, like Tanner suggested. He might not be thrilled, but he’d make his time in Cedarwood work. If nothing else, he’d do his best.
Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and BDSM themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been the runner up in the Kink Category at Love Romances Café as well as nominated at the LRC for best author, best contemporary, best ménage and best anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.
When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice.
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