Wrestling Rings and Shiny Things




Rated: NC-17





“I really, really, really appreciate this.”


“You should.” Kristen said wryly. “You don’t know what I gave up to be here this weekend.”


Glen smiled and guided the rented truck through a sharp curve in the road. “I can imagine. I’ll owe you big time for this one. Glad I managed to catch you between movies this time.” Glen laughed.


“You’ve got the luck of the devil.” Kristen pushed her sunglasses away from her eyes, glancing at the tree lined country road they were traveling. As always, it amazed Glen that they were friends. He was a big guy, a lumbering giant as Kris called him, maybe all right looking. He was also a wrestler, a career that lately had stigma attached to it.

Kristen didn’t care though, she’d never cared, as a matter of fact it was she who had gotten him interested in wrestling in the first place. She was the one who supported his decision to pursue it as a full time job. She was also the one who kicked him in the ass on those occasions when it was warranted.


She herself was a celebrity. A movie star of all things. It had started when she’d been in high school, she won a small part in a B-horror film. The movie had been horrible, but Kristen had stolen the show with her four lines. It helped that she was a knock-out, not a typical Hollywood starlet blonde. She was tall and athletic, her body toned, her skin tan. Chestnut brown hair with natural red highlights. Striking gray eyes that seemed to change color depending on what she was wearing.


Even though Kristen was six years younger, she and Glen had hit it off as soon as they’d met. And they both laughed over the circumstances. Her mother knew his mother, they’d gotten the ‘kids’ together to see what would happen. Glen had been bowled over, star-struck when he’d found out his mom actually knew THE Kristen Williams. She’d been slightly annoyed by his tongue tied silence, and after a rough few minutes had discovered a lot in common.


What they didn’t find, much to their mother’s chagrin, was a mutual sexual attraction. They had both harbored thoughts of sleeping with the other on occasion, as was the norm for any male/female relationship. But neither wanted to ruin or complicate their close friendship. It was just as well, Glen couldn’t imagine the media frenzy that would surround them if anyone found out they were just friends, let alone lovers.


Kristen wasn’t just popular, she was closing in on being an icon. She specialized in horror movies, either playing the heroic female or the lowly villain. Fans loved her in either role. She’d gone up against zombies, vampires, werewolves…she’d played a scientist with a taste for recruiting unwilling volunteers for experiments. Crowds ate it up. Glen himself had been in a movie just the year before, a horror flick, at the request of his boss Vince McMahon. It had been fun, but a total pain in the ass, staying in character through the months of shooting, of post-production, of premiers and interviews. They were pushing for a sequel, which would be  a miracle in his book considering his character had been decisively killed off at the end.


Kristen had even offered to take part in it, another miracle in itself considering she didn’t do sequels as a rule, especially sequels of movies she hadn’t participated in the first one. Glen was touched, but he wasn’t even sure he wanted to do it himself. It was all just talk though, things could change in an instant, so he didn’t let himself worry much about it.


Glen cast his eyes at Kristen. She caught the look and smiled. She was glad he’d asked her to go along with him that day. She could use the break. And it had been forever since she and Glen had spent any time with each other. They had some catching up to do.


The reason for her trip was simple. Glen needed a date. He’d recently split from his girlfriend of two years, a blonde slip of an airhead named Barb. Barb being short for Barbie, of course, but she claimed to hate the name, even if she dressed herself in pink to look just like the doll. What Glen saw in that woman, Kristen would never understand. He was too smart for the likes of that. She looked good, that was the only thing she had going for her. Kristen understood the need, as a public figure, to have good looking arm candy hanging on to your every word, especially in public situations, but she’d never sink to that low herself. She would rather travel alone and draw rumors than go with some muscle head from Hollywood-and cause even more rumors.


Glen was driving them to his friend’s house, a man Kristen had never met before named Mark. Apparently Mark had recently proposed to his girlfriend, and this was an engagement party. From what she could gather from Glen, it sounded to Kristen as if Mark was reluctant to celebrate the occasion, but his future bride had insisted on a get-together. Kristen hadn’t even met the woman, and already she knew she would not like her. But for Glen’s sake, she’d smile, she’d sign autographs, she’d laugh and joke and be the star that they all thought she was. Glen was really the only person who had ever broken through her façade…except for her assistant. Who was probably going crazy at the moment, wondering where Kris had taken herself off to this time.


Trina, her assistant, would be even more confounded at the idea of Kristen going out with Glen. As a rule, Trina spent her time guiding Kristen away from famous men. Not that she needed guidance. It amazed her how full of themselves they could be. But she could not pass up the chance to be Glen’s escort for this party. At the word, she grinned.


“Uh oh. Escort thoughts again?” Glen said with a chuckle.


“Yup.” Kristen giggled. Glen had actually used the word first, asking her to ‘escort’ him to a party, and she’d picked on him ever since-pointing out that to her knowledge, escorts got paid to go on ‘dates’, and she was doing it out of the kindness of her heart.


“God help me.” Glen rolled his eyes and slowed the truck.


“How many times do I have to tell you, when we’re alone you can just call me Kris?” Kristen said with another giggle at the old joke. Damn she loved spending time with Glen. He was such a teddy bear, totally different from the guys she worked with on a daily basis. And he understood her sense of humor. That more than anything made her love him.


This got another roll of eyes from Glen, but he still grinned. “We’re here. Thankfully. Another fifteen minutes with you, I’d be pullin’ my hair out.”


“If you had any.” Kristen said, laughing. Glen, for some reason known only to him, had agreed with his boss to shave himself bald as part of a storyline. The look remained. She still could not get over the loss of his gorgeous head of hair. She called him on it every chance she got.


“Don’t start with me woman.” Glen muttered, sounding gruff. Kristen’s giggling continued. She was used to Glen’s tough act.


A house appeared to their right. Glen followed a break in the trees, turning onto a gravel driveway. There were already a dozen cars parked in the grass to either side.


“Uh oh. We’re late.” Kristen said, finally getting control of her laughing.


“Nah. They were early.” He parked the truck and stopped the engine. “You ready for this?”


Kristen smoothed a hand over her hair dramatically. “Ready to blind them with the brightness of my star, baby.”


Glen laughed. “Thanks. I really do owe you for this.”


“As long as I’m not reading about it in the gossip rags tomorrow, I’ll consider this an act of charity.” Kristen opened her door and climbed out of the truck. Glen came around and took her hand, a gesture that was so natural to them neither really noticed it happening. With a grin on his features, he led Kristen to the front door of Mark’s house, bracing himself for the questions he knew were going to be asking. No one knew of his friendship with Kristen. He’d kept it a secret, mainly due to the tabloid magazines she hated. They would find out, turn their friendship into a torrid affair, smear her name across their front pages. Whatever it took to sell a few copies. With a sigh, he knocked, squeezing Kristen’s hand more to assure himself than her while they waited for the door to be answered.




The door was finally flung open by a young man with very interesting hair. “Yo! Glen!” The man grinned and gave Glen a smack on the arm. “Finally! We were about to send out a search…” The man’s voice trailed off as his eyes fell on Kristen.


Kristen gave him a winning smile, the one Trina often called her thousand-watt grin. Glen bit his cheek to keep from snickering at the star-struck look on the younger man’s face.


“You’re Kristen Williams.” The man said in an awed voice.


“Yup. You got me.” Kristen said, smile widening. She shared a look with Glen.


“You going to ogle my friend all day or let us in?” Glen said with an amused smile.


“Oh. God. Sorry!” the man stepped aside, letting Glen and Kristen enter a wide foyer.


“Kristen, this is Jeff.” Glen said, still smirking.


Jeff smiled shyly. “Hi.”


“Hi yourself.” Kristen took a look around. The foyer opened up into a large living room with maybe the biggest television she’d ever seen in her life. Hallways branched to the left and right of the foyer. A sweeping set of stairs dominated one corner.


“Where’s the party?” Glen said with a laugh.


“Downstairs.” Jeff gestured at a doorway that Kristen hadn’t noticed before. “Mark chased us all to the basement, believe it or not.”


“I believe it.” Glen said, shaking his head. The basement was Mark’s favorite area of the house. All of his gear was stored down there, but also his pool table, his movie collection, video games. Now that Jeff pointed it out, Glen could detect the sound of voices drifting up from below.


“I can’t believe I’m actually standing here looking at Kristen Williams.” Jeff said, blushing a bit, making Glen and Kristen laugh. “I loved Vampire Apocalypse.”


“Thanks. That was one of my favorites. Did you know they’re talking about a sequel?” Kristen had been through this particular conversation many times. Only the name of the movie changed.


“No way! I thought everybody died at the end?”

Glen shook his head. “I’m going downstairs.” He said, breaking into their conversation. He didn’t’ wait for an answer. He knew that Kristen would be along when she was finished with Jeff.


Jeff and Kristen talked about movies for fifteen minutes, not just hers, but others they’d both enjoyed. She glanced around and gave him another killer smile. “I think I may need to powder my nose. Is there a bathroom around here?”


“Yeah. Down the hall…” Jeff pointed. “Past the kitchen on the right.” He smiled again and thanked her for talking to him. Kristen watched him go down the stairs to the basement before heading up the hall.


Kristen looked herself in and stood there for a moment, studying her reflection in the mirror over the sink. It hadn’t taken long to be hit up by a fan. Not that she was going to complain, the fans were what kept her going after all. She’d gotten quite a following over the years, and she was grateful for every single person who bothered to pay money to see a movie she was in. But it did grind on her, always being recognized, not having any time to herself. One of the reasons she liked Glen so much. He was used to her being a star. And Trina, who had never been star struck, not even at their first meeting.


With a sigh, Kristen finally exited the bathroom. No sense in having deep thoughts about her career and life in the middle of a party. She paused in the hallway, glancing through an archway into the kitchen. A little bit of light from outside seeped through the shades hanging at the windows, but it was still dim. The appliances were all black. A blue clock on the stove gave out a pale light.


“You lost?” A deep voice from the dim kitchen made Kristen jump.


“Um…no?” Kristen squinted as a very large shadow separated from the others and moved toward the archway. The man was as big as Glen. Kristen found she had to look up at him to meet his eyes.


“Party’s downstairs.” He leaned against the arch, crossing his arms over a very wide chest.


“I know. Just peeking around. I’m nosy. Sue me.” Kristen tried on her best smile. The man didn’t return it, but he did seem to relax a bit.


“I think I can forgive it, this time.” He said, no trace of humor in his voice, though Kristen was sure he meant it as a joke.


“Nice place you have here. And why aren’t you at the party?” She asked, curious.


The man shrugged. “Don’t feel like it. You want a drink?” He didn’t wait for an answer. He was already turning and walking into the dim kitchen before it registered that he’d asked her a question.


Kristen hesitated but followed him. From the noise coming from under her feet, it sounded like the partygoers were having a good time. Glen wouldn’t even miss her yet. Besides, the big stranger had intrigued her for some reason. She wanted to see what he was up to.


Her eyes adjusted and she saw that he was seated at a very large table in the corner. Bottles were lined up next to him. “You want whiskey? Beer? Vodka, gin?” He was pouring himself a shot of something she could not make out.


“A shot of what you’re having would be fine.” Kristen took a seat across from him and watched as he poured her drink. He slid it across the table. Even though it was early afternoon, she knocked it back in one gulp, wincing a little at the bite of it. Finished, she slid her glass away and leaned forward, hands on the table. “So…why are you sitting here all alone, trying very obviously to get drunk?”


The man sighed. “Ever feel like you were in something and it was way over your head?”


“All the time.” Kristen answered truthfully. Sometimes she wished all of her fame away, it got to be so crazy at times.


“Yeah.” The guy nodded and downed another shot. He was silent after that while he drank. Kristen started to feel a bit uncomfortable.


“So…I told you I’m nosy…” She began, hating long drawn out silences. “But why are you in over your head?”


This was greeted with another sigh. “You haven’t met her yet. Another drink?”


“Her?” Kristen ignored his offer and raised an eyebrow.


“Her. Yes. The hostess of this…party.”


“No, I haven’t even been downstairs yet.” She admitted.


“You’ll see.” The man sighed again. And took another shot. That amount of alcohol and Kristen would have been laying on the floor, passed out, but he didn’t seem even a tiny bit tipsy. It amazed her.


“So why does that bother you? Some woman?”


He didn’t answer that, merely took another shot.


“Ok, well…” Kristen pushed her chair back, meaning to get up.


“Who are you here with?” The man asked, stopping her.


“Uh…Glen asked me along.” Kristen answered.


“Glen’s here?”


“Yeah, just got here about half an hour ago.”


The man’s head tilted to the side. “You don’t know who I am.” It was not a question.


“I have no clue.” Kristen said with a laugh.


“I’m Mark.”


“Mark…oh, the newly engaged…” Kristen trailed off. In over his head and a newly engaged man. She wondered what she had just walked into.


“You’re Kristen Williams.” He said, as if informing her of something she didn’t know. “Good movies. Some of ‘em. A couple are shit.”


“Thanks. I think.” Kristen frowned in confusion as she stared at him.


Mark shrugged and picked up his bottle and shot glass. “I think I’m going to go upstairs to my room. Have a good time at the party.” With that he stood and exited the room before Kristen could say anything else.


She found herself alone in the dim kitchen. “Ok. Strange.” She muttered, rising to her feet. She should go downstairs, check in with Glen, but for some reason she did not want to. The man…Mark…he seemed to need someone to talk to. It seemed to her that she’d been elected for the job even if he didn’t want her company. With a sigh of her own, Kristen headed toward the hall to seek out Mark’s room.




Common sense kicked in before Kristen reached the stairs leading to the second floor. She shook her head. There really was no sense in getting involved in a stranger’s problems. She had enough of her own to deal with. Instead she’d do as Mark suggest-go downstairs and meet his future bride.


Kristen turned and headed down the basement stairs, mentally preparing herself for recognition. It was something she took for granted after years in the spotlight, and a hard habit to break.


The basement was not what she expected. It was one big open room with a smaller door in the corner that she assumed was another bathroom. To her right was a television even bigger than the one upstairs. There were four huge comfortable looking couches facing the TV. The walls were lined with DVDs. The television was on, the sound either muted or drowned out by the music issuing from two very big speakers that pumped out a driving rock beat.


Straight ahead against the wall was a fully stocked bar. A muscular guy in a white t-shirt stood behind it, laughing at something a blonde in front of him was saying, and pouring out drinks.  In front of the bar was presumably a dance floor. And Kristen gathered that only because there were several couples dancing away to the loud music. She had an idea that this was not something Mark had intended down here…he didn’t strike her the type to randomly cut a rug at a party.


To the left were two pool tables, both crowded with men and women. Most of the men were huge, muscular, obviously friends of Glen. A row of arcade style video games lined the wall on that end of the basement. It was apparent to her where the real party was. Kristen smiled as a good-natured moan sounded out, followed by laughter from the people watching the heated game of pool.


Kristen spotted Glen in the crowd. He caught her eye and grinned brightly before threading his way through the people gathered. He stopped beside her and glanced around. “I thought Jeff scared you away.” He almost had to shout to be heard over the music.


“He tried. Takes more than that to get rid of me though.” Kristen shouted back. She decided not to tell him about meeting Mark. At least not yet. She didn’t know why she felt like keeping it to herself.


“I warned everybody you were here.” Glen leaned closer so he could stop yelling. “And I asked them not to crowd you. I think you’re safe enough for now, unless all the booze wears off.”


“Aw…aren’t you sweet?” Kristen reached up and pinched Glen lightly on one cheek. “So…is this everybody?”


“Pretty much.” Glen smiled. “Mark’s hiding. I guess he’ll be down eventually.”


“Yeah?” Kristen cocked her head and tried to mask her thoughts. “So where’s his fiancé? I guess I should introduce myself, don’t wanna be rude.”


“Renee is over at the bar. Flirting with Dave by the looks of things.” Glen motioned with one hand. Kristen barely took another look at the blonde at the bar before Glen was grabbing her hand and dragging her toward the couches.


They settled down, and Kristen was relieved to find that sitting behind the speakers was a lot quieter than standing in front of them. This part of the basement was still empty. Apparently everyone was too caught up in playing pool to watch a movie.


Glen looked over Kristen’s head and flashed her an unreadable smile. Someone walked up behind them and came around to sit on the couch across from them. The blonde from the bar. Renee presumably. She was dressed in skin tight jeans and a bright red halter, showing off very obviously fake cleavage. Kristen had been in show business long enough to spot surgical enhancements miles away. Renee’s boobs weren’t the only fake thing either…her nails were obviously not natural. They were long, painted bright red to match her shirt, and looked like bloody talons to Kristen. She fought the urge to look at her own nails, lest some polish had gotten onto them. She kept hers short for practical purposes.


Renee’s hair was also the kind of platinum blonde that could only come in the bottle. And not a professional bottle either. It was much too pale and flat. And her eyes…even though the basement was dim, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that Renee wore colored contact lenses. No one on earth had eyes that shade of electric blue, no matter what the magazines wanted everyone to believe. The real cherry on the sundae of this woman was her boots…which were of the cowboy variety and dyed a violent looking shade of red.


“Oooooh…” Renee dragged the word out. “I thought Glen was kidding! You really really are Kris Williams!”


“Yup, sure am.” Kristen fought back a wince at Renee’s extreme southern drawl. She was definitely not from Texas, her accent was much too pronounced. Kristen guessed Georgia, maybe Alabama, but she was pretty sure that accent was just as fake as the rest of this woman. Also…Renee calling her Kris bothered her. Nobody called her that but her closest friends, and she wanted to keep it that way. But damn it, she had been raised to be polite, and she was a guest in this woman’s house, annoying or not.


“I’m so excited you could make it!” Renee said. Kristen wondered if there was anything this woman didn’t get excited about. And with just a few words, she’d made it sounds as if she had invited Kristen and not Glen. Amazing.


“It’s a very lovely home.” Kristen commented, trying to remain neutral. Glen was trying once again to hide a smile of amusement. Damn him. She’d have to give him a punch in the stomach as soon as she could get away with it.


“Oh, thank you, I decorated it myself.” Renee looked smug. Kristen took in her oversized gaudy earrings and chunky necklace, then the garish colors of her outfit. The woman couldn’t even decorate herself, let alone an entire house.


“Congratulations.” Kristen said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She failed miserably, but Renee did not notice.


“Oooh thank you!” She waved her left hand at Kristen’s face, taking her meaning wrong, thinking she was congratulating her on her engagement. Kristen dutifully looked at the ring, raising an eyebrow. The rock on the woman’s finger was huge and caught the dim light in the room sending twinkles up. It had to be at least four…and maybe even five…carats. Set in a platinum band. Someone had dropped a lot of money on a fancy ring.


“How nice.” Kristen wrinkled her nose at the huge ring. Once again Renee either didn’t notice or misinterpreted her meaning. She grinned, flashing utterly straight, blindingly white teeth.


“Isn’t it?” She sighed happily and her eyes were drawn to something over Glen’s shoulder. “Well you two have fun, I see I’m needed elsewhere. Enjoy the party Kris.” With that, Renee flounced to her feet and drifted away toward the bar again, leaving a waft of some very potent perfume in her wake. Kristen looked at Glen and he started to giggle.


“You could have warned me jackass.” She said, face a total blank. Glen took another look at her and clutched his sides, laughing so hard Kristen worried he’d have a heart attack.


“Much more fun to just unleash her on an unsuspecting world.” Glen said, giggles tapering off. “I told you…”


“You didn’t tell me anything.” Kristen grouched. A smile spread over her features.


“She reminds me of Barb in a way. The hair I think.” Glen said with a chuckle. “Another Barbie doll.”


“Eh…I’m pretty sure she’s gone beyond Barbie and is a cup size away from bein’ Dolly Parton. Good lord, did you see her boots? Hideously tacky.” Kristen kicked her legs out to show off her black Harley boots. She’d gotten them a few years past, and wore them every chance she got. They were her favorite shoes. She was also wearing jeans, but not the second-skin kind that Renee sported. Hers were tight enough to see curves but didn’t cut off her circulation. She also wore a dark blue tank top that made her eyes appear especially gray. “At lease my boobs, hair, and nails are all mine! Holy shit! Did you see all that work?”


“I’ve seen it.” Glen shook his head and scooted closer. “I don’t know what the hell Mark’s thinkin’. She’s already used his money to get new boobs, what next?”


“Maybe he’ll get her a butt lift for a wedding gift?” Kristen hated to sound catty, but she couldn’t help herself. She looked down again. “My boobs are fine, right?” She puffed her chest up a bit. Kristen wasn’t gigantic, but she wasn’t tiny either. Comfortably in the middle. “Hell, and my ass is way better than hers.”


“There’s no comparison my sweet.” Glen winked at her and took her hand. His eyes fell to the front of her shirt and he leered comically. “And your boobs are much nicer than hers. Have to see ‘em unclothed to really judge, but that’s my early estimate.”


“Oh my god…you are not seeing my boobs.” Kristen crossed her arms over her chest prudishly, giggling the whole time. Glen could be silly when he wanted to be.


“Damn. I bet Renee would flash hers at me.” Glen chuckled again, and blushed a bit. “Uh…”


“Ok, ok, we’re done talkin’ about boobs.” Kristen laughed. She saw Glen’s blush deepen. “What? Don’t tell me you’ve actually looked at those silicon bags in the flesh.”


“Well…I did stay here a few months back and…” Glen shook his head. “Never mind. She flashed me, I decided not to tell Mark because I don’t want to die yet, I guess it was an accident.”


“You guess?” Kristen looked over her shoulder at the blonde woman. She was leaning so far over the bar talking to Dave that her breasts were falling out of the low cut halter-top. Dave’s eyes were riveted. “You men. Pigs.”


 “Oink.” Glen said, laughing again. “Wonder where Mark is?”


“If he’s smart, on a slow train to China.” Kristen commented, watching as Renee made a show of eating a cherry from a bowl on the bar. “Ugh. I will never understand what you men see in a woman like that. She’s most of the way toward slutty.”


“You might have just answered your own question.” Glen said, flinching back when Kristen took a swing at his arm. “Just stating an opinion Kris. Geez.”


“Kris. I can’t believe she actually had the nerve to call me that.” Kristen rolled her eyes.


“Yeah, well, that’s Renee for you. She’ll go around telling people you’re best friends and she invited you to this party. Just wait for it.” Glen leaned back against the cushions. “Want a drink?”


“No thanks.” Kristen had already had a shot, no need for another. At least not yet. She stopped looking at the Renee and flopped against the couch, sighing. “Why the hell did I let you talk me into this?”


“Cuz you love me.”


“I wouldn’t call it love. More like a toleration developed from not having my mom yell at me.” Kristen sighed again. She felt so bad for Mark, but…he’d brought this particular woman on himself. If he felt over his head, then why the hell had he asked her to marry him? It boggled her mind. She wasn’t here to think about that though. She’d come so Glen would have a good time. She would have to remind herself of that several most times throughout the day.




“I’m shocked your babysitter hasn’t called a million times today.” Glen commented from his perch on the porch rail.


The party, in the three hours that Glen and Kristen had been there, had definitely picked up. More people showed up. And even more after that. The basement was too crowded to move, and the party was spilling into the first and second floors. Kristen wanted to come out for some air, she’d endured round after round of introductions, it was almost enough to make her head spin. For the most part, they all said they loved her movies and went on with the party…Glen standing there, herding them past helped more than she could say.


“She probably has.” Kristen said. She was sitting on the top porch step, idly tapping her foot to the sound of a loud rock beat coming from the house behind her. “I locked my cell phone in your truck. My bad.”


Glen chuckled. “Accidentally on purpose, I’m sure.”


“Well yeah.” Kristen shot him a look. He knew as well as she did that Trina would not approve of Kris going to this party. Especially not with Glen. She could imagine the kind of uproar that would cause. The tabloids would have a field day. What Trina didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. At least that’s what Kristen kept telling herself. She knew as soon as she talked to the other woman, she was in for a world class tongue lashing.


“Ready to go back in?” Glen nodded toward the door.


“You go on. I’m going to sit here and enjoy the sun for a few more minutes.”


“All right, but if someone else shows up, I’m not gonna be responsible if they flip out when they recognize you.” Glen said with a laugh.


“A risk I’m willing to take. Go on, I’ll be in right behind you.” Kristen waved and went back to studying the line of vehicles parked on the front lawn. Glen went inside, leaving her blissfully alone. She rose to her feet and stepped off the porch onto the lawn. Without really thinking about what she was doing, she walked the exterior of the house. The lawn was green and freshly cut. The house had a well cared for look to it. It was big without being flashy. Obviously not chosen by Renee, who probably imagined herself living in a mansion on a hill, overlooking the peasants beneath her. Of course she’d probably want to paint the mansion red. Garish…


Kristen shook her head. She did not know why exactly the other woman grated on her nerves, besides the obvious reasons. She’d known many people who had gotten plastic surgery, including men. She knew a few who were just as trashy as Renee, if not more so. But for some reason, anytime a scathing thought came to mind, Kristen equated it with the hostess of the party.


She stopped walking and realized she had gone around the house at least twice. She was standing in the back now, a huge deck to her right, the gravel drive snaking to her left toward a huge garage. A pool dominated the closest space, the water crystal blue and sparkling in the afternoon sun. The party had not yet leaked out this far, but she knew it was only a matter of time.


Kristen hesitated for a minute, chewing thoughtfully on her bottom lip. She should go to the party now, put on her smiling sociable face, and make nice to Glen’s friends. But her mood for it was ruined. Too many people she didn’t know were there for one thing. And for another…she really didn’t want to run into Renee again anytime soon.


She stepped across the grass toward the garage. It was the only place in the house she hadn’t seen, barring Mark’s bedroom. She and Glen had nosed around, but she’d refused to go in and check it out when Glen pointed it out to her. She fully expected the garage door to be locked. Even this far out in the country with the nearest neighbors miles away, one still couldn’t be too careful.


The knob turned in her hand. The door slid silently open. Kristen stood in the doorway for a moment, letting her eyes adjust. The garage was cool, huge, and held at least a dozen motorcycles. Sunlight flooded in through big windows on the upper part of the walls. It was blessedly quiet after the noise in the house.


Kristen let the door shut behind her and walked across the room, curiosity taking over. The bikes were well cared for. The chrome sparkled in the fall of light from the high windows. She was impressed. She’d never been on a motorcycle herself, but was fascinated nonetheless. It looked like fun. Of course if she bought one and learned to ride, Trina would probably have a heart attack.


“Lost again?”


Kristen didn’t jump at the deep rumble of Mark’s voice that time. She looked over her shoulder, noticing for the first time the work desk in the corner. A small lamp hung over it, spilling yellow light down onto an open book.


She eyed him critically. “Oh. Didn’t recognize you without the bottle in your hand.” She said sarcastically. She couldn’t help herself. He seemed like a totally different person from the man she’d met earlier.


Mark smirked and shrugged one shoulder. “Yeah, well, booze can only do so much.” He eyed her a bit sheepishly, at least she thought he did. It was hard to tell.


“Don’t worry, your secret life of alcohol and fast women is safe with me.” Kristen looked away from him, turning back to the motorcycles. “Are all of these yours?”


“Yeah. Just got done restoring that one…” He pointed to a black bike in the corner. “About ready to buy another one.”


“Collecting? Or restoring to sell?”


Mark studied her intently before answering. “Collecting. I guess. For now.”


“You guess? For now?” Kristen raised an eyebrow.


“Yeah, well, shit happens, things change, some day I might decide that the bikes are a kid’s hobby and get rid of all of ‘em.” Mark shrugged again. Kristen turned to look at him, forgetting about the bikes momentarily.


“I met her.”




“Your fiancé.” Kristen shook her head. “Real piece of work that one. You were right. If I were you, I’d probably be getting drunk too.”


Mark shifted his gaze from her to the nearest bike. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought he turned a bit red-faced at her words.


“I…shouldn’t have said anything.”




“Because I’m marryin’ that piece of work.” Mark shifted uncomfortably.


“I know you don’t know me, and it’s really none of my business, but why?” Kristen crossed her arms, feeling like a mother scolding a child. A ridiculous image by any means.


“Because…” Mark finally looked at her. His expression, which had been semi-friendly before, had turned to a carefully arranged mask of blankness. “It’s none of your business, you’re right.”


Kristen smiled. “Well said, but too late, I already know too much. So either tell me or kill me.”


Mark smirked. There was not much humor in it. “Look, I don’t know why the hell I said anything at all earlier, I can’t even blame the alcohol, it didn’t even give me a buzz, so how about we just pretend it never happened, and you scoot your nosy butt back to the house where the rest of the party is??


“I suppose I should.” Kristen nodded. She was still smiling. “But seriously, anyone ever tell you when you ramble you make yourself seem guilty of something?”


“I’m not guilty of anything.” Mark muttered.


“Look, like I said you don’t now me…”


“Yeah. I don’t.” Mark interrupted her.


“But I am a stranger to both of you, a total outsider, and if you want somebody to talk to…I’m all ears. Don’t have to worry about rumors getting around, don’t have to worry about…her…finding out.” Kristen couldn’t even say the woman’s name without feeling like choking.


Mark was eyeing her with less suspicion and a tiny hint of…something. Kristen couldn’t put a name to it. He nodded slowly. “I’ll think about it.”


“Well, don’t think too long. I’m only here til the party is over.” Kristen smiled again. Mark surprised her by smiling back. She pushed her hair back over her shoulders and cleared her throat. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I need to check in with my cell phone. If I can find it. I’m around if you need me.”


Mark nodded again, his eyes going back to his collection of bikes. Kristen sighed and turned to leave the garage. She made it to the door before Mark spoke again.


“Didn’t expect you to be so normal.” His voice was low, but still carried. Kristen glanced back at him, hand on the knob, expectant look on her face.


“Not everyone in Hollywood is a spoiled brat.” She said with a shake of her head. She loved being pigeon holed to fit the public’s standard of stardom. She was not a stuck up rich girl with air filling the space where her brain should be. She didn’t sleep with her co-stars, she didn’t do drugs, she didn’t go out and party every night. Everyone she’d ever met had found that to be strange. Kristen just thought she was doing what she wanted to do.


“I guess not.” Mark looked at her, his expression once again unreadable…but somehow sad. “Glen’s told me a bit about you.”


“Has he?” And here she’d thought Glen had kept their friendship a secret. She’d have to have a little talk with him.


“Said you guys hung out every now and then.” Mark said, nodding. “Almost all good. It’s strange.”


Kristen laughed. “I’m a strange one all right.”


“Time will tell.” Mark said cryptically. Kristen waited but he seemed to be finished.


“Ok, uh…then…I’ll be around. If you need me.” She stammered out, opening the door. She didn’t wait for him to reply…or to not reply. She walked into the bright sunshine, not knowing whether to be happy that Mark hadn’t drunk himself into a stupor-or sad that he seemed to damned lost. “Fuck it. Who am I, Miss Fix It?” She blew her bangs back from her forehead and turned in the direction of Glen’s truck. She’d better see how many irate messages Trina had left for her that day and get back to the party.




“You’re about to get an earful of fuckin’ Trina-isms.”


Kristen had to laugh even though Trina’s tone on her voicemail was completely serious. She had a way with words, and cussed like a sailor when the mood struck her. Which was all the time. She took her job as personal assistant very seriously…maybe a little too seriously. But she was the best in the business, had been highly recommended, and as long as Kristen didn’t do anything too crazy, they were friends.


“What the fuck Kris! I mean really. What the fuck?” Trina’s voice dropped into rant mode. “You run off, don’t say where the fuck you’re goin’, don’t answer your damn phone. You know what kind of psycho mother fuckers are roamin’ around out there, thinkin’ your in love with them?”


Kristen sighed and shook her head. Trina was really mad. That ‘f’ word slipped out more and more the madder she got. Without listening to the rest, Kristen hit delete and erased the message. Only to hear another one, just as angry, Trina on a rampage.


“Look, if you’re just out getting some sausage…” Trina’s euphemism for penis. “I can understand that. Hell, I totally condone that on occasion. Everybody need a bit of ding dong every now and then.” Another one. Trina was really on a roll. “But you could at least tell a bitch where the fuck you’ll be while you’re getting it, all right?”


The phone clicked. Trina had disconnected, not bothering to say goodbye to the voicemail. Kristen deleted the rest of the messages, debated briefly with herself, and dialed Trina’s cell number.


“You bitch, where the fuck are you?” Trina bypassed a hello to get right into action.


“Uh…Texas.” Kristen said, deadpan. She was smirking. She loved and hated it when Trina was riled up. It was a sight to see.


“TEXAS!” Trina shouted. “You went to TEXAS without even bothering to take ONE fucking bodyguard with you! You know what kind of letters you’ve been getting lately…”


“I know, I know, we’ve had this lecture before Trina. And I have…sort of a bodyguard with me.”


“SORT OF?” Trina shouted. “SORT OF is not GOOD enough. You got me? You could have at least TOLD me where you were going, it’s not like I could STOP you.”


“You would have tried your hardest.” Kristen commented.


“It’s my fuckin’ JOB.” Trina groaned. “Where in Texas?”




“I said WHERE IN TEXAS ARE YOU?” Trina shouted again. She sounded mad and amused at the same time.


“I can’t HEAR you Trina! Line’s breaking up!” Kristen yelled comically to her phone. It was clear as a bell, the transmission, but she’d had enough of the screaming for now. Without another word, hearing Trina’s voice coming from the earpiece, Kristen hit end and shut her phone off. She tossed it back into Glen’s truck and shut the door.


Of course she’d considered bringing a bodyguard with her. She employed two of them. Usually they only went with her on public appearances, autograph signings, that kind of thing. They stayed in the background unnoticed for the most part. Kristen just could not see bringing them along to a party. In the backwoods of Texas. A party full of otherwise famous type people who were paid to beat people up for a living.


She had wanted to forget for a while, to stop worrying about those damned letters that showed up at her office once a week. They progressively got more threatening. Kristen no longer even read them, they scared her so much, so Trina took care of it. The police really couldn’t do anything, the letters were anonymous. They’d advised hiring bodyguards, just to be safe, so Kristen had given in and done it.

So far, it had been a useless expense. Nothing happened, just more letters. Apparently the guy…or girl, Kristen amended, slightly amused at the thought…was too shy or too chicken to actually try to make their threats a reality.


Kristen knew she was being way too complacent about the whole thing, but the idea seemed ridiculous to her. She’d made some movies, so what? Why did that give a person reason to be, for all intents and purposes, her self appointed stalker?


She refused to worry about it anymore. She was at a party. She should be having a good time. But the whole day had gone weird, and she didn’t know if she really felt in a party mood anymore.


Her mood went even further downhill when the front door opened and a giggling Renee stepped outside. She was followed closely by another woman, a woman who looked remarkably like her. At least, in fake boobs and horrible taste in clothes. She wore a tight mini-dress, black, spandex, sparkly. Hideous. It might have even tied Renee’s boots for most garish wardrobe accomplishment.


“Hey KRIS!” Renee drawled it out. Kristen sighed and stepped onto the porch, meaning to go around the two women. The perfume cloud from earlier was back, this time even more potent when multiplied by two women pouring it on.


“Hi, Renee. Great party.”


“Isn’t it?” She giggled and looked at her friend. “I told you Melody, I told you that Kris Williams was here!”


“Wow. I’ve like…seen all of your movies. Except for that Dark Bride thing…it looked really, uh, dumb.” Melody smiled. As if she’d just imparted some bit of outstanding criticism that would astound the world.


“Actually Dark Bride won a couple of awards.” Kristen said, refusing to be polite anymore. “Even won some people’s choice awards. From the smarter set I would suppose.”


Renee and Melody blinked together. Then they laughed. “I told you she’s great.” Renee squawked out.


Kristen rolled her eyes as the two woman continued to cackle. “I’m going inside.” Kristen finally said.


“Oh… wait…uhm…you haven’t seen Mark have you?” Renee got her giggling down to an occasional hitch.


“Mark?” Kristen had an innocent look on her features.


“You know, my fiancé?” Renee flashed her ring again. Kristen did not hide the second roll of her eyes.


“Nope. Haven’t even met him yet.”


“Oh…well, he’s not upstairs, or downstairs. We saw you come out of the garage. I thought he might be hiding in there.” Renee drawled out, overly sweet. Kristen tried not to gag.


“Nope. Nothing in there but a bunch of hot bikes.” Kristen said with a nod.


“Those…things.” Renee sneered her nose. “Believe me, Mel, those bikes are going to be the first thing to go once I’m moved in here.”


“Amen sister.” Melody said. Kristen actually was surprised into a laugh that she masked by covering her mouth and coughing.


“Why would you get rid of them?” Kristen asked, when she’d finally got a hold of herself.


“Oh please. We will be way too busy for Mark to be playin’ with those…those…things.” Renee made another face, nose wrinkled. “I’m going on the road with him you know. Travel around. On his days off we’ll be flyin’ to exotic places, layin’ on the beach, drinkin’ fruity drinks…”


Melody sighed in unison with Renee. Kristen cocked an eyebrow and said nothing. She felt like gagging again. She didn’t see Mark lying on a beach in some exotic place, and especially didn’t see him getting rid of his motorcycles to please this woman. Then again, they were getting married, and even if she didn’t know Mark well, she couldn’t picture him with Renee either.


“Well, he’s not out there. It’s totally empty.” Kristen borrowed Melody’s accent for the word, and added sarcasm but it was lost once again on the woman in front of her.


“Great. Wonder where he’s taken himself off to?” Renee frowned, pouting. “Oh well, Mel, guess we’ll just have to entertain ourselves.”


“You said you were going to introduce me to that hot guy at the bar.  The three of us could go up and…”


Renee shushed her friend, looking at Kristen with a forced smile. “Shut up Mel. Let’s go inside.” She herded Melody through the door that Kristen held open. Kristen watched them disappear down the basement stairs, thoughtful frown on her face. Renee had been quick to stop her friend from saying anything about the bar guy, which she assumed was that David guy that Glen mentioned. Renee had been flirting with him very heavily earlier. Kristen had to wonder if maybe the two women had been planning some kind of crazed threesome in Mark’s bedroom. From the way they acted, it was entirely possible.


Kristen once again was presented with a dilemma. Tell Mark what she thought or not. “Great.” She said aloud to herself. She eyed the packed living room dubiously before shutting the door. So maybe she wouldn’t tell Mark her idea. But he at least was holed up in a quiet spot. And maybe she was in the mood to offer him company whether he wanted it or not.




Kristen almost made it.


A group of people had pulled up while she was otherwise occupied. They spied her and one girl yelled Kristen’s name, her voice seemingly just one level below the sound barrier. Kristen winced and plastered a smile on her face, watching as the six people walked to her position, talking excitedly among themselves.


It took almost half an hour to satisfy them enough that they went into the house, to the party. They all looked so young, way too young to be hanging out at this particular house, but of course, Kristen wasn’t there to scrutinize the guest list. She signed autographs and posed for a few pictures, asking that the people not tell where they were taken. They agreed easily enough, but Kristen knew better than to hope. People talked. It was one of the downsides of her job.


By the time she had the yard to herself again, Kristen had almost talked herself out of visiting the garage again. How many times was she going to butt into this guy’s life? She had absolutely no business even knowing half of what she had figured out on her own. Obviously Mark was crazy. Why else would he latch that Renee woman to himself? Kristen made a face without realizing it. She figured if she ran into the other woman a couple more times, she’d be reduced to shuddering, wordless in a corner. She was so picky about the people she associated with, the thought of chumming up to Renee seemed repulsive.


“I’m a spoiled brat.” Kristen muttered as she walked toward the garage door. She must have been channeling Trina, she’d said that particular phrase several times already that day.


The garage door was locked. Either Mark really, really didn’t want any more interruptions, or he’d found another hiding spot. Good. The decision to talk to him was taken out of her hands and Kristen was happy about that. Ecstatic even. It meant she could stop feeling like a snooping busybody.


She turned and walked toward the house once more. Even though she knew the party was just getting started, Kristen was ready to leave. It hadn’t been so bad, really, people had recognized her but mostly they’d been treating her as any other normal person. She was starting to get a headache though, and figured it was because she was trying to figure out the mystery that was Mark and Renee. It boggled her mind.


“Jeez, I need a hobby.” Kristen mumbled, moving around the corner of the house. She walked nose first into what felt like a wall.


Hands touched her shoulders, steadying her before she had a chance to fall. Kristen looked up into Mark’s bemused eyes and rolled her own. “Sorry.”


“Talkin’ to yourself. It’s a distraction.” Mark released her arms and stood there uncertainly.


Kristen crossed her arms over her chest and studied him in return. “Decided to join the party?”


“No. Why? Have you?” Mark shot it back at her. Kristen cocked her eyebrow and smiled.


“I’m having one hell of a good time.” She said, deadpan. Mark smirked.


“How about a ride then?”


“A…ride?” Kristen asked, repeating it as if he’d spoken a foreign language.


“You know, on one of the bikes. I need to clear my mind a little bit. Thought I’d sneak one out the back.” Mark nodded toward the garage. Kristen looked at the building, the house, the yard, before turning to look into Mark’s eyes again.


“You want me to blow off this party and my…ha…date…” Glen was technically her date, even if he insisted on leaving Kristen to her own devices.


“Hell, it’s my party and I’m gonna blow it off.” Mark said with a chuckle. The sound had Kristen’s eyebrow up again. Mark didn’t strike her as a guy who laughed much. Sarcastically, in her mind she asked herself why that might be.


“Well…” Kristen bit her lip thoughtfully. She glanced past Mark, toward the front of the house. “A back way out you said?” She asked as the sound of loud voices came from the direction of her gaze. It sounded like the party was spilling into the yard finally.


“Sneaky devils.” Mark commented. He smiled. “I’ll grab a bike. Meet you behind the garage.” With that he was gone, striding past her to disappear around the corner of the garage.


Kristen stood there for another minute, slight frown on her face, wondering what the hell she was thinking. What was wrong with her? She felt as if since she’d gotten there, she’d done nothing but snoop into this couple’s personal business. And here he was, wanting to take her on a bike ride while his engagement party rolled on.


She heard someone speak her name from the front of the house. That pretty much made up her mind. People were drinking. They were getting pretty well lit by the amount of alcohol that flowed through the place. They’d be making the rest of her day hell if she stuck around waiting for it. That more than anything else made up her mind. At least, that’s what she told herself. It had nothing to do with the fact that Mark intrigued her. Nothing at all. And he didn’t ‘intrigue’ her, she had to correct herself on that. He probably had an interesting story to tell, and she wanted to hear it. Kristen was curious by nature.


Kristen looked around one last time. This side of the house had no windows, and no one had spilled around the corner yet, so she was going to get while the getting was good. She turned and headed in the direction that Mark had gone, wondering again what the hell she’d gotten herself into. A motorcycle ride. She’d never been on one.


Mark was waiting, gleaming black bike leaning on its stand. He made a face, glanced around furtively, and grabbed the handlebars setting it upright. “Best we get away from the house before startin’ it up. It’s loud. Don’t wanna get caught, if we’re tryin’ to be sneaky.”


Kristen grinned at his playful tone. The guy probably had some kind of split personality-bipolar thing going on. The grim determination to get drunk earlier was gone, replaced by what she could only describe as a relaxed good humor.


“Uhm…didn’t you have a hell of a lot to drink?” She asked belatedly, following along behind him as he guided the motorcycle away from the garage.


“Had a little. I’m probably more sober than you are. Why? Don’t trust me?” He gave her a smile over his shoulder. Kristen studied his eyes, the way he walked, the way he steadied the bike. He was probably right. Mark as a big guy, it would probably take a whole case of bourbon to knock him off his feet.


“All right, but if you wreck and kill us, know that my warden will haunt your grave for eternity.”


“Your warden?” Mark slowed down so that Kristen was walking on the other side of the bike instead of behind him.


“My personal assistant. Same difference.” Kristen said with a smirk.


Mark shook his head. “If you equate it with a prison why not just get rid of whoever it is and deal with stuff yourself?”


Kristen scoffed. “Yeah right. Trina’s like a commanding general. She keeps me semi-sane most of the time.”


“Only semi?” Mark said with another smirk.


“Well, I do have my moments.” Kristen laughed. They had entered a line of trees. The air was cooler by at least ten degrees. A dirt pash snaked through the old growth woods. “You know where you are?”


“I should. My place, remember?” Mark stopped walking and glanced around. “This should be good. We’ll hit the road in about five minutes. It’ll be pretty smooth after that.”


“Good. I guess.” Kristen watched as he swung a long leg over the bike and settled himself.


Mark looked at her when she didn’t immediately move to climb on behind him. “Need an engraved invitation?”


“Nope. Just wonderin’ what Trina would say if she saw me getting on the back of a motorcycle with an inebriated man in control of it.” She said with a laugh.


“I’m not inebriated.” Mark raised an eyebrow. A slow smile spread over his lips. “Savin’ that for later. Might need it. Come on, we don’t have all day, got to get back before anybody notices you’re missin’.”


Kristen nodded and stepped forward. She tried to be as casual as Mark had been about getting on the bike. In the end, he had to give her a hand up. She settled herself as best she could and waited expectantly.


“You gonna hold on?” Mark asked, sounding for all the world like he was trying not to laugh.


“Uh…” Kristen looked down. Three inches separated her front from his back. There was nothing to hold on to. Kristen gripped her legs with her hands and gave him a confused look.


Mark shook his head and reached behind him, taking her hands. He pulled her forward until she was pressed against him, her hand at his sides. He had long hair, which was tied back in braid. The end of it tickled against Kristen’s cheek. She blew it away and leaned just a little bit away so it would not smack her when it was blown by the wind.


“You ready?” Mark asked, still smiling, hand going to the key in the ignition.


“Hell no, but go anyway.” Kristen said, her hands tightening against his sides when the bike roared to life beneath them. Mark let her get used to the feel of it for a few minutes before kicking it into gear.


“Relax, I think you’re going to like this.” He had to shout over his shoulder for her to hear. Kristen nodded, already forgetting to be afraid as the bike rolled forward.


An hour later, Mark stopped so they could rest. Kristen had no clue where she was, the only thing she knew was that she loved the motorcycle. She loved the feel of the wind and the sound and the vibrations and the feeling of freedom it gave. When they’d hit the highway north of Mark’s house, the ride had been as smooth as any car, and much more fun. She knew she was going to have to learn to ride. Soon. She wanted a motorcycle of her own.


Mark had pulled into a wide spot in the road. There were two picnic tables and some garbage cans. The view wasn’t much…an open flat field that seemed to go on for miles. Cars roared past regularly on the highway. But compared to the house, this place was blessedly private and quiet.


Mark kicked the bike onto its stand and went to a picnic table. He sat down on top of it, not on the bench attached to it, so he was facing the open field. Kristen hesitated before climbing up to sit beside him, following his gaze.


“Thank you.” She said, her voice quiet. Mark glanced at her.


“For what?”


“The ride. It was fun.” Kristen smiled at him. She saw Mark’s eyes drop to her mouth before he looked away completely, his gaze returning to the field. She felt something in her stomach do a slow flip, and rubbed her hands together nervously. Sure she’d gotten those kinds of looks before, but for some reason when Mark did it…even if it was only for a second…Kristen became suddenly aware of herself. She should have put on some lip-gloss. Or worn a better outfit. It scared her and tickled her at the same time. She’d had a hell of a day, no wonder she was having such crazy thoughts.


“No problem. Shouldn’t thank me yet. We still have the trip back.” Mark said without looking back at her. Kristen sighed and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her legs, propping her chin in her hands.


“Can I ask you a question?”


Mark snuck a look at her. “Uh…I guess.”




“Why what?” Mark waited, now looking directly at her. Kristen kept her face forward.


“Why are you marrying Renee?” She asked without infliction to her voice. She didn’t want him to think she was trying to talk him out of it.


Mark frowned and looked away again. “Long story. Complicated.”


“I’m all ears.” Kristen said, risking a look at him. He seemed so sad suddenly, and she wanted to kick herself for bringing it up.


Mark sighed. She thought for a moment he wouldn’t answer, he’d refuse to take her back to his house, he’d leave her stranded at this picnic area alone until help came. Mark surprised her.


“Met Renee about five years ago.” Mark’s voice was a deep rumble. “She seemed…kind of mercenary.” Kristen snorted. Mark half smiled before continuing. “She’s not all bad I guess. We hung out for a while, got to talkin’…”


Mark trailed off and seemed to be lost in thought. Kristen waited him out, swinging her legs to entertain herself.


“Look…nobody knows about this all right? And you can’t tell.”


“Uh…” Kristen glanced at him. Mark was looking back, something pleading in his eyes. “You don’t have to worry, I won’t say a word.” She expected something big, like maybe Renee was pregnant and he wanted to be old-fashioned and do the right thing. Or that she was blackmailing him. That seemed a better reason.


“So I’ve got my share of crazed fans.” Mark stated, seeming to go off in a different direction. Kristen looked at him in confusion. “Pushy ass people too. So I told Renee one day, couple months ago, it would be a hell of a lot easier if I could just tell them I was married…especially the women.”


“Oh.” Kristen bit her lip, still confused. “Wait…are you sayin’ your going to marry her because it’s convenient?”


Mark nodded. “Yeah. She’d be my…wife…” He had to force the word out. Even he knew he was making a big mistake, but now felt powerless to stop it. “And I’d take care of her.”


“A kept woman.” Kristen muttered.


“She’s doing a job of that herself.” Mark said dryly. “I said we’d do this quietly, just get hitched in Vegas, would take care of a lot of problems. She went crazy…bought herself a ring and is planning some big wedding. It’s not supposed to be real, that’s the thing, supposed to just be between us.”


“She’s gone overboard if you ask me.” Kristen said, thinking of the ring with the huge rock in the center.


“I might never get to retire if she keeps it up.” Mark said with a sigh.


“Then why not tell her to forget it?” Kristen asked, straightening up.


Mark shrugged. “I don’t know. I feel like it’s been taken out of my hands.”


“Well that’s a load of horse shit.”


“I know.” Mark sighed again. “I was hoping she’d calm down, this was supposed to be a marriage in name only…”


“Should have just bought yourself a band and lied.” Kristen said with a laugh.


“Yeah, well, you should know by now, that wouldn’t work. Wrestlers have their reporters too, rumor mills, it wouldn’t take long for them to figure it out.”


“Wouldn’t they figure out this marriage is a fake?” Kristen asked.


“Maybe. In time probably. But Renee was gonna live with me, separate lives and all that shit, just married when it’s a public thing.”


“Sounds complicated.”


“I tried to warn you.” Mark said with a smirk.


“So tell her it’s off. The deal is over with.”  Kristen said, rubbing her hands together.


Mark hesitated. “I don’t know if I can do that.”


“Why not?”


“Because like I said, it solves a lot of problems.”


“Seems to be that it’s creating quite a few.” Kristen shook her head. “Why don’t…”


“It’s time to head back.” Mark cut her off, sliding from the table, his movements seeming a bit jerky. Kristen raised an eyebrow and followed his lead, kicking herself for pushing when he obviously didn’t want to be pushed. It was a wonder he’d said anything to her at all. She was a stranger, and a nosy one at that.


“I’m sorry if I…”


“Don’t worry about it.” Mark waved it off and led her back to the bike. “I should have just kept my mouth shut.”


“Don’t do that. I said I would listen if you wanted to talk, I am listening, I’m just…tryin’ to understand.”


Mark stopped before he could climb onto the bike and looked at her, directly into her eyes, freezing Kristen in tracks. His expression was pained, his gaze intense. She didn’t say anything, was afraid her voice wouldn’t work.




For one crazy, breathless moment, Kristen thought that Mark was going to kiss her.


She didn’t know why she thought that, especially since they hardly knew each other. Kristen didn’t know how that made her feel, a bit scared yes, sure, he was a stranger, and an engaged stranger at that, even if it was a sham. But he was attractive, and she found herself attracted to him in a way she could not put her finger on.


The moment passed. Mark blinked and the intensity seemed to fall from his eyes. Kristen heaved a sigh, of relief or disappointment she didn’t know and didn’t want to think about.


“Come on.” Was all he said, simply, flatly. Mark climbed on the bike, and Kristen had no choice but to follow him. She got on behind him, holding onto his sides as he guided the bike back onto the highway toward his house.


Kristen was unexplainably sad. She felt that, if the situation had been different, she and Mark might have become friends. She did not know how she could know such a thing, but there it was. She got the feeling that he could use a few friends, real friends, not like his money grubbing faux fiancé or the guys he worked and traveled with.


She had to stop thinking that way. Mark was not her problem, and he didn’t seem to want her friendship. He’d asked her to come along, yes, but that didn’t mean anything. Maybe he’d just sensed a need in her to get away from the crowd, the same need that he was feeling.


The return trip seemed to go by faster, or maybe that was because Kristen wasn’t really ready to return to the party. Mark found the trail through the woods and they roared through, kicking up dirt in their wake. He came to halt near where they had started. Without the bike’s engine noise, Kristen could hear the faint sound of rock music blaring from the house a quarter mile ahead.


Mark and Kristen shared an amused look, both of them thinking they’d rather be anywhere than at that party at this very moment.


“Well…” Kristen had to say something, the silence between them had stretched for far too long. “Thanks. For the ride. My first time you know.”

“Yeah?” Mark cocked his head to the side, studying her through his dark glasses, as if measuring her against some inner gauge. “Any time you wanna go again, just say the word.”


“The word.” Kristen said it without hesitating, making him laugh. The sound of it nearly blew her away…he’d been so tense on the ride back, and so quiet…and here was an honest and open laugh.


“You wanna go back out right now?” Mark finally asked when his chuckling had stopped.


Kristen glanced at the path ahead and the path behind. “Honestly? No offense to you, but…I think five more minutes in that house, with certain of those people will send me over the edge.”


Mark smiled, just the corners of his mouth lifting. “Shoulda filled the gas tank. I have another idea. If you wanna get away from them…” He nodded toward the party sounds.


Kristen hesitated. Ok, yes, she hated being at a party full of people and no one she knew. Well there was Glen, but he was occupied and really…he’d pretty much left her to sink or swim. Never mind that she’d told him to go on and have a good time. He wouldn’t miss her, especially if he was drinking. “All right. But just so you know, I don’t usually trail along behind strange men wherever they lead.”


Mark chuckled again. “Never thought you did.” He gave her another one of those long looks, and she wished he’d take the sunglasses off. He was hard enough to read without them, with them on it was damn near impossible. “Come on. We’d better be even sneakier than last time.”


Kristen followed Mark’s lead as he pushed the bike along the path. The trees opened. The music grew in decibels. They stayed behind the garage, out of sight of the house and people who were apparently enjoying the pool. Mark unlocked the back door to the garage and Kristen held it open as he pushed the bike inside. Once he settled it, he motioned to her to follow him.


Behind the desk, in a corner, tucked away was a door. Something else she hadn’t noticed earlier. Mark used his key again and it opened on a steep set of stairs. Kristen went first, into total darkness, and listened as Mark locked the door behind them. The music from outside was appreciably muted but still audible.


Mark clicked a switch. Light flooded the stairwell. He gestured and Kristen climbed the stairs, curious as to what the hell he was keeping under lock and key in his garage.


There was another door in front of her. This one was not locked. She swung it open and stepped into the loft over the garage, taking a look around.


Apparently the basement was not Mark’s only playground. The upper floor of the garage was cool and blessedly quiet. Kristen could not even detect the thump of bass from outside now. The room was completely open except for one corner, where a door opened into a small bathroom. There was a couch, a comfortable looking chair, another one of those big televisions, and more movies than she could count lining the walls. There was also a bed in one corner, blanket tossed haphazardly across it.


“Wow.” Kristen said with a sigh. “It’s so quiet up here.”


“Yeah. Soundproofed it a while back. When people crashed here, some would stay up here. Had to put in noise blockers so they wouldn’t hear the bikes goin’ downstairs.” Mark walked over across the room and flicked another switch. More lights. Now Kristen made out bookshelves surrounding the bed.


“Like your own little hideaway.” She said, turning to look around. There were no windows. The walls were painted cream, the floor gleaming hardwood. Behind her, there was a kitchen. Kristen raised an eyebrow and took in the stove and sink, the refrigerator, even a microwave. “You stay up here a lot?”


Mark shook his head, watching her as she looked around. “Only when there’s a party goin’ on that I want nothing to do with.”


Kristen laughed and turned to face him. He’d finally removed the sunglasses that shielded his eyes, pushing them up to the top of his head. “Who knows about this place?”


Mark shrugged. “Glen maybe. He might remember. A couple of other guys from work. Most people think I just use it as attic space.”


“So nobody knows where we are.” Kristen commented softly. The idea should have scared her. Alone in some secret room with a man she barely knew. Instead she felt a little quiver of excitement run through her. She’d led a fairly sheltered life since starring in her first movie, and this was risky for her. She laughed at herself for the thought. How sad, that this was as dangerous as she got in real life. Her movie characters were more adventurous. They were never confused, they always knew what to do. She wished she could be more like them.


“Not even Renee. She hates the garage.” Mark shook his head again, as if such a thought were incomprehensible.


“Well good. At least it’s a place for you to come and unwind.” Kristen smiled and moved toward the couch and chair. She ran her hand lightly across the top of the leather couch, smiling at the soft feel of it. Well used and cared for, it was huge. She wanted to just stretch out on it and enjoy the feeling of peace of quiet that was in the room. “Thank you for showing me.”


“I guess it’s implied you should keep this quiet too. I don’t hordes of people trampling through here.”


“Of course.” Kristen sank down onto the couch and smiled at him. Mark hesitated before stepped over and standing uncertainly between the couch and chair.


“So…do you want to watch a movie? Listen to some decent music?” He pointed to a stereo system that Kristen hadn’t even noticed, and stacks of CDs under the shelf that held it. “Take a nap?” He asked with a smile.


Kristen laughed. “I don’t really need a nap.” She shifted, getting comfortable. “Do you want to watch a movie?”


Mark shrugged. “You’re the guest here.”


“That I am.” Kristen grinned. “Got any romantic comedy?” At his disgusted look, she laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m kidding. I don’t watch that stuff.”


“Damn good thing. I was about to throw you down the stairs.” He glared at her menacingly. Kristen giggled. “How about one of yours?”


“One of my what?” Kristen asked, still laughing.


“One of your movies.” Mark rolled his eyes. “I have a couple up here…” He went to look at the shelves. Kristen shook her head.


“I hate watching myself.” She admitted, smile playing at the corners of her mouth.


“How the hell do you learn what you’re doing wrong if you don’t?” Mark looked at her over his shoulder.


“Uhm…well, I have a director that tells me what I’m doing wrong.” Kristen said thoughtfully. “Why? Is that what you do when you wrestle?”


Mark nodded. “Hell, I’m about sick of watchin’ myself. You’d think I’d have this business down by now.” He chuckled.


“I don’t watch much wrestling.” By not much, Kristen meant she didn’t watch it at all. There just didn’t seem to be time. Her mother would record Glen’s matches, and Kristen would run them in the background while she worked out or did other things, but she hadn’t paid any real attention. Glen didn’t seem to take it personally.


“It’s got its good and bad.” Mark eyed her again. “Some of it’s good, most of it’s shit.” He repeated his words from earlier, making her laugh.


“So how do you tell the difference?” She asked.


Mark shrugged. “You want to watch some? I can attempt to explain some things.” He ran a finger down a row of cases on the movie shelf. “Here…this one. From about nine years ago. You interested?”


“Sure.” Kristen smiled.


“I’ll fast forward the boring shit. We’ll just hit the highlights.” Mark said, sliding the DVD into the player. He sat next to Kristen without thinking about it, ready to delve into his profession, to explain it. She could see that he really loved his job, this wrestling thing. She made herself pay attention as the DVD began playing and Mark gave his own play-by-play of the action.


True to his word, he skipped over what he thought would bore her and played out scenes that he thought she’d find funny. Some guy terrorizing the owner of the company. Another one so full of himself the crowd could not help but love him. They watched a few of the matches on the DVD, and Kristen was riveted by what she was seeing. Why hadn’t she ever taken time to watch this stuff before? Mark seemed to have more passion for it than Glen did. Not to say Glen didn’t love it as much, but it seemed as if wrestling were in Mark’s blood, as if it was what he was born to do.


The DVD ended. Mark popped in another one, this time letting the whole thing play out. A few of the bouts were very slow. Mark muttered ‘bathroom matches’ under his breath, and Kristen had to laugh. She knew a lot of movies made had lulls in the middle, and that’s when most people would pay a visit to the restroom. It seemed to be the same concept, although during the wrestling show it was more accidental than anything.


Mark showed her a segment where he held a woman captive, tied to a strange symbol. He was going on and on about making her his dark bride. A bald man ran in to save her at the last second. Kristen eyed Mark critically. “What would have happened if he hadn’t shown up?” She asked, smirking.


Mark shrugged. “I don’t know. They didn’t write it out that far.”


“I can’t see you doing that.”


“Doing what?”


“All that dark stuff.” Kristen waved at the TV. Mark smiled, a glint in his eye.


“Oh, you can’t?” He gave her a look, smile fading, and Kristen laughed as he tried to intimidate her. “That usually works. Damn. Here…” He skipped around on the DVD until he found a segment of his, obviously a few years later, riding to the ring on one of his motorcycles. He wore leather pants and a ripped shirt, long red hair tied back with a bandana.


“Now that is more like it.” Kristen watched the screen as Mark cut his promo, less evil and way more redneck than the segment before. The DVD ended. Mark put it back into place.


“Had enough yet?” He asked, smirking.


“It was just starting to get interesting.” Kristen grumbled. She eyed him, took in his jeans, his boots, his t-shirt, and tried to imagine him wearing black leather. The mental image came to her easily enough.


Mark sat down again and pushed a button on the remote. The channel changed away from the DVD screen and onto a news station. He muted the sound and turned toward Kristen. “We’ve been up here for two hours.”


“What?” Kristen glanced down at her watch. Holy cow, he was right. It was no longer afternoon, but evening, late evening. Almost seven. “Time flies.”


“Yup.” Mark smiled. “I’m sure the party is still going strong if you want to go down there.”


“Are you finally?” She asked, looking up into his eyes.


He shook his head. “Think I’ll pass on this one. They can just get drunk without me.”


“Ah. Well.” Kristen cleared her throat. “It’s kind of obvious that I’m not missed.”


“Oh? They don’t know where you are, and you can’t hear them if they’re yellin’ for you.” Mark pointed out.


“True. But Glen would probably remember this place and bust the door down if we didn’t open it, so I feel fairly secure.” Kristen smiled. “I’d like to stay. If you don’t mind.”


“Don’t mind a bit.” Mark was still facing her, still looking down at her, and once again that intense look crossed his features. Kristen’s lips tingled. She knew, she KNEW he wanted to kiss her, and it was wrong, but damn it…she wanted him to do it. It was crazy. Even though they’d spent most of the day together, even though she knew his big secret, Kristen still felt like she didn’t know Mark. Not all of him.


“I think maybe…” She barely got the words out. Mark leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers, stunning her into silence. Kristen hesitated for a moment before kissing him back, just lips on lips. Mark tilted his head, reaching up with one hand to trace a line across her jaw and angle her mouth a bit better. He deepened the kiss, his tongue flicking over her lower lip, urging her to open up for him. Kristen did it, she could not help it, she sighed into his mouth as his tongue invaded hers. His goatee tickled her skin, his lips were firm and sensuous against hers, and damn it he tasted good, he smelled good, it was like sensory overload and it had all come from just one steamy little kiss.




Kristen lost herself for what felt like a year as Mark kissed her.


In the silent room, the only sound was their breathing and the soft noises they both made in the backs of their throats. Mark’s had slid under the seam of her shirt, his big palm laying against her side, and that touch, his hot hand on her overheated body, brought Kristen back, reminded her of who she was with and what they were doing.


“Stop…” She tore her lips from his and pushed at his chest, forcing him to back off a few inches. Mark looked down at her, his gaze still intense, his green eyes darker than they had been.


“Wha…oh…damn it. I’m sorry.” Mark seemed to shake himself out of the fog he’d been in and looked away from her. “I don’t know why I…”


“It’s all right. I…uh…” Kristen licked her lips, and they felt swollen under her tongue. He’d kissed her good. His goatee had probably scraped a few red marks onto her skin. She’d live. “It’s not that I didn’t like it…”


“Yeah.” Mark reached up and tugged his hair loose from the braid that held it. He thoughtfully combed his fingers through his hair before smoothing a hand over his mouth, down his goatee.


“But…it’s not…it’s…” Kristen was at a loss for words. She sighed heavily, willing her breathing to slow down. “We hardly know each other and I don’t…I’m not normally the kind of person who would…”


“Yeah.” Mark repeated. He glanced at her, amusement in his eyes.


“And…you’re getting married.” Kristen continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “Even if its…not real…I can’t…it just seems…”


Mark reached over and took her hand. He stoked the back of it with his fingers, looking down and marking the movements with his eyes. “I don’t know what I was thinkin’.” He said, his voice a bit thick. Kristen turned her hand in his, gripping his fingers in hers.


She didn’t know what to say. Again. The kiss had been good, more than good, fantastic, mind blowing…and somehow so wrong. Her stomach still tingled from where he’d put his hand under her shirt. She rubbed absently at the spot with her free hand.


“You don’t…act like your famous.” Mark said softly. “Easy to forget who you are. You’re not what I expected.”


Kristen smiled weakly. “I hear that a lot.”


Mark brought her hand up and kissed the back of it. A shiver went up Kristen’s arm. Mark met her eyes, his expression guarded and thoughtful. She had to admit it…he scared her. Not scared as in fearing for her life. Not even scared because of his size. She knew herself, she knew her mind and heart, and she knew without a doubt that it would be too damned easy to fall for this guy. He was a mystery, he pulled her in, she wanted to know about him, and as she learned things about him, she’d only want him more. He’d been proving that to her all day long.


And what good would that do? He was getting married. Sure, it was a fake marriage, it was wrong, even more wrong than the kiss they’d shared, but so what? It wasn’t like half the marriages in Hollywood weren’t fake. Some stars got together just to shut the tabloids up, she knew it, she understood that’s how it worked when you were in the spotlight. But such things tended to self-destruct, and quickly. Did she really want to be the other woman? Because if Mark was serious about marrying Renee, that would be all she could expect from him.


Kristen studied him, taking in every feature. She wished she were the type of person who could have a one-night stand, a fling, and just walk away from it when it was over. She had never been that way, she preferred getting to know a person really well before sleeping with them.


The hell of it was, while her mind told her it was wrong, that she should just walk away and forget this whole mess…her body was passing along an entirely different message. She wanted to push Mark away and climb on top of him at the same time, a concept that was almost dizzying to her. She took a deep breath and surprised herself by speaking.


“Do you sleep with her?”


Mark raised an eyebrow, staring into her eyes, managing to look amused. “No.”


“Ever at all?”


“No. Never have. Never will.” Mark sighed and rubbed his free hand down his cheek. “I don’t care if she wants to screw anything that moves as long as she’s discreet about it. I know that’s trouble waiting to happen. Renee’s not very good at being subtle.”


Kristen laughed nervously. “I hadn’t noticed.” Her sarcasm was weak. She felt herself swaying toward him.


Mark watched her, fingers tightening on hers a bit. “Kristen…if you really don’t want to do anything, you’d better stop givin’ me that look.”


Kristen half smiled. “What look? And call me Kris, please.”


“Kris then.” Mark’s deep voice was a low rumble when he spoke her name, and another one of those shivers went down her back. “And it’s that look that says you’re thinkin’ naughty thoughts.”


That got a laugh from her. It sounded strange to Kristen’s ears, huskier than normal. “Maybe I am. How could I not be? After that kiss…” She trailed off and leaned closer to him, resting her head against his arm. “I want.” She said it simply, surprising herself.


“Kris…” Mark sounded as if he didn’t believe her. Kristen reached out with her free hand and rested it flat against his chest, stroking him through his shirt. She felt him suck in a breath and smiled a little, amazed that she had this strange power over him already.


“I don’t know why, or how…but I want.” She repeated it, giving his fingers a squeeze. Mark groaned and let go of her hand, turning to pull her fully against his chest. Kristen snuggled close to him, his heart beating against her cheek, his arms wrapped around her. “I won’t tell you to stop again.” She said softly. Mark seemed to hold his breath at that. Kristen pulled back, leaning to look up into his eyes. Her hands crept up to his face, cupping his cheeks. She pulled him down and pressed her mouth to his, kissing him again, wiggling closer to him.


Mark groaned again, this time deeper in his throat, and kissed her back, exploring her with his tongue, nibbling her lower lip, sucking her tongue into his mouth. Kristen’s fingers slid from his cheeks to his shoulders, gripping him, digging in as he angled his mouth to kiss her deeper. Breathless they broke apart, and looked shyly at each other.


Mark didn’t say a word. He rose to his feet, easily picking Kristen up in his arms. Five steps took them to the bed. He set her gently down on the mattress and stood there for a minute, studying her, watching the rise and fall of her chest as she tried to catch her breath.


Kristen let him look before pushing herself up on her elbows. She reached out and hooked her fingers through the waistband of his jeans, tugging him until he was on the bed, almost on top of her. She fell onto her back, Mark on his side. He kissed her again, slowly, leisurely, taking his time and taking her breath again. He raised a hand and touched her cheek with his fingertips, sliding them down her jaw, her neck. He caressed her collarbone, the hollow of her throat, her shoulder, fingers sweeping across her skin lazily. Kristen squirmed under his touch, feeling as if she were being set on fire by the light contact.


Mark broke the kiss and looked into her eyes as his fingers encountered the top of her shirt. Kristen bit her lip and waited, whimpering when his fingers traced the edge of the fabric, brushing the tops of her breasts. He slid one thin strap down her shoulder, then the other, fingers never leaving her skin. His hand returned to her chest and he slowly inched the material down, his fingers sliding back and forth across every bit that was exposed.


Kristen moaned as his fingers brushed across her nipples through the thin material of the bra she wore. Mark did not stop, he continued his slow exploration until her shirt was bunched around her stomach. He placed his hand palm flat on the skin of her upper belly and stroked across it, from left to right, his hand inching upward. Kristen murmured to him and Mark leaned down and kissed her again. His hand did not stop moving. He swept it over her sides, across her chest, her shoulders, her arms.


Mark once again broke the kiss, trailing his mouth along her jaw and down her neck. Kristen felt his fingers brush the front clasp of her bra at the same time his mouth latched onto the sensitive skin beneath her ear. She squirmed harder now, moaning his name. Mark slid a finger under the clasp and deftly snapped it open, letting the material fall away from her breasts as she breathed. His mouth slid lower and he sucked on the skin over her collarbone.


Kristen tangled her fingers into Mark’s hair as his mouth retraced the trail his fingers had taken. He licked and sucked and nibbled until she thought she was going to go crazy.


Mark brought his hand up and cupped her breast. Kristen arched against him, wiggling. Mark squeezed gently before sliding his hand up, his palm brushing over her nipple. It hardened against his hot skin. He slid to her other breast and repeated the move. Kristen moaned again, tugging at his hair, wanting his mouth on her, unable to say the words.


Mark shifted down a bit, his hand once again cupping her breast. He slowly lowered his head, his lips brushing across the tip of her nipple. Kristen moaned again, louder, not knowing what she liked more…his soft hot lips or the rasp of his goatee on her excited flesh. Mark opened his mouth and sucked her nipple inside, making her arch off the bed again. His tongue swirled over the hardened peak, around and around, the flicked back and forth. He pulled back, releasing her nipple, and blew a stream of cool air over it. Kristen released Mark’s hair and stretched her arms over her head, wanting him to do as he wished, wanting to just enjoy him touching her.


He didn’t need more invitation than that. Mark went to work on her other breast, teeth scraping gently on her nipple, lips soothing it. Kristen panted out his name again, not wanting him to stop, it felt too damned good for that, but wanting him to put out the fire he’d started.


Mark seemed to sense her urgency. As he sucked at her nipple his hands went lower and he fumbled with the button fly of her jeans. Kristen raised her hips as he eased her jeans down her legs, laughing breathlessly as he tugged her boots off with them. Mark slid from the bed and pulled his own clothes off before straddling her legs and crawling up the bed to press down against her body, full length, skin to skin.


Kristen wrapped her arms around Mark’s shoulders and looked up at him. He smiled slowly, ducking his head and kissing her breathless again. She could feel his erection pressed against her leg and she squirmed and wiggled, trying to make the most of the hot feel of him on her. Mark muttered against her mouth and slid a hand down her side, over her hip, between their bodies. Kristen moaned as his fingers slipped against her, onto her clit, her hips bucking up every time he stroked against the sensitive little nub of flesh.


Mark used his knee to part her legs, settled between her spread thighs, his hand still moving slowly against her center. Kristen couldn’t take much of the teasing, she wanted him, wanted him inside her, so much that it scared her a little bit.


“Mark…” His name was a whispery sigh on her lips as Kristen pulled at him, bringing his chest down to brush hers. “I want…want you inside me. Now.” She said hoarsely, barely able to get the words out. Mark moaned at her admittance and stopped stroking her clit. He guided his cock to her dripping entrance and hesitated before he entered her body.


“You sure…you wanna do this? It’ll kill me to stop, but…”


“Oh…just…hell…” Kristen wrapped her legs around Mark’s hips and pulled him in with her thighs, moaning loudly in acceptance as his cock filled her. He had wanted to go slow, take his time, but she had other ideas, ramming herself up from the bed so that his full length was buried on the first stroke. They moaned together. Mark sensed her need to be taken and obliged her, thrusting into her willing body harder than he’d planned on doing. He’d wanted to take his time, explore, but Kristen…she just did something to him, pushed him over the edge and beyond all control.


Kristen was breathing hard under him, angling her hips so his cock brushed her clit with every move. Her moans were louder, closer together, as she worked her body with his to maximize the pleasure she was feeling. Mark grunted and slammed into her even faster, not trying to control it anymore, losing himself in the feel of her body clinging to him.


Kristen suddenly went rigid under him, her whole body jerking upward as her orgasm took her. She gasped and moaned and squirmed, holding him so close Mark had a hard time breathing. But the feel of her was too much, he could not hold out any longer, having her under him, moaning his name was more than he could handle. He pounded into her aching flesh one last time and came, buried inside her, feeling the aftershocks of her orgasm along the length of his cock.


Neither of them tried to move. Mark kept his weight off of Kristen, resting on his elbows. Her hands slid up and down his back, stroking him lightly. Her legs were shaking. Mark eased them down from around his hips and slowly moved to his side, slipping out of her body and pulling her with him, cradling her in his arms.


“Wow.” Kristen breathed out. Mark chuckled.


“I…uh…kinda wanted it to go a little longer, but…”


“Don’t ruin it. I wanted it like that.” Kristen said with a giggle. “I don’t know why…but I did.”


Mark smiled and nuzzled the top of her head. “I don’t want you thinkin’ that I do this…all the time. I don’t. I don’t know why the hell I did it now.”


“Gee, thanks.” Kristen said sarcastically, laughing.


“I didn’t mean that in a bad way.” Mark poked her side and kissed her forehead. “I just…I don’t know…”


“That’s better.” Kristen kissed him on the chest and sighed. “Should I feel guilty?”


“No.” Mark said it with no hesitation.


“Good. Cuz I don’t have to feel bad that I don’t.” Kristen yawned, stretching in his arms. It was almost enough to get him going again, the way her skin slid against his.


“Don’t…don’t feel bad. We both wanted it.” Mark stroked her back.


“What time is it?” Kristen asked, looking up at him. Mark glanced across the bed at a clock that was on the wall.


“Eight. Almost.”


“Damn.” Kristen kissed his chest again before angling her head and pulling his lips to hers for another kiss. “I didn’t realize how late it was. I think I’d better find the energy to get back to the party.” She told him after they pulled away from each other.


Mark smirked and nodded. “I guess.” He released her reluctantly and helped Kristen to her feet, handing her the items she’d been wearing. “Better take a quick shower. Don’t wanna let anybody know what we were up to in here.”


Kristen laughed and ducked into the bathroom. She found an elastic band on the sink, and used it to pin her hair up before stepping into the shower. She quickly washed off and toweled dry before getting dressed and rejoining Mark in the main room. She surprised herself again. She really didn’t feel guilty. She felt…good. Tired, a bit sore, but better than she had in weeks. Relaxed. She took a seat on the couch while Mark used the shower, toying idly with the remote that was on the cushion next to her.


She couldn’t believe she’d had sex with Mark. It had been impulsive, reckless…things she was not used to. Kristen had always been so careful, but this time…she’d gotten swept away in the moment, in the passion, and had lost all her sense. Not that she was going to complain, it had been wonderful, sharing Mark’s bed. But she knew that was all it could be. This one time, this one day. He was getting married, for the wrong reasons, but married all the same. They’d used each other briefly, an outlet for stress, each with their own reasons. Kristen would have to move on, forget about him, go back to her life and forget about his problems. The thought made her feel sad, close to crying, so she brushed it away. No sense in worrying about what she could not have. Mark was taken, he belonged to Renee, even if it wasn’t real.




“Where the hell have you been?” Glen slurred out as soon as Kristen found him, in the front yard, involved in a complicated looking drinking game with a group of inebriated men.


“Around.” Kristen had ducked out the back door of the garage and slipped into the crowd unnoticed. Yet still she thought…if anyone looked at her, they’d know exactly where she’d been, what she’d been doing, and who she’d been doing it with. Ridiculous notion, and as close to feeling guilty as she got.


“Wanna play?” Glen leaned down and Kristen waved a hand in front of her face as his breath puffed over her, full of the smell of alcohol.


“I think you’ve had enough, don’t you? I have to go to the airport tonight, remember?” Kristen took Glen’s cup from his hand, ignoring his protests. She dumped the liquid out on the lawn.


“Dude…party foul!” The blue haired man from earlier, Jeff, came sauntering up, cackling at his own joke. Kristen gave him a glare and made as if to snatch his drink too. Jeff was faster than Glen, and danced out of her way before she could get a hold of him.


“Ahh…you should stay the night, Krissy.” Glen laughed and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close. Even though the music was a pounding fast rock beat, Glen started swaying back and forth as if to a slow dance number. Kristen shook her head, extricating herself from his arms.


“Don’t call me Krissy, Glenny.” Kristen sighed and looked around. The sun was going down, the party was in full swing, and everyone looked six sheets to the wind. Seven, she amended to herself as a blonde in a body suit tripped over her own feet and sprawled to the ground amidst her own giggles. “I really gotta go. Remember? Flight leaves at ten. We agreed not to get too wasted.”


“Eh…” Glen waved a hand, obviously intimating that she was being a party pooper. Kristen cursed under her breath and glanced around again. “I can’t take you, I’ve a too much…” Glen shouted again just as the music came to a crashing stop. People around them laughed at his slur then went back to their own drinking and dancing.


“Seriously.” Kristen started to step away, either to get to the truck for her phone, or to brave the inside of Mark’s house for his landline. Either way, she was in a cab out of there. She’d had enough. And now that she’d had time to think, time away from Mark, she was starting to realize just how embarrassing her actions had been. Good grief, she’s practically thrown herself at him, and he was trapped in a loveless relationship. No wonder they couldn’t resist it.


A hand caught her arm before she could get far. Kristen turned on her heel, more than ready to read Glen the riot act. She found herself looking up into Mark’s green eyes instead. Something wordless passed between them, and Kristen felt a shiver work its way down her back.


“Need a lift outta here?” Mark said, his voice low but perfectly understandable over the noise.


Kristen nodded weakly. She really didn’t think she could take an hour trip in a vehicle with him. She might decide to take up giving road head. There was a thought. Her cheeks flushed, and she tore her eyes from Mark’s to stare at the ground.


“I’m gonna ride with ya…see my woman off…” Glen said, hooking an arm over Kristen’s shoulders. She had a feeling it was more for his stability than hers as Mark led them through the throng of people.  Glen’s truck was closest, so Mark got them settled before sliding into the driver’s seat. Kristen sat between the two big men, feeling for all the world like a little kid. They were quiet, even Glen, he seemed to be entering the somber stage of drunkenness where he would talk about his mistakes, lament his losses, and cry into his beer. Kristen was glad she was going to miss it.


Mark was quiet during the trip, thoughtful. Every time he moved, he brushed against Kristen in some way, and every time it happened, she felt as if a bolt of electricity had been released into her. She had to get away from him, for both their sakes. If Glen hadn’t been in the truck, she might have told Mark to pull over for a quickie.


A noise to her right jarred Kristen from her carnal thoughts. She glanced at Glen, laughing. He’d fallen asleep…or passed out, his head lolling to the side, mouth open, snoring. “What a party animal.” Kristen said with a laugh, giving Glen’s hand a pat.


“You can say that again.” Mark finally spoke, surprising her.


“You get drunk with him more than I do. Does he do this all the time?” Kristen risked looking up at him. Mark was concentrating on the road, which made it much easier to talk to him.


“Pretty much.” He smirked, reaching down to turn on the headlights. Night was falling quickly. Kristen glanced at the clock in the dashboard and sighed. The day had gone by so fast, so much had happened. If she could get home and sneak in without Trina noticing, she’d have a good eight or so hours to set her brain straight. If Trina was awake…and Kristen had an idea she’d probably be…then she was in for a world-class scolding.


“Awesome.” Kristen shifted, resting more comfortably against the seat. “Look…”


“Don’t.” Mark said it softly, stopping the words before they could fully form.


Kristen looked up at him, her fingers twisted together in her lap. “I just wanted you to know…I had a good time.”


Mark glanced at her briefly, a smile forming. “Me too.”


“I’m glad we got to spend the time.” Kristen admitted.


“Best damn thing that’s happened to me in a long time, Kris.” Mark reached out and put his right hand over both of hers, stilling the movements she was making. “Don’t second guess it. We’re adults, consenting adults, and we gave in to some adult fun. It doesn’t have to be more than that.”


Kristen sighed, not sure if she was relieved. She’d been going to say something along the same line, but didn’t know if it was for her benefit of Mark’s. The whole day had been confusing, too much had happened. She longed for her house, her bed, her views from the bedroom windows. She almost wished she hadn’t come to this thing with Glen, but…if she hadn’t then she wouldn’t have met Mark. Of course, if she hadn’t met Mark she wouldn’t be feeling the way she was feeling.


They finished the ride in silence. Mark waited in the truck while Kristen got Glen up and moving. Glen shuffled into the airport for a cup of coffee, leaving Kristen to grab her overnight bag that was behind the bench seat.


“Kris…” Kristen was shouldering the bag, ready to slam the door shut, when Mark’s voice stopped her. She looked at him expectantly, across the expanse of the seat. It might as well have been the length of a football field. She knew that was about as close as they were going to get. Mark sighed heavily and unclasped his seatbelt, getting out of the truck. He came around, Kristen turning as he moved, until he was standing in front of her. Without another word, he bent down and kissed her gently on the lips. Kristen wanted to grab on to him and not let him go, but she restrained herself. She kissed him back, willingly, wishing the moment would go on and on and she didn’t have to get on the plane just yet.


Mark finally pulled back, that sad look once more dominating his eyes. Kristen couldn’t stand it anymore. She gently pushed him away and walked into the airport, not looking back.


Glen walked her to the gate moments before her flight was announced. “You call me in the mornin’, let me know you got there in one piece.”


“If Trina lets me.” Kristen said with a laugh.


“Yeah, that too.” Glen swigged his coffee, emptying the cup. “Why the hell did I drink so much?”


“It’s a party. Go back and enjoy it.” Kristen smiled as the flight number was repeated. “I gotta run.”


“Yep. Good seein’ ya, as usual Krissy.” Glen hugged her close and planted a chaste kiss on her lips. Kristen gave his cheek a pinch and walked away to board her plane and head home.


The flight took five hours, including a layover in St Louis. Kristen was exhausted, drained physically and emotionally. She could not sleep on the flight. She never could get comfortable in an airplane, even if she was flying first class. The flight was mostly empty, but a few of the people on the plane recognized her. Kristen dutifully signed autographs until a stewardess took mercy on her and shooed the people back to their seats.


At three-thirty in the morning, Kristen got her car from the lot at the airport, dreading the half hour drive home. She made it in one piece, amazed she’d managed it. The gate across her driveway rumbled open and John, one of her put-upon bodyguards, waved lazily from a small building next to the gate. Kristen was relieved to see him. John understood her need to get away from time to time, to be plain old Kris instead of superstar Kristen. As long as he knew where she was, and had a way to get in touch with her, he let her have all the room she needed.


The lights were off, both in the house and at the small guest cottage in the rear. Kristen counted her blessings. Trina had apparently taken herself off to bed, resting up for the screaming she’d be doing in the morning. Kristen parked in the garage and dragged her feet all the way into the house. She stopped for a bottle of water in her large kitchen, and struggled up the stairs to her room.


She stripped, not bothering with pajamas. She’d probably pass out before she could wrestle them on anyway. Kristen collapsed into bed, pulling her blankets tightly around her body, asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillows.





A loud noise brought Kristen awake.


She blinked blearing at the sunlight that flooded into the room, trying to clear her eyes. The noise came again. Kristen focused on Trina, who was standing at the foot of her bed, clearing her throat dramatically.


“Time is it?” Kristen managed to mutter thickly, ignoring the dark look the other woman was giving her.


“Time for you to get your ass outta bed and tell me what the holy fuck you think you were doin’ yesterday.” Trina tossed something onto the bed. Kristen looked down and blinked at the magazine that was resting on her legs. Not a magazine, one of those damned tabloid papers. Reluctantly she picked it up, grimacing at the picture on the front page.


Someone had snapped a photograph of Glen kissing her goodbye at the airport the night before. “Assholes work fast.” Kristen muttered, glancing at the headline. Kris Williams Caught In Clench. Right. She snickered and flipped the magazine open, wanting to see how wrong the article was that accompanied the picture.


“I don’t see the fuckin’ humor in this, Kristen.” Trina put her hands on her hips and tapped a foot. She was angry beyond words, not just because it was her job, but she genuinely cared for Kristen’s welfare and safety. And Kristen didn’t seem to give a damn about either. “Getting tangled up with…a wrestler! Kane of all people! Hell if you wanted dick, you could have gotten it here!”


Kristen sighed and shook her head, she had known this rant was coming but she still was not ready for it. “Trina…hold on all right?” Trina glowered at her but stopped mid yell to let Kristen get a drink of water. “Look, Glen and I are friends. That’s it, that’s all, no dick involved. I did go to see him yesterday, we hardly get to visit each other. I didn’t know some jerkoff would be snappin’ photos in the airport when I left.”


“You guys look awfully cozy.” Trina said, eyes narrowed.


“He gave me a little peck goodbye. That’s all.” Kristen sighed. “I knew this would happen sooner or later. Look, Glen and I knew people would get the wrong idea, that’s why we didn’t tell anybody. I was going to spend some time with him and scoot on back here, I’m a big girl, I can make that kind of choice you know.”


“Of course you can. With the proper fuckin’ precautions.” Trina reminded her.


“Look, obviously you know who Glen is.” Kristen pointed out. Trina was the wrestling fan, she loved that stuff, got a kick out of watching grown men beat the hell out of each other. “He wouldn’t let anything happen to me, all right? We’re best friends, I’ve known him for ages.”


“Well that’s beside the point.”  Trina refused to give up her argument. “You got another one yesterday.”




“Shit is right. Frank wants to hire a private investigator to find the guy writing those fuckin’ letters, and you wanna run around hell and high water, getting kissy faced with some wrestler!”


“I was not…” Kristen glanced at the picture. “Ok, I did kiss him. But hell, I kiss my mom the exact same way! To hell with what these rags think.” Kristen threw the magazine aside and got up from the bed. “I’m a grown woman, I’m a human being, if they don’t like it, fuckin’ tough!”


Trina looked surprised at her outburst, but more importantly, she stopped arguing. Briefly. Kristen knew she would regroup but for now, she was stunned into silence. Kristen didn’t often let the F word out, and when it did, it usually meant she was as close to angry as she ever got.


“I will see whoever I want to see, be friends with whoever I want to be friends with, and I don’t give a fuck what they think of it!” Kristen gestured at the tabloid on the floor for emphasis.


“Damn woman.” Trina sounded awed. “Look, if you want a play date with your friend something can be arranged, but running off alone is kinda dangerous.”


“Yeah, yeah, tell me something I haven’t heard a million times already.” Kristen huffed and paced around the room, agitated.


“It’s for your…”


“Own good.” Kristen spit it out.  She’d heard it a million times already, and was sure Trina would say it a million more. “You know, I thought when I moved away from home, I’d be leaving Mom behind.”


“No such luck.” Trina smiled. The phone rang, preventing her from going on. “Yeah?” Trina picked it up and answered in her usual friendly way. She listened for a moment, then held out the phone. “Frank.”


Kristen took the phone and gave herself a moment to calm down. Frank was her agent, and a damned good one at that. There was no sense taking out her irrational anger on him.


“Hi Frank.” Kristen finally put the phone to her ear.


“Heya kiddo. Have a good time chasin’ that wrestler yesterday?” Frank was in his fifties, a charmer, and had a wicked sense of humor. Kristen rolled her eyes.


“Don’t start with me.”

“It’s my job to start with you. Speaking of which, I have some news.”


“Go ahead. Lay it on me.” Kristen sat on the edge of the bed and waited.


“Your zombie movie is a go.”


“What? Really?”


“Yes, really. They haggled all day yesterday, finally gave it the green light.”


“What’s the budget?” Kristen shared a look with Trina. They had both been quite taken with a script that Kristen had been sent. It was written by a young woman who had a flair for the walking dead. Kristen had fallen in love with the story, and had let Trina read it to make sure it was right for her. Trina had been all go since page one. She loved the concept, and she loved the thought of Kristen playing the lead female.


“Thirty million. Double the offered cost.” Frank chuckled. “They’re building it on your reputation. So if it flops, you flop. It’s riding on you. No pressure.”


“Yeah, of course not.” Kristen rolled her eyes.


“They’re still throwing out names for lead male. You have a preference?” Frank asked.


“They haven’t cast Jack yet?” Kristen laughed. Her part in the movie, even if the whole thing rode on her stardom, was secondary to the role of Jack, the male hero. She’d been cast first, on the assumption that her name would draw more money and better prospects. So far so good. The script was interesting…Kristen would be playing a divorced mom, protecting her child from a zombie outbreak in their small town. Jack, the ex-husband, would save them all. The last pages of the script were blank, the writer had not wanted to give away the ending and the director agreed. So no one really knew how it all turned out. Kristen was excited. It wasn’t just a horror flick, it was a gory love story, with Jack seeking salvation for the wrongs he’d done to his ex wife Mallory and daughter Brianna.


“Well they’ve been talkin’ about a few. Leo is the frontrunner at the moment.”


“Leo. DiCaprio?” Kristen made a face.


Trina, who had listened to Kristen’s end of the conversation in unaccustomed silence, rolled her eyes. “Oh hell NO. Leo Duh-do-do is NOT Jack. He’d ruin the whole fuckin’ movie!”


Kristen giggled. Trina always said the actor’s name like that, and every time she did it, it was worth a laugh. “You heard Trina. No Leo.”


“Well if you have a better idea, you should call your casting people. They’re going to start calling people this week.” Frank informed her.


“All right. Thanks Frank. See you sometime this week.” Kristen hung up the phone and smiled at Trina. It was obvious she was still irked about the tabloid. Kristen ignored it for now. “So…who do you think would play a good Jack?” She asked, trying to picture someone in the role.


“How about your buddy Kane?” Trina asked, sarcasm all but dripping from her voice.


“Glen?” Kristen mulled it over.


“Dude, you and I both know he’s totally wrong for the part.” Trina shook her head, exasperated again. “He’s big and he’s a bad ass but really, Kane is not Jack. No way. I can’t wait to see that sequel to his other movie though.” Trina’s eyes went dreamy. “Now, if you really want a wrestler to play Jack, you’d have to use Taker.”


“Taker?” Kristen squeaked out. Good grief, she was trying her hardest to put Mark out of her mind and Trina had reminded her all over again.


“You now, damn, he’d be perfect. He’s broody and he can play a tortured soul and…” Trina frowned a bit. “What’s wrong? You look like I just kicked you in the face.”


“Got a little headache.” Kristen muttered. She rubbed her temples.


“Ah…I’ll get you an aspirin.” Trina wandered into the bathroom that was attached to Kristen’s bedroom, still talking over her shoulder. “I’ll run out to the house, grab a tape, I’ll show you. He’s perfect. And I just happen to know from reading up on the ‘net that he’s going to taking some time off in a couple of weeks.  Maybe he’d do it. Hell, hard to tell from what I hear, he’s hard to pin down in his free time…” She came back into the room. Kristen looked positively green. “What’s wrong? Hung over? It would serve you right…”


“I didn’t drink last night.” Kristen muttered. She accepted the aspirin and a glass of water that Trina held out, swallowing the pill in a gulp.


“Coulda fooled me.” Trina took the glass from her and shook her head again. “So…what’s the word? Want me to try to get in touch with him?”


“With who?” Kristen lay back down and pulled the blanket up to her chin. She really, really did not want to hear what Trina was saying. How would it be possible to forget yesterday ever happened if she were making a movie and Mark was there every single day? And they would have to do a love scene! She would not even harbor the idea.


“Taker, ya goob.” Trina sighed. “What’s wrong with you?”


“I’m not feelin’ to hot right now.”


“You should be on cloud fuckin’ nine considering you’re about to make a few million bucks. But if you’re sick, you’re sick. Need me to call the doc?”


“No. I just want to lay down for a bit. I’ll be fine.” Kristen feigned a yawn. She wasn’t sleepy, but she did want to be alone, for a while, again. Now that she’d had some sleep, and a while to think, she knew that the day before had been a mistake, a big one, and Kristen didn’t want to spend the rest of her life dwelling on it.


Trina grabbed the cordless phone that Kristen had used and left the room, a wicked smile on her face. She didn’t care what Kristen thought of her idea, the Undertaker was absolutely perfect for the role of Jack. She dialed Frank’s number as she went downstairs.


“Hey Frank.” Trina didn’t wait for the normal pleasantries. “Kristen and I were talking and we think we know the perfect person to play Jack.”


“Oh? Who did you two have in mind? That was quick.” Frank said with a laugh.


“Are you a wrestling fan Frank?” Trina smirked and took at seat at her desk in the office that Kristen had set up for her.


“Uh oh. I don’t know if I like this opening.” Frank sighed but he spoke with humor in his voice. “Lay it on me, Trina. I don’t have all day.” Trina laughed at his tone and proceeded to lay out her great idea. She knew she was asking for trouble, especially considering that Kristen did not seem to hot on the plan. Trina wondered idly what was wrong with her. It wasn’t like she knew who Taker was…


Of course, if Kristen had been hanging out with Kane all this time, surely she’d met Taker. Even just in passing. Trina made a mental note to pry the information out of her ‘boss’ as she settled into her chair, phone to her ear, that same smile still playing across her lips.




Kristen was driving to the studio when her cell phone rang.


Actually, she was not driving. She was riding. John, her easy-going bodyguard was currently at the wheel, steering confidently through the streets. Kristen was going over her script again, reading through the parts that would be filmed first. The movie would be shot out of order, as they usually are, scenes from the middle, then the end, then the beginning. The only difference was…her script was missing about twenty pages at the end. No one knew how the story was going to turn out, except for the writer, and she wanted to keep it top secret until if filmed. Kristen figured that her character of Mallory or her ex Jack was going to die, and they just wanted the element of surprise when they sprung it on them.


“Hello?” Distracted, Kristen barely paid attention to the voice on the other end. “Frank?”


“Yeah, babe. Thought I’d catch you up this early.” Frank said with a laugh. It was just past five in the morning, still dark out, but Kristen was used to these early calls. The harder part would come later, when they began filming night scenes. It was hard to sleep in the daytime, there was just too much to do while a movie was filming.


Kristen set her script aside and rubbed her eyes. “What’s up? I’m shocked you’re up this early.”


“I have good news. Your flick has another production company stepping in.”


“Another one?” Kristen shook her head. It was a horror movie, usually they were lucky to have one company footing the bills. Now there were two. “And I take it they raised the budget again?”


“Oh yes, they did. Matched the price.”


“Thirty million dollars?” Kristen started laughing. “Good grief, what do they think we’re making, Titanic?”


“No, doll, they think it’s a good solid investment after a few hits and misses.” Frank chuckled. “I think this next part will make me happier than you. They’ve included a stipend. A bonus for you.”


“For me?” Kristen frowned. “Why the hell would they do that? I’m already getting paid.”


“Because they are banking on this movie to be their breakthrough hit. And it’s riding on you to bring it in.” Frank stated. “Two million.”


“Two million dollars.” Kristen said it flatly. “They’re going to give me two million dollars extra just because I’m in the movie. Who are these people?” She didn’t know of any company that did that. After the movie, of course, there could be profits in DVD sales and merchandise, but there had never been anything for Kristen before the filming had begun.


“Have you ever heard of Vince McMahon?” Frank asked. Kristen could hear him shuffling papers. Her frown deepened.


“It sounds familiar…Christ, where do I know that name from?”


“He runs the WWE. And WWE Pictures.”


“Wait…the…wrestling? That guy?” Kristen asked, her tone stunned.


“Yes. He’s throwing quite a bit of money at this project. As I said…he had a good solid movie with that horror flick, and they backed it up nicely. But they’ve been geared more toward wrestling fans. This would get them into a more mainstream venue…” Frank rattled on for several minutes before he realized that Kristen was silent. “Kris? You still there?”


“Yeah.” Kristen cleared her throat. “Why? Why would he sink that kind of money into this?” She already knew the answer, she could feel it coming, she knew what Frank was going to say. The part of Jack had not been cast yet, they had been planning to do a run through of some of Kristen’s scenes and some establishing shots today. The director said he’d have Jack by the time shooting started, and Kristen had a sinking feeling she knew who he’d picked.


“Just got off the phone with Derek.” Jack said glibly. Derek Wilson was the director of the film. “He said that after about a hundred screen tests, they’ve decided to go with that Calaway person…Under-something, that wrestler you and Trina threw into the mix.”


“Trina and I?” Kristen scoffed. “Trina by herself more like it.”


“You don’t sound very happy about this, Kris. I thought you’d be relieved, you seemed to worried about Jack remaining uncast.”


She had been worried. But not about the role being empty, more about exactly WHO they would put into it. And she hadn’t even known Mark was in the running! Hadn’t she told Trina no? She was going to kill her assistant as soon as she saw her.


“It’s great news.” Kristen tried to sound enthusiastic but failed miserably. She’d managed to put that weekend behind her, finally, had forgotten all about it. At least, that’s what she told herself. But she did find herself thinking of Mark from time to time. She managed to learn he was all right from Glen, when she thought it was safe to sneak it into the conversation. Glen had been tickled to death over their tabloid photograph, and had been in a jolly mood since it had appeared. The rumors were still flying, but only because Kristen hadn’t seen fit to confirm or deny them. Glen thoroughly enjoyed the attention.


“Well kiddo, have a good day shooting. I’ll come around tomorrow sometime and we can get this money transfer set up.” Frank hung up and Kristen sat there holding her phone numbly.


“Bad news?” John asked from the front seat. Kristen rode in the back, not because she was being a pampered star, but because she had wanted the space to spread her papers out.


“The worst kind.” She said glumly.


“Eh…I heard some money bein’ talked about.”


“They want me to have a two million dollar bonus.”


“What? That’s great!” John grinned and glanced at her reflection in the rear-view mirror. “Isn’t it?”


“I guess.” Kristen stared out the window, her expression sullen. She had money, plenty of money, more than she knew what to do with. Two million more did not make her feel good. It should, hell, she’d gotten into this business coming from absolutely nothing, and had wanted this kind of thing since she was a child, but now that it was here, and happening…


Kristen shook her head. “Can you turn on the radio? I’d like some music to help clear my mind.”


John looked at her in the mirror again, his face concerned. “You all right?”


“I’ll be fine.” Kristen said, meeting his eyes in the reflection and summoning up a convincing smile. “Now pay attention to the road. Don’t wreck us before I can cash the check.”


John laughed and cranked the radio up loud, rock music blaring through the car. Kristen sighed in relief and picked up the script again. Her concentration was shot, but she’d try to go over it anyway. Half an hour later, John parked the car in the studio lot and gave her a hand from the backseat.


They would not do much filming here. Just mood shots, mostly, in a controlled environment. They would record the bigger portion of the movie in some small town in Kentucky. Two weeks here, then six weeks in the backwaters of a southern state. Kristen was just glad they would be staying in the country this time, the last movie had her filming in Japan, and that had been more than she’d bargained for.


Kristen looked at the building, sighing. It was a glorified warehouse from the outside. She suddenly felt tired, weary, and knew it had nothing to do with getting up so early. She couldn’t believe she’d be seeing Mark again. At least time it was on her turf and not his stomping grounds. They’d be surrounded by people for the most part. She wouldn’t worry about being alone with him, not that anything would happen. She was past that. Definitely.


John led the way into the building, whistling to himself. Kristen followed at a slower pace, straightening the script she’d picked up from the back seat. She was stalling and she knew it but she could not help it. So she was not paying attention to where she was going, and jumped when she walked right into a large man’s chest.


“Jeez…” Kristen looked up, and sighed in relief. “Derek.”


“Kris, watch out doll, don’t want to bruise you up right before we start shootin’ this thing.” Derek smiled. He was a bit older, in his fifties, with long hair that he kept trimmed neatly back from his face. It was starting to silver a bit at the temples, leaving whitish streaks. Derek was another big man too…six-nine and, according to him, still growing. He didn’t act his age, that was for sure, and Kristen had enjoyed working with him in the past.


“Wouldn’t be a tragedy, but might effect your ticket sales.” Kristen said with a smile. She’d heard Derek say the same thing on occasion.


“Good girl. You ready to do your run through?”


“I just got here. Can I have a few minutes to see what’s what?” Kristen laughed. Derek was impatient; he liked to dive right in. She preferred a more leisurely approach. Getting to know the crew and her cast mates. That kind of thing.


“If you must.” Derek heaved a put-upon sigh and smiled brightly, his blue eyes twinkling merrily. “Might want to visit makeup and be prepared. I want a screen test today.”


Kristen groaned. Of course he did. He liked to see his actors on film, acting, before the benefit of stage dressing. She had forgotten about that little detail. “Fine. When?”


“Give me an hour to find a quiet room. Oh.” Derek had started to walk away but stopped before taking two steps. “Wait until you see the kid playing Brianna.”


“Uh oh. Why?”


“You’ll see. She’ll be here for the test. Now get going. Daylight it wasting.” Derek grinned and strode away, leaving John and Kristen to stare after him.


“There goes Dynamo Derek.” John finally said with a laugh. “You’ll be in the building all day?”


“As if Derek would let me leave.” Kristen said sarcastically.


“Great. I’ll be upstairs if you need me. Try not to burn the place down, huh?” John grinned and walked away, leaving Kristen alone in the hallway. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, wanting nothing more at the moment than to go home. If Derek wanted screen tests, that meant that Mark was probably here to wait his turn at it. She felt like throwing up. She hadn’t been this nervous since her first film.


Kristen wandered through the hallways into the main room, seeing several people she knew along the way. She made sure to introduce herself to the few she didn’t before heading toward the makeup room to get ready for what Derek would require of her.


The makeup artist was a woman Kristen had worked with many times before. Her name was Carolyn. They discussed how they both wanted Mallory to look in the movie and settled on just a bit of eyeliner and lip-gloss. She was a single mother after all, abandoned by her husband as their marriage got rocky and secrets came between them, not worried too much about how she looked as she had a daughter to worry about.


Finished, Kristen wandered around looking for Derek. Or one of his assistants. Thinking that reminded her that she had yet to see Trina. She been unusually quiet the last few weeks, withdrawn, although Kristen did not get the feeling it was because of anything bad. Trina had several secretive phone calls and emails, and if that wasn’t enough, Kristen had caught her staring out the window in her home office on several occasions, dreamy expression in her eyes.


Shaking her head, Kristen finally found the small room that Derek wanted for the tests. She knocked and opened the door, not waiting for an answer. The smile on her face faltered, but Kristen reset it firmly on her features. The room held a circular table where Derek sat with his casting director. Across from them sat Mark.


Even with Derek being so tall, Mark still dwarfed him. Kristen glanced at him, ignored his quizzical stare, and smiled brightly at Derek.


“Finally ready babe?” Derek asked, rising to his feet. “I don’t know who’s gonna be worse, you or that kid we cast. Guess we’ll find out.” He belatedly looked from Mark to Kristen. “Oh, Mallory, meet your Jack.”


Mark opened his mouth, to say what Kristen did not know. “We’ve met. Briefly.” She stated, pulling out a chair that was a good distance from Mark and sitting down. Mark frowned a bit but held his tongue, not speaking.


“Good. Now we’re just waiting on Brianna.” Derek shuffled some papers. “Where’s Tom?” Tom was their cameraman, and he apparently was running later than Kristen.


As if in answer, the door opened and Tom walked in, portable camera on his shoulder. He was followed by a man who Kristen did not know. A small girl held his hand as he led her into the room. Kristen took one look at the little one and understood immediately why Derek had picked her to play Brianna. She was a tiny kid, but Kristen knew she was six. Small for her age. She had wavy auburn hair and striking gray eyes.


“Pretty good huh?” Derek asked the room, grinning from ear to ear. Kristen said nothing, just watched as the little girl climbed into the chair beside her and grinned. She was missing one of her front teeth, making her all the more adorable. “Kris, Mark, meet Abby. She’ll be playing Brianna.”


Kristen couldn’t help it. She glanced up and met Mark’s eyes. He was watching the little girl, thoughtful and thoroughly unreadable look on his face. Kristen was too stunned to even say hello. Abby could not have looked more like she was their child, and it was a bit freaky to say the least.


“Hi.” Abby said, still grinning. “That’s my dad.” She pointed at the man who followed her into the room.


“Kevin Davis.” The man supplied, smiling at his daughter. Kristen looked from one to the other. The little girl obviously took after her mother, as she did not resemble her father in the least. “I don’t know who Ab is more excited about meeting today.”


“Dad.” Abby rolled her eyes comically, drawing a laugh from the adults in the room.


“Should I just leave then?” Kevin smiled again.


“Yes please.” Abby was soft spoken, humor in her eyes as she looked at her father with obvious love. “Love you.”


“Love you too pumpkin. Try not to give these people too hard a time, ok?” Kevin kissed his daughter’s forehead. “I’m going to run back to the hotel, we’ve left a few things there. Remember what I said…”


“Jayla is in charge.” Abby said solemnly. She glanced at Kristen and smiled. “Jayla is my babysitter.”


“She’s your manager. But close enough. See you in a bit hon.” With that Kevin left his daughter to get ready to be in a movie.


“Well. How about we get down to work, get this over with as quick as possible so we can work out what we’re going to do first?” Derek clapped his hands together and outlined what he wanted Mark, Kristen, and Abby to do.


Kristen took the papers that Derek held out to her and glanced at them. It was fairly basic at least. Not that damned love scene she was going to have to get through.


Derek had Abby read lines with Mark and Kristen separately. They went over them a few times, just testing different reactions. Although young, Abby had been in show business since birth, she knew what she was doing. Kristen watched as Mark and Abby went through their scene again, surprised at how well he was doing. Even though the only camera rolling was Tom’s portable, the two played it as if it were a real scene in the movie, Brianna getting a bit teary eyed as her dad, Jack, got down on his knee to talk to her eye to eye, to hold her little hand.


Abby needed a break after two hours. Derek sent her out to Jayla, to get a snack, and turned to Mark and Kristen. “All right now, we want to get a few shots of the two of you, just to see how it comes across.” Kristen bit back a groan and nodded slowly. She stepped toward where Mark was standing, looking down at the ground, trying to remember her lines. She was aware of Mark staring at her, as if trying to see inside her, and it did not do much to settle her nerves.


“All right, start from the…” Derek was cut off by Tom, who laughed.


“Gonna have to wait one. Battery’s dyin’.” Tom set his camera down and left the room amid Derek’s cursing. He hated to be interrupted. He followed Tom to the hallway, muttering about people who were unprepared.


Kristen realized she’d been left alone with Mark. Derek’s casting director had ducked out earlier, taking a phone call. She looked everywhere but at him as they waited for the two men to return.


“You doin’ all right?” Mark asked her softly, finally breaking the silence between them.


“I’m great.” Kristen said, glancing at him. Well, at his chest. She refused to meet his eyes.


Mark sighed. “I don’t know how I got myself talked into this…”


“Too late to back out now. The money has already changed hands.” Kristen said solemnly. It must have struck Mark as funny. He laughed.


“Is that the same as the caterer already bein’ paid?” He asked, relaxing a little bit. Kristen finally raised her eyes to his.


“I don’t know. Has your caterer already been paid?” She asked pointedly, knowing he got her meaning as soon as she said the words.


Mark opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted once again by the door opening. Tom and Derek returned, arguing good-naturedly about the camera.


“All right, we’re ready.” Derek said, smiling at his stars. He could see there was a certain chemistry between the two already, he’d made a perfect choice in casting them together. “Start from the opening door, no sense in the blah before it.” The blah was how Derek referred to narration, which Kristen would be doing after the filming was finished.  Tom pointed the camera at them. Mark waited patiently, looking down at her.


Kristen raised her head to meet his eyes. “You left us.”


Mark sighed and rubbed a hand down his cheek. “Mal…”


“You walked out on your daughter Jack! And you think you can just walk back in and pick up where you left off! I won’t let you break her heart again.” Kristen put some force into the words, even though it was just a run-through, because she didn’t want Derek to yell at her for being flat. In truth she wanted to be anywhere but there.


“I didn’t mean to hurt her.” Mark said softly, catching her eyes with his and looking at her. Kristen got the feeling that this line, at least, was not a bit of acting. He was trying to say something without actually saying it.


“Well you managed to do it anyway.” Kristen let her voice go soft. Mallory still loved Jack, wanted to forgive him, but she wanted to protect her daughter even more.


“You think I wanted to leave, lose the both of you?” Mark took her shoulders in his hands, forcing Kristen to keep eye contact. “You think it was easy for me? I had to leave, Mal, cuz if I’d stayed, worse would have happened. You know it. You just don’t want to admit to it.”


Derek whistled, breaking Kristen’s concentration. She looked at him, realized Mark was still holding her shoulders, and stepped away from him as if coming out of a trance. “You get that Tom?”


Tom grinned. “Yup.”


“Hot damn. That was perfect. See if you can match that when we actually put it in the movie.”


“We only did a minute of it.” Kristen said with a grin.


“It’s all I need to convince me. Let’s go watch, see how it looks. Damn, I’m starving. Let’s eat then watch.” Derek grinned happily at the group and led the way out of the room.


Kristen was careful to keep her distance from Mark as they walked through the halls. This situation might be easier than she thought. If she could just stay focused on the film, and remain her usual professional self, the next two months would pass quickly and with not drama except for what was written into the script. Kristen only hoped it would be as easy as it sounded.




The first week of filming flew by.


Kristen fell into the routine as she usually did. Even her scenes with Mark were easy enough…she avoided him until they actually shot a scene, and completely let her character take over when the film was rolling.


Avoiding him was surprisingly easy considering they were practically living on the lot. Kristen would catch him looking at her on occasion, an unreadable look in his eyes, and she’d make it a point to completely ignore him.


She could tell that Derek was pleased at the way the film was going so far. Little did they know that her character Mallory’s need to stay away from Jack was so far a mirror of Kristen putting distance between herself and Mark.


During the second week, they had another early call. Kristen had gotten into the habit of leaving her script at the lot, so she was kind of surprised to get to the sound stage and see very few crewmembers milling around. She knew Mark was there, she’d seen his truck parked outside, and Derek of course. She glanced around, and noticed that Abby and most of their costars were missing.


“What’s going on?” She asked the first tech guy that walked past. He smiled shyly at her. His name was Tony, he was a college kid making a little extra money while he completed film school.


“I don’t know. Derek sent most everybody else home. I think he’s wanting to shoot scene fifteen today.”


Kristen raised an eyebrow and felt as if her stomach took a lurch. “Thanks.” She managed to say, walking toward the area that the crew was setting up to be filmed to get a look. She wanted to make sure she hadn’t heard wrong. Scenes fifteen through seventeen were not just regular filming…they were those damned love scenes that Kristen had been all too willing to scratch out of the script. It was odd of Derek to want to film that part so early. Usually he liked to wait until the action was wrapped up before going into the deeper relationships.


Tony hadn’t been pulling her leg. The stage had been redesigned during the night. Except for the missing front wall, it could have been a bedroom. The huge bed dominated most of the back wall. There was a dresser and mirror, even clothes hanging over the back of a chair in the corner. Kristen eyed the bed mistrustfully, jumping a little as a hand fell on her shoulder.


“Mornin’ Kris.” Derek smiled at her.


“Jumping right into the sex huh.” Kristen tried hard to make it sound like a joke.


Derek laughed. “Well, after discussing it with a few people, I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet. Jack and Mallory have been through some hell, they’ve been apart, I’d expect a certain amount of awkwardness between them. And since you and Mark don’t really know each other…I thought it would add to the realism.”


“Hopefully not too real.” Kristen emphasized the third word. “I’m not here to shoot a porn.”


“Of course not. Really, you should just enjoy it. It’ll be like the world’s longest make out session.” Derek winked at her, pointing away from the stage. “Karla is waiting for you. Let’s get this over with. We’ll be heading for out next location after this is wrapped up.”


“Already?” Kristen stepped toward the wardrobe office but stopped and looked to Derek.


“We’re ahead of schedule.” Derek’s smile could not have been bigger. “Farther than I thought we’d be…and the studio is loving it. We might have to take a few days off so we can collect all of that money.”


“Oh.” Kristen shook her head and numbly walked to wardrobe. That was good news, great news, it meant that maybe they’d finish filming early. Which meant she’d be able to set about forgetting Mark once again. She didn’t know why he was such a part of her thoughts, it wasn’t like they’d really been together. A one-night stand between two people who were virtually strangers did not make a relationship. She groaned inwardly. She really had to stop thinking about it.


Karla looked sleepy, but set about dressing Kristen with efficiency. Hair and makeup would be her next stop. It only took about twenty minutes to get changed, from her jeans and t-shirt, into a pair of black hip hugging cotton shorts and a white tank top. Kristen wrapped a robe around herself, shivering because they kept this part of the studio so cool. The stage would be lit up, hot, but for now she was chilly. She padded barefoot to the makeup room


Carolyn applied a touch of gloss to her lips, eyed her critically, and set about arranging Kristen’s hair. When she was finished, Kristen looked in the mirror, studying her reflection. Her hair was mussed, the gloss on her mouth had some ingredient in it that made her lips seem a bit puffy. As if she’d just woken up. The scene was set up that Jack and Mallory were barricaded into a bedroom together in the midst of searching for Brianna, who during this particular scene was seemingly safe with a group of police officers. It would seem as if Jack had taken care of securing the room, and they had fallen asleep. After that…


Kristen shook her head and sighed. It wasn’t real. She had to keep that thought in her head if she were going to get through this. She and Mark were just playing roles in a movie, Jack was supposed to look at Mal as if he ached for her, and Mal looked to Jack in just the same way. Tempered by the hurt of what he’d done to their marriage, to their daughter. Jack had known about the plague causing the zombies, but had been unable to warn them. He was taken away by people he worked for, locked up-they said for his own protection. They’d found him originally when he was a teenager, taking him in and giving him a job after he’d spent time in jail.


Mal and Jack had met through a friend. According to the back-story, it had been anything but love at first sight. Jack was a roughneck, a fighter; he came from a poor past. Mal was the proverbial rich girl, her family was wealthy beyond imagination, but when she’d fallen for…and married…Jack, they had disowned her, leaving the couple to sink or swim on their own.


Kristen realized that Carolyn was giving her a strange look as she’d been lost in thought. She smiled, aware of how fake it felt, but the makeup artist seemed satisfied. “Thanks Car. You always make me look like a million bucks.”


Carolyn laughed. “Oh hon, nature gave you that. I just touch you up on occasion.” She winked comically. “Now go out there and show that man a good time.”


“Oh geez.” Kristen shook her head and couldn’t help but laugh. Carolyn was notorious for liking romance movies above all else, and had only taken this job because the movie did have a hint of the romantic through it. “You’re a dirty old woman.” Carolyn laughed again, the sound following Kristen out of the room and back to the stage.


“Kris…let’s check it out.” Derek called from where he stood next to the bed. A few of the stagehands were putting the finishing touches on the fake barricade at the door. Kristen looked around and opened her robe for her director to get a look at her clothing. Derek whistled. “Perfect. As always. You want a run through, or you want to try to get this over with?”


Kristen was surprised he’d asked. Usually Derek didn’t care what his stars thought, he was the one calling the scenes. Some actors did not like that sort of attitude, but Kristen was not one of them. It was nice to have a director who knew what he was doing on occasion.  “Let’s just do this.”


“You sure you’re all right with flashing the camera?” Derek asked, moving around the room and looking everything over.


“I guess.”


“It’s not a guess. It’s a yes or no.” Derek looked at her. “You either don’t care to show a boob, of you don’t want to show a boob and we work around it.”


“Whatever you want.” Kristen said, taking the robe off. She set it on a table, out of sight of the cameras. Just as she’d thought, the stage area was warmed by the lights that were focused on the bed.


“Well I think it would be nice if you would tell your leading man whether or not it’s all right for him to yank your shirt down.” Derek said with a smirk. Kristen sighed and rubbed her arms, moving toward the bed.


“Well then tell him to decide and surprise all of us.” Kristen sat on the edge of the bed, testing it with her weight. She had no problem showing a breast for the camera, she worked out and took care of her body, so she had not self-image issues. This would be the first time it was in a script she’d taken on though, and Trina had been the one to argue against it. Kristen found that she really didn’t care. The only people in the room would be Derek, two cameramen and Carolyn, just in case they needed any makeup work.  Derek would clear everyone else out so they would feel a bit more comfortable.


Derek laughed and nodded. “All right. Fair enough. Scott!” He called over his shoulder. Scott was one of the guys who had just finished the barricade. “Go find Tom and Mark, and get Carolyn in here. Let’s get this over with.” Scott hurried off to do as Derek said. “You…” He pointed to Kristen. “Get in bed. Try to relax. I’m going to chase everyone off and we’ll get started.”


“All right.” Kristen murmured. She waited until Derek was gone before standing and moving the blankets back. She climbed onto the bed once again, adjusted her pillow, and lay there, blanket pulled to her shoulders, relaxing while she waited for the others to show up.


Kristen could have almost fallen asleep for real. The bed was soft, warm, comfortable. She snuggled further into the pillow, listening as voices drew close. She looked around and saw that Derek was leading Mark onto the stage. Mark was wearing a pair of shorts, a button down shirt hanging open across his chest. His hair was pulled back from his face, once again braided. Kristen had to remind herself not to stare as Derek spoke to Mark, letting him know what to do. Mark was shrugging the shirt off, tossing it carelessly to the chair in the corner. That was all right, Jack had been wearing the same thing in an earlier scene, so it would not look out of place.


Kristen stiffened up a bit as the bed shifted with Mark’s weight. She made a point of looking at everything but him, watching as the main doors were closed and the two cameras were put into place. Carolyn sat at the back of the room, flipping through a stack of notes quietly, waiting until she heard Derek call for her. Kristen nervously shifted as she took deep breaths, trying to relax and drop back into the role she was playing.


“All right. Get those cameras rolling.” Derek instructed, as Mark settled himself. Derek flipped a few switched and the stage darkened a bit, false light falling in through a fake window behind the bed. “Ready guys, let’s get this done so we can wrap this movie up.” This got a snicker from the two men with cameras. They all knew that the action scenes were usually the easy part. A convincing love scene was another matter entirely.


Kristen closed her eyes, waiting. She was so intent on relaxing that she did not hear Derek call action. She tried to put herself in the shoes of Mallory. A warm hand moved onto her stomach under the blanket.


“What are you doing?” Mallory whispered it out. She blinked her eyes a few times, blearily, coming all the way awake.


There was a soft sigh from Jack, and his body shifted toward her. “I thought you were having a bad dream.”


Mallory smiled sadly. “The last few years have been a bad dream.”


“I’m so sorry Mal.” Jack leaned over her, looking down into her eyes. Mallory was powerless to look away, held captive in his clear green gaze. Even with the only light coming from a dim lamp in the corner and the moon outside, his eyes were striking.  Jack’s head lowered. Mallory felt him hesitate. She reached up and brushed his cheek with her hand, sliding it to cup the back of his head.


Mallory pulled Jack down to her mouth. They kissed, slowly at first, just lips on lips. Jack made a low noise in his throat and suddenly his tongue flicked out, making Mallory’s breath catch as he invaded her mouth. He broke this kiss after a few long moments, both of them a bit out of breath, and they stared at each other again, recognizable need in each other’s eyes.


Jack’s green eyes seemed to darken as he looked down at her. Mallory held her breath as his hand touched her, on the neck. His mouth found hers again and she felt him tugging at the strap of her tank top, sliding it over her shoulder and down her arm. Cool air wafted across her breasts as the material lowered away from them, making her nipples pucker up.


Jack placed a hand over one breast, not moving it or squeezing, just holding her lightly as he kissed her senseless. Mallory moaned and held onto him, hands rising to cup his face gently. Jack moved, his body sliding across hers, on top of hers, enveloping her in his warmth.


“Cut it.” Derek’s voice broke into Kristen’s little fantasy of Jack and Mal. Mark stopped kissing her immediately, but he did not move. His legs pressed hers into the mattress, his bare chest was against hers. Kristen blinked a few times as if surprised to see him there. She’d been totally lost in what she was doing.


“Need another go?” Tom asked from behind his camera.


“Hell no.” Derek laughed merrily. “That was hot as hell. Don’t think we can repeat it. Let’s take a look though. You two sit tight.” He aimed the last bit at Kristen and Mark as he walked with Tom toward the back, near Carolyn, where they could watch Tom’s film.


Mark shifted a bit, resting himself more comfortably on his arms. Kristen couldn’t avoid him now, could not even look away. “This is embarrassing as fuck.” He whispered softly so only she would hear. Kristen smirked, trying not to laugh.


“At least you’re used to showing your chest on TV.” She pointed out, knowing that he worked in clothing that exposed most of him.


“Got a point there.” Mark shifted again. Kristen felt his leg slide against hers and felt a red hot bolt of sexual awareness shoot through her. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, willing her body not to respond to him.


Derek and Tom were murmuring quietly in their corner. The other cameraman, a guy whose name Kristen did not remember, had wandered in that direction. Kristen opened her eyes and looked up to see Mark staring at her, his gaze intense.


“I’m sorry.” He whispered it hoarsely.


“For what?” Kristen could barely get the words out.


“For draggin’ you into the mess of I call a life.” Mark ducked his head a little, so they were nearly forehead to forehead. “I’ve got stuff, I could tell you, you’d maybe understand me a little better…understand why I felt like doin’ what I did.”


“You mean what happened with…us?” Kristen muttered.


“Yeah.” Mark pulled back to look into her eyes again. “Shouldn’t have happened, but I wanted it. I don’t know why, but I did, and I’ve been beating myself up ever since wonderin’ how I could do that to you…”


“You didn’t do anything. I wanted it too, remember?” Kristen reminded him gently.


“I feel like…” Mark paused, and did not seem to know how to go on. “I…”


“What would you tell me? So I’d understand?” Kristen asked.


Mark shook his head. “It’s too late for all that.”


“You tell me, let me decide.” Kristen shifted a bit under him, inadvertently brushing his chest with hers. She realized her shirt was still down at the same moment Mark did. He got a pained expression on his face and he closed his eyes as if the contact had hurt him. He opened his mouth to speak, and Kristen bit her lip, waiting for him.


Whatever revelation he was going to make was killed by Derek joining them on the stage. “That was perfect you two, absolutely the hottest shit I’ve seen in ages. We’ll just wrap up and get some shots of both of you before and after, then we’re out of here.”


Kristen nodded. Mark shifted away from her, taking her shirt and pulling it up at the same time so she was covered up again. She would have laughed, it was a thoughtful gesture, and seemed prudish to her after what they’d done. But she found not a bit of humor in herself at that moment. The minute Mark’s body left her, she lost his warmth, all Kristen could do was keep herself from crying. The emotion hit her with no warning, out of nowhere, and she did not know what it meant. She only knew that she felt as if she’d lost something, not just his heat, but his willingness to be open with her.


It didn’t matter. Kristen reminded herself of that rather angrily as she rose from the bed to retrieve her robe. Mark would be shooting a few scenes on the stage, as would she, wearing what she was wearing. He got up and went off to get dressed.


Kristen watched him go, listening with one ear as Carolyn gushed over what she’d just seen. It didn’t matter what Mark had meant to tell her, he was still engaged to another woman, for whatever reason he had made up, and he was now and forever off limits and untouchable in Kristen’s eyes. She’d slipped once and let him in, she was going to be damn careful in the future not to let it happen again.




Kristen stood on the front porch of her rental house, gazing around the property as the sun rose in the east. The film crew had taken a weekend off, but today was back to the grind, only now the filming was taking place in Kentucky. Trina had not wanted to come, which struck Kristen as strange. Trina was usually her watchdog/babysitter, and letting her run around the country was not something she’d ever done before.


Prudence had eventually won out. Trina was upstairs at that moment, sleeping. Kristen would have to wake her up soon, there were a million things to do, and shooting started in the afternoon.


Sighing, carrying a mug of coffee with her, Kristen stepped down from the porch and walked around the house. There were two other similar dwellings within sight of hers, and she knew that Derek was in one of them. Mark occupied the other. The crew had their own bunkhouse, somewhere across the property. In the distance, she could barely see the outline of the constructed town they’d be using to film the bulk of the movie.


She spotted movement from the closest house. Mark. Apparently he was an early riser too. Kristen loved to sleep in, but when she was filming, she was too wound up to take advantage. She stepped back onto the porch and watched as he stretched. She felt like a damn peeping tom, but couldn’t seem to help herself.


Kristen tossed the remains of her coffee from the cup into the yard and resolutely stepped off the porch again. She hated this feeling, whatever the hell it was. So she’d had the weekend to really thing about things, and had decided that she should at least try to be friends with Mark. It would make the movie go by so much faster if she didn’t dread going in every day.


She walked across the grounds, her sneakers getting soaked with morning dew. Mark was looking at her, a surprised expression on his features.


“Good morning.” Kristen came to a halt at the steps up to his porch, smiling shyly up at him.


“Mornin’.” Mark nodded at her.


“I’m starving and Trina is sleeping like a dead woman. Want to go for breakfast?” Kristen almost laughed at the look on his face. He seemed to be stunned.


“Uh…” Mark rocked his head, making his neck pop. “You sure you wanna have breakfast with me?”


“I asked didn’t I?” Kristen smiled again, this time more naturally. She would just have to remind herself that they had gotten along quite well before, and she was ready to just put everything that happened behind them and be friends.


“Well…all right.” Mark said, reluctantly, as if he didn’t trust her reasons for asking. Kristen grinned brightly.


“Good. I’ll go grab my stuff.” She turned and headed back to her house, wanting to grab her phone and keys, her purse. On her way upstairs, she heard a ringing noise. Trina’s cell phone was buzzing. Kristen scooped it up and hit the silent button, knowing Trina didn’t want to be awakened so early. She did a double take at the caller ID though. She recognized that number, it belonged to Glen. So why was he calling Trina at this hour in the morning?


Kristen waited until the phone stopped ringing before looking at it again. She scrolled through Trina’s calls, received and outgoing, over the past few days. Glen’s number was on there more than once…as a matter of fact, it was there several times a day. She had to bite her cheek to keep from laughing. So Glen and Trina were having some kind of secret relationship. The thought was funny, they were total opposites.


The phone in her hand rang again. Kristen couldn’t help herself. “Yeah?” She answered the call, trying to restrain a giggle.


“Morning darlin’.” Glen’s deep voice was a sleepy rumble.


“Uh, morning.” Kristen replied. There was a long moment of silence.


“Kristen?” Glen said, sounding wide awake now. Kristen grinned and ended the call. She opened the door to Trina’s room, saw her vague shape under the blankets, and tossed the phone onto the bed next to her assistant. Kristen closed the bedroom door just as the ringing started up again.


No wonder Trina hadn’t wanted to come along on this trip. She’d been so scarce lately, and even her lecturing had been tame. Trina had probably thought she and Glen could have a secret fling while she was out of town. It was too bad that Glen was HORRIBLE about being sneaky.


Kristen went into her own room. She grabbed her keys and her purse, and picked up her cell phone just as it started to ring. She didn’t have to look at the caller ID to know it was Glen on the line. Kristen pressed ignore once again and put the phone into her pocket. Glen would be freaking out, not sure if Kristen was mad at him or not, and she thought it was hilarious.


She almost made it out unnoticed. A shadow appeared in front of the door. Kristen sighed. Ron. Her other, more demanding bodyguard blocked the way. Unlike John, Ron took his job very seriously. He’d be perfectly happy if Kristen filmed all of her scenes inside a bank vault…as well as live there. He assumed at all times that someone was aiming a gun at Kristen’s head, which at first she had found amusing. Now it was just annoying. So what if she had some loser fan obsessing over her? Nothing had happened besides receiving letters that were vaguely threatening. Mostly they gushed over her work.


She was stuck with Ron for two weeks. John would come in then, take over, that was how they traded off. Ron’s dark eyes took in her purse slung over her shoulder, her still slightly wet shoes. He smiled, but it did not reach his eyes. “Going out?”


Kristen always felt like a scolded child when Ron talked to her. He was imposing, much more so than John, even though John was taller. Ron just seemed to be the essence of authority. She hadn’t been so nervous since prom night, when she’d had to explain to her father why she was out so later after he’d set an eleven o’clock curfew.


“Just going for some breakfast.” Kristen muttered. Ron shook his head.


“What did I say? No going out in public on your own, Miss Williams.” Also unlike John, who called her Kris and sometimes K, Ron refused to address her by her first name. He was a professional, a dedicated one, and she had to remind herself of that fact. He wasn’t here to be her friend.


“I won’t be on my own. Mark is going with me.”


“Calaway?” Ron frowned and rubbed his cheek absently. “You wantin’ to start some rumors up this early in the mornin’?”


“What’s in the rumor mill about breakfast?” Kristen shook her head. “It’s not like we’re going to crawl under the table together. I’m starving, I just want food.”


Ron nodded slowly. “All right. But I’m going to. Don’t worry…” He held up a hand when Kristen opened her mouth to protest. “I’ll stay in the background. Don’t wanna bother you while you eat. You won’t even know I’m there.”


“Yeah, right.” Kristen sighed and knew that there was no sense in arguing. Ron would have his way. She knew she should take this stalker business much more seriously, but she couldn’t seem to do it. She really didn’t believe anything bad would come of it, no matter what had happened in the past to other people.


“Well either I go with you, or you stay here and I cook you breakfast.” Ron smirked, knowing he had her. He couldn’t boil water without burning it.


“Fine. You’re buyin’ your own though.” Kristen shook her head and waited while Ron removed himself from her path. Once outside, she saw Mark’s truck in front of her house. She assumed he’d gotten tired of waiting, and had driven over to see what the hold up was. “You take my car. Unless you want to squeeze in between Mark and I.” She tossed her keys to Ron. He caught them gracefully.


“I think I’ll let you have your alone time, Miss Williams.” With that, Ron turned on his heel and climbed into Kristen’s waiting rental car. Mark had stepped out of his truck. He held the passenger door open and gave Kristen a hand up into the cab.


“Don’t trust me alone with you?” Mark asked nodding in the direction of Ron and the car. Kristen smirked and cinched her seatbelt tight.


“He doesn’t trust me alone. Period.” Kristen smiled at Mark’s puzzled expression. He decided to wait, and closed her door, heading around to the driver’s seat.


Mark guided the truck to the road before glancing at Kristen. She’d pulled a pair of sunglasses from her purse and had settled them over her eyes against the bright morning sun. “So why won’t they let you be alone?”


Kristen sighed and leaned her head back. “It’s nothing major.”


“You had to hire bodyguards.” Mark pointed out. He turned onto another road, heading for the small town they were filming near.


“Wasn’t my idea. Look, some whack job decided he maybe likes me a little too much, and my agent went a little father figure on me.”


Mark was silent for a few minutes. “You got threatened?”


“Not in so many words.” Kristen sighed again. “Although whoever he is, he’s hinting at doing more than getting an autograph.”


“And that doesn’t scare you?”


“What, that I’m sort of a public figure and you have to take the good with the bad?”


“No…that some guy out there thinks he can get to you.” Mark glanced at her again. “I know I’d be worried.”


“I didn’t say I wasn’t. I have the guard dogs, remember?” Kristen gestured out the back window, where Ron followed them.


Silence descended once again. It was not entirely uncomfortable, which amazed Kristen. She thought she’d be tense, but she was completely relaxed, even if they were talking about something that bothered her.


Mark found a diner. Ron stayed true to his word. He parked across the lot from them and sat in the car while they entered the restaurant. Kristen let herself be guided into a corner booth. A sleepy looking waitress came over and took their order. Neither of them felt an urge to speak beyond that until the food was served. They kept their conversation to light topics, chatting, getting the feel of each other all over again.  It wasn’t until Kristen insisted on paying the bill that Mark finally broached a more touchy subject.




“Yes?” After the hour they’d spent, his suddenly serious tone worried her.


“I wish…” He seemed unable to continue.


“You wish…” Kristen half smiled.


“Ever just wanna go back in time and undo somethin’ that was wrong?” He asked, seemingly out of nowhere.


“If you’re referring to that party, when we…”


“No.” Mark reached across the table and covered her hand with his. “Not that. I wouldn’t take that back even if I could.”


“Oh.” Kristen glanced down, feigning sudden and devoted interest in her empty coffee cup.


“I wish I’d met you sooner.” He said the words in a rush, as if afraid she’d interrupt him.


Kristen finally looked up into his eyes. He seemed even more serious than usual, more earnest than she’d seen him so far. She felt that there was something else he wanted to tell her, something big, but he held back. She was aggravated by it.


“Well, you didn’t.” Kristen decided to be blunt. “Look, Mark, if you really don’t want to get married to that…Renee…” Kristen had to bite her tongue. “Then don’t. But don’t use me as the excuse, all right? I just…I can’t handle that.”


“I wasn’t going to use you as an excuse.” Mark said softly. “You wanna know the real reason we’re getting married?”


“There’s another one?” Kristen became aware that Mark was still gripping her hand in his.


“The real one.” Mark sighed. “I have a kid.”


“Ok.” Kristen didn’t see what that had to do with anything.


“My ex wife…” Mark took a deep breath. “She’s not the most stable person in the world. The divorce was ugly, she wanted half of what I worked my ass off to get, and I gave it to her because of Luke. Lucas…that’s my son.” He explained. “I finally rebuilt myself, had to start from the bottom, and I want my son. She’s going to tear him up if he stays with her. But…my chances of getting custody were zilch. Who’d trust a single guy who’s on the road six days out of seven to raise a kid the right way? I talked to a couple of lawyers, and a judge, and they all said the same thing…my chances would be better if I was married. Because my ex isn’t.”


Kristen watched his face as he spoke, watched as the different emotions flittered in his eyes. Anger, hurt, worry…it was heartbreaking. “How old is he?”


Mark seemed surprised by the question. “He just turned eight. Last month.”


“Oh.” Kristen held his gaze for a few moments, thinking. “It’s still no reason to marry the first woman who crosses your path.”


“I know.” Mark heaved another sigh. “Renee is…hell, there’s no way around it, she’s just as psycho as my ex. But…I trust her. Somehow, someway, I trust her. Once you get to know her, she’s not so bad, she’s just…she never had money, so it’s making her a little crazy.”


“So you’re going to let her empty out your cash, just so she’ll play housewife?”


“Well that wasn’t the plan. I was supposed to just take care of her…and damn it, it sounds fuckin’ awful when I think about it.” Mark rubbed his free hand across his chin. “But she knew the reason I needed this, and she was agreeable to a short term ‘marriage’. Just long enough so that I could get my kid.” Kristen was silent again. Mark eyed her worriedly.


“So what are you going to do?” She finally asked.


“I don’t know.” Mark said, honestly. He’d been turning different ideas over in his head for months. He could think of no other way to get Lucas back. He had money, plenty of it, but so do his ex. She would fight it, because Mark was still paying her child support. It kept her living in high standards. He was suspicious that his ex was on drugs, had been even before the divorce, but without concrete proof, he could not talk a judge into forcing a test. He’d tried everything, but nothing else had worked.


Kristen turned her hand over in his, her fingers sliding to twine with his. “I can help you.”


“How?” Mark asked with a choked sounding chuckle.


“I don’t know. But I’ll think of something.” She gave his fingers a squeeze. “Ready to head back?”


Mark nodded. He rose to his feet, but did not release Kristen’s hand. She didn’t seem to mind. After the past few months, after her being so angry with him, Mark felt close to tears that she let him hold her hand. It was ridiculous. He’d done more than that, and just the feel of her palm in his left him longing for her in a way that he could not understand.


Kristen let go of his hand at the door, gave him a smile, and asked him to wait for her in the truck. She walked over to her car, where Ron waited patiently. Apparently she said something the man did not like, he frowned for a moment before nodding reluctantly. The car’s engine started and Ron pulled away from the diner with a wave to Mark.

Kristen accepted his hand into the truck and buckled in again. Mark slid behind the steering wheel and glanced at her, eyebrows raised questioningly.


“What? I told him we were heading straight back to the house.” Kristen pushed her sunglasses on. She was smirking.


“Do you want to go back to the house?”


“Not to my house.” She gave him a look, and even through the sunglasses, Mark caught the direction of her thoughts. He felt his stomach tighten with nerves, and the hell of it was he didn’t know why.


Kristen reached across the seat and took his hand again. She couldn’t deny it, she wanted this man, wanted him more than she’d ever wanted anything. And she was going to have to prove to him…and prove it fast…that he didn’t have to settle for someone like Renee. She’d think of a way to get him his son, and to get out of his fake marriage. In the meantime, Kristen didn’t want to fight what she was feeling anymore. That had been the problem from the start, wanting this man, and denying it. She was horrible at lying to herself. She was willing…and hoped like hell that he felt the same…to be more than his friend, more than someone he worked with. She would give herself until the end of filming to turn his life around. It was only six weeks, but it seemed much longer than that. Kristen gripped Mark’s hand tightly and lost herself in her thoughts, not paying attention the entire trip to Mark’s house.




The door had barely closed behind them when Mark pulled Kristen into his arms and pressed his lips to hers. Kristen gripped his shoulders, kissing him back, her mouth sliding sensuously against his. Mark walked them backward, into his living room, edging her toward the couch.


Kristen’s knees bumped the edge and she fell onto the sofa, laughing as their kiss was broken. Mark smiled, his green eyes dark as he moved over her, settling his weight on her, pinning her down. They tugged at each other’s clothes, yanking, unable to slow down.


Mark shoved her shirt up, exposing her stomach, her chest, the silky bra she’d put on. His hands cupped her breasts through the material as he pressed himself fully between Kristen’s legs, grunting at the feel of her through her clothing.


Kristen could hardly think, all she wanted was to have Mark naked and inside her. But something, a smidgen of common sense, glimmered in her passion fogged mind. She squirmed, pushing Mark’s hands away before he made too much progress at taking her bra off.


“Mark…” Her voice was so husky it was barely a whisper.


Mark ducked his head and pressed his mouth against her neck, sucking gently. Kristen moaned and pushed at him again, this time on his shoulders, forcing him up.


“I…” She cleared her throat. “I don’t have anything with me. Protection wise.”


Mark’s expression went from lustful to comical. Kristen smiled as he realized what she’d said. “Shit…”


“Yeah.” Kristen wiggled, pushing back against the armrest of the couch so her head was propped up. “First time should have thought of that. Got damn lucky.”


“Christ…Kris…I’m sorry…” Mark pulled back, forcing his overheated body into a sitting position with her legs across his lap. “I shoulda thought…”


“Neither one of us were really thinkin’.” Kristen said wryly. Mark eyed her speculatively for a minute, slight smile on his lips.


“So if I run out to the store, you gonna wait here on the couch for me?”


Kristen laughed again and met his eyes. “Maybe even in the bed.”


“Christ…” Mark said again, groaning. “I’m goin’.” He moved her legs and stood up, righting his disheveled clothing. Kristen watched as he went to the door, grin on her features. Mark’s expression faltered when he opened the door, and Kristen pushed up onto her elbows, wondering what was wrong.


Mark shut the door and came back into the living room. “Talk about some bad timin’. Renee is here.”


“What?” Kristen sat all the way up, rising to her feet. She adjusted her clothes, peering at the windows for the sight of the woman coming toward the house.


“Fuck. What the hell is she doin’ here?” Mark asked, raking a hand through his hair.


“Well, she is your fiancé.” Kristen said with a snicker. Mark gave her a sour look, but that struck her funny as well. “I don’t think I really wanna deal with…her…at the moment.”


Mark nodded. “Me either.” He gave her another look, one that made her knees weak. “Have to take a raincheck on that shoppin’ trip.”


“Bummer.” Kristen pouted and returned his heated look. She heard a car door slam and grinned. “I’m outta here.” She didn’t wait for a goodbye from Mark. She turned and headed toward the kitchen. His house was set up like hers and the back door was through the dining and kitchen area. Kristen stepped outside just as the front door was opened. She whistled and walked across the backyard toward her own house.


She had no idea why she felt like she had to hide. It wasn’t like Mark and Renee were really a couple. But the interruption was a good thing, she knew it was. They were moments away from going at eat other like insane animals. Not that Kristen would have minded that, but…damn…how the hell did he manage to light all of her dials like that? She wasn’t usually so animalistic. Maybe later on they could get together and take their time. She bit back a laugh at the thought. She was going to try really hard to control herself.


Kristen stepped into her kitchen to be confronted by Ron. “Musta hit a detour. Took you long enough to get back here.” He scolded, cradling a mug of coffee at the table in the corner.


“We were talkin’, Dad. Sheesh.” Kristen rolled her eyes and went to the fridge to get a bottled water. She felt restless, and of course, she knew the reason for it. It was hard, getting all heated up and deflated like that. “I think I want a work out.” She mused, sipping her water. Ron nodded.


“I could use one myself. If you don’t mind the company.”


Kristen stared at him. “What, you’re ASKING if you can shadow me? Did you get hit on the head while I was gone?”


Ron smiled. “Miss Williams, it would take a hell of a man to whack me on the head.”


“Stop the Miss crap. It’s Kris.”


“Whatever you say, Miss Williams.” Ron’s smile widened as he rose to his feet. “I’ll go grab my bag.”

Kristen huffed in exasperation as he left the room. There were footsteps from upstairs. Apparently Trina had finally decided to join the land of the living. Speaking of which…Kristen pulled her cell phone from her pocket. She’d totally forgotten about it. She powered it on and had to laugh. Fourteen missed calls and eight voice mails. All of them from Glen. Her silence had him worried.


Trina entered the kitchen, glanced in Kristen’s direction, and refused to look at her again. Kristen bit back a grin and sipped more water. She waited. And waited. Trina was hoping to not explain anything, but she’d break eventually. Kristen was an old hand at the silent treatment. It worked much better than Trina’s yelling.


“We’re just talking.” Trina muttered into the refrigerator.


Kristen said nothing. She took the seat Ron had vacated and stared at her water bottle.


“So he called your phone one day, and you weren’t there, so I answered and we got to talking and I guess we’re still talking…” Trina was rambling. Kristen snorted and finished her water.


“You didn’t have to keep it a big secret you know.”


“Oh, like you did? You sayin’ you’re the only one who can keep a secret?” Trina tried to turn the tables.


“We kept it quiet for obvious reasons. Tabloids. You remember throwing one at me don’t you?” Kristen grinned. “You slept with him yet?” Her question caught Trina off guard. Her mouth opened, closed, but she didn’t make a sound. Kristen laughed. “That answered that question. Seriously, I don’t care. Good for both of you.”

Trina sighed in relief. “I thought you’d be pissed, thinkin’ I was moving in on your friend because…well, you know how I am about wrestling.”


Kristen waved a hand. “Do me a favor. Don’t tell Glen I approve.”


Trina raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Why not?”


“Because it’s fun when he’s suffering.” Kristen said, smiling sweetly. Trina laughed and sat across from her.


“So what’s the plan for today?” Trina asked, trying to get the focus away from her love life.


“The plan…Ron and I are going for a workout. Wanna join?” Kristen laughed again. Trina was notorious for hating the gym, and the equipment that accompanied it. She got her exercise walking. At least that’s what she said.


“Hell no. Fuck that.” Trina’s face couldn’t have held a more sour expression.


“After that, got to get to the set. We’re doing the action stuff now. Should be interesting.”


“Good. Can’t say I’m sorry I missed the mush.” Trina sneered. “But I heard you let Taker grope your boob.”


“Spare me the lecture.”


“I wasn’t going to lecture. Hell, I’d let him grope mine if he wanted.”


“He does have some big warm hands.” Kristen said, her voice dreamy. Trina laughed.


“I’ll just bet. Hard to tell, all those people standin’ around watching, lights in your face, camera up your nose.” Trina snickered. “Romantic. I heard he’s getting married.”


“Yup, I’ve heard it too.” Kristen smiled innocently.


“Sucks to be a single woman.” Trina grouched.


“You’ve got Glen, or need I remind you of that?”


“There is that.” Trina smiled. “You don’t understand my lust for Taker though. Oh god, I don’t even know if I want to meet him. I’ll say something fuckin’ stupid and he’ll hate me.”


“I think he’ll like you. Hell, maybe he’ll leave his wife for you, and you guys can run away together.” Kristen said with a smirk.


“A girl can dream.” Trina shook her head. “Kane was definitely hotter with the hair.”


“I tell him all the time.”


“Gonna make it my mission to get him to grow it back.”


“Good luck with that.” Kristen laughed. She glanced at the clock on the wall. “We gotta go. Hell, where is Ron?”


“Upstairs.” Trina pointed. Footsteps thumped across the floor. Kristen sighed and rose to her feet.


“I guess we’ll be back in an hour or so. Try not to burn the place down.” Kristen looked pointedly at Trina’s pack of cigarettes on the table.


“If you wanted one, all you had to do was ask.” Trina laughed and pushed the pack toward her. Kristen shook her head.


“Not when Daddy Ron is watching.” She shushed Trina and told her goodbye. She and Ron drove to the main lot of filming. A trailer had been set up with a gym inside for the cast and crew to use. Derek liked his stars to be in shape, and a quick workout between takes usually gave them the right glow. Or so he said.


For the next hour, Kristen focused on nothing more than working the excess energy out of her body. She rode a stationery bike, lifted light weights, did some aerobics. Ron kept to the weight bench, pressing over two hundred pounds with seeming ease. If Kristen were a man, she’d be jealous.


The finished up and Kristen wanted to go home and take a shower before returning to film. Ron was more talkative than usual, filling up her silences with rare chatter, yet still referring to her only as Miss Williams. It was enough to drive her insane. He pulled into their driveway and Kristen climbed out of the car, stretching. After her workout, she felt limber, warm…almost as good as sex afterglow. But not quite.


She stepped onto the porch and was stopped by Ron. He’d dropped a hand onto her shoulder, bringing her to a halt. “Hey…”


“Let me check it first.”


“Check what?” Kristen glanced around. In front of the door was a package, wrapped in brown paper. Ron had thought she was going for it. She hadn’t even noticed it there. Her head was in the clouds. “Oh.”


“Oh nothin’.” Ron cautiously prodded the package with his foot, frowned, and stooped down to get a closer look. “Has your name on it. That’s it.” He reached into the bag he carried and pulled out a knife.


“Oh geez, is this really necessary?” Kristen said, rolling her eyes.


“Hush.” Ron waved a hand and used his knife to slice open the brown paper. A white box was exposed. Moving carefully, as if a ticking bomb were in his hands, he lifted the lid.


“Oh. Wow.” Kristen breathed out. Nestled in the box, wrapped in snowy white paper, two dozen red roses were spread. Ron shook his head and removed the flowers, setting them onto the boards of the porch. A white envelope was tucked between the stems. He pulled it out, looked it over, and handed it to Kristen.


She opened it up and pulled out a small card. There was a picture on one side, hand drawn, of a waterfall. On the other was simply the word ‘Soon’. “Huh. I wonder who sent them.” Kristen said.


“Three guesses. First two don’t count.”


“Oh come on. My stalker did not find me all the way hell and gone in Boonieville.”


“Not a secret where you are.” Ron put the flowers back into the box. He looked at the card and his frown deepened. “I’m going to call John in early.”


“No need for that.”


“There is a need for that.” Ron said, looking at her as if she’d lost her mind. “The guy knows where you are. This wasn’t dropped off by some florist delivery van. This was hand delivered, left right where he’d be sure you’d see it. He might very well be watching us right now.”


Kristen fought against the urge to look around. It was ridiculous after all. Why the hell would some guy travel all this way just to leave flowers on her doorstep? Hell, if she asked that, she already knew the answer. A crazy guy. A chill worked its way down her spine. “Throw them away.”


“In the house. Don’t want him to think you’re rejecting his gift. Might make him snap.” Ron picked up the box and tucked it under his arm.


“Yeah, but isn’t carryin’ them inside sending him a message too?”


“Maybe.” Ron shrugged. He looked grim. “But if we’re going to find this guy, we want him to think you like his attention. He’ll come out of the woodwork and we’ll slam him to the wall.” Ron gave her a concerned look. “Reality finally settling in?”


Kristen shrugged. “I guess.”


“Don’t worry. We’ll get this bastard yet.” Ron opened the door and let Kristen go into the house, walking behind with the flowers. He headed to the kitchen to dispose of them. Kristen went to the living room to sit on the couch for a minute.


Maybe she should have taken this thing more seriously before. But after months of screening her mail through Trina and Frank, Kristen had pretty much blown off her stalker. The flowers were a reminder though, that someone was out there that was obsessed with her. And apparently he was willing to go to far ends to make her notice him. She rubbed her temples slowly, trying to shake off the sudden headache that was forming behind her eyes.


“Ready to go?” Trina’s voice broke into Kristen’s thoughts.




“Make your movie?” Trina raised an eyebrow. “Damn. Workout fry your brain or what?”


“Not hardly.” Kristen stood up. “I need a shower. Give me ten minutes.” Trina nodded but Kristen didn’t see it. She was already heading up the stairs. She wished she had a normal life, full of normal events. She’d never wanted it as much as she did now. She was afraid to take an inventory of herself, afraid of what she’d find, and that was something she was not used to.


As the hot water ran over her body, Kristen did it anyway. There was her career. She was popular. She had money. She had friends. Those were all the good things. On the other hand, she had tabloids, and a stalker. Two very, very bad things. And Mark. Hell, she didn’t know where he fit into any of it. If he were single and they’d met, she would count it as good, but just earlier that morning Kristen had promised to help him find a way out of his predicament. Thereby taking on some of his problems on top of her own.


“Hellfire, Kris. Really stepped in it this time.” She muttered, soaping her hair. It didn’t matter. She wanted to forget the flowers, forget Ron’s concern. She wanted only to focus on the good things that had happened that day, to focus on Mark and what they would do together later. That put her in a much better frame of mind as she quickly finished her shower and headed downstairs.




Kristen was so tired she had trouble keeping her eyes open as Ron drove them from the movie set to the house. It was nearing on four in the morning. The nights shooting had gone smoothly, but the scenes were lengthy. By the time Kristen was done having her makeup removed she was almost asleep on her feet. She wanted nothing more than to go to her rented house, collapse into bed, and sleep for about twenty hours straight. Action scenes in movies tended to be tedious, and wearing, and she’d been climbing up and down stairs and jumping out of windows all night.


Ron had settled into a morose silence. After his chattiness earlier, it was almost a relief. He parked the car and hefted Kristen’s bag without waiting for her to ask. Kristen followed him into the house and muttered a good night before trudging up the stairs to her room.


Trina’s door was open, but there was no sign of her. She’d been at the set for most of the night, fielding phone calls, being bossy as was her style. She was still there, planning on going to breakfast with a few crewmembers that she’d known. Ron’s bedroom was set up on the first floor. It was as close to being alone as Kristen was going to get.


In her room, she stripped out of her jeans and t-shirt and eyed the bed. She could pass out, no problem, but she figured she should take another shower first. All that running, and rolling around in the fake debris of the set, and she felt filthy. With a sigh she headed for the bathroom, relegating herself to staying awake for at least ten more minutes.


Once that was taken care of, Kristen entered her room once more with a towel wrapped around her. The room was dark, and she could barely discern the outline of the bed. She dropped the towel on the floor and climbed in between the cool sheets, sighing in relief. She was worn out. She snuggled under the covers and dozed off almost immediately.


She hadn’t slept for more than an hour when something woke her up. Kristen blinked sleepily and frowned. The house was totally silent, the room still dark. Trina had taken the time at some point to hang thick blankets over the windows to block out whatever sunlight might be shining. Kristen nestled down once more, sighing.


A soft shuffling noise came from near the door.


Kristen’s eyes opened again, this time all the way. She bit her lip to keep quiet, wanting to speak, to ask if someone was there. It would be best to pretend she was sleeping, at least until her eyes adjusted enough to the darkness to see she was alone. She’d feel foolish calling out, and having Ron come running.


Her eyes had adjusted as much as they were going to though. It was pitch black in the room. She didn’t even have an alarm clock, so no digital numbers were illuminating the dark. The shuffling noise happened again, this time to her right, on the other side of the bed.


Kristen rolled off the bed, her feet thumping on the floor, as she rose quickly to her feet. Her hand was on the bedside lamp before she realized what she was doing, and with a click warm yellow light flooded the bedroom making her wince.


Mark stood on the other side of the bed.


“What…the HELL…are you doing? Trying to give me a heart attack?” Kristen asked, hand pressed against her chest. Her heart was pounding erratically.


Mark smiled. “Wanted to surprise you.” His eyes drifted down Kristen’s body. She belatedly remembered she had not put on any pajamas. She was standing naked in front of him.


“Good job.” Kristen snatched at the sheet on the bed, yanking it up to cover herself. Mark chuckled. She glanced at the closed door. Mark had removed his boots and left them lying near the entrance. He was still wearing his jeans and shirt that she’d seen him leave the set in.


“I didn’t mean to scare you Kris.” Mark’s expression turned serious. “You’ve been jumpy all night. What’s wrong?”


“I haven’t been jumpy.” Kristen said, wrapping the sheet tightly around her body. She didn’t meet his eyes, she pretended to be totally engrossed tucking the material around her. In truth, she had been a bit on edge throughout the night. Derek put it down as Kristen getting into character, but for some reason Mark had picked up on her nerves.


Mark shook his head. “Don’t have to lie about it. Something must be bothering you.”


“Did you come up here to lecture me?” Kristen said, sitting down on the edge of the bed.


“No. I came up here to see if you wanted to finish what we started earlier.” Mark sighed and walked around the bed. He dropped to his knees in front of her, taking Kristen’s hands into his. He rubbed her fingers with his, looking up into her eyes. “Tell me.”


“Nothing to tell.” Kristen either wanted to pull her hands away from him…or clutch at him. She couldn’t decide which one. His green eyes were clouded with concern. She had trouble looking into them, afraid that she’d want to lean on him too much. She had been so independent all of her life, why suddenly did she want Mark to make her feel safe?


“Well that’s bullshit.” Mark brought her hands up and held them against his chest. Kristen could feel his slow heartbeat and it soothed her. She sighed and closed her eyes.


“Got some flowers today, that’s all.”


“Flowers?” Mark’s eyebrow went up.


“From my stalker.”


Kristen felt him squeeze her hands lightly. She opened her eyes and looking into his once more, surprised at the look he was wearing. Not just concerned now, he seemed almost angry.


“How the hell did he know where you are?”


“It’s no secret we’re out here filming.” Kristen repeated Ron’s words from earlier.


“Yeah, but your address? Where did they come from, we can call and…” Mark trailed off when Kristen shook her head.


“He didn’t use a florist. Hand delivered them. At least, that’s what Ron thinks.”


“Kris…darlin’…” Mark let go of one of her hands and raised his to brush his fingers along her cheek. “Hell, I don’t know…” He curled his fingers, brushing his knuckled across the skin of her jaw. “How worried is your bodyguard?”


“He’s always worried.” Kristen said softly, leaning a bit against his hand. “He says the guy is just playin’ a game right now, he thinks he’s wooing me. Ron said that eventually he’ll escalate, but before that he’ll make a mistake and they’ll find him.”


“They will.” Mark said with more confidence that Kristen felt.


“I’ve been ignoring this for a long time.” She admitted. “I should have listened in the first place I guess. I don’t learn anything the easy way.”


“What…this happened before?” Mark guessed, rubbing his hand against her shoulder.


“Once. After my third or fourth movie. That guy was just…he was nuts, yeah, but it wasn’t creepy. This…this is creepy.” Kristen sighed again. “Ron thinks he may be violent. Because the notes he sends, they’re all happy and flirty, but there’s always a line in them that hints what will happen if I refuse him.”


“Kris…” Mark whispered her name, forcing her to meet his eyes again. “I’m not gonna let anything happen to you.”


Kristen shook her head. “It’s not your problem, Mark.”


“I’m makin’ it my problem.” Mark shifted, moving closer. He pulled Kristen down onto his lap, cradling her on the floor, wrapped around her. She snuggled against his chest, not realizing she was doing it, feeling so safe with him it was almost scary. “Some asshole wants to mess with you, he’s gonna have to get through me first. I promise you that.”


“I don’t want you to get hurt because of me.” Kristen said softly. “I don’t want anybody to get hurt because of me.” She wasn’t thinking of just Mark, she also worried about Ron and John…Trina…Glen. The guy seemed to know who Kristen hung out with, even when Glen had been a secret.


“Not gonna happen.” Mark ran his fingers comfortingly through Kristen’s still-damp hair, at ease with her against his body. “Gotta trust me on that one, nobody is gonna get hurt Kris.”


Kristen nodded because she did not trust herself to speak. She felt like crying. That Mark would want to be some kind of protector to her just blew her away. They were silent for several minutes, Mark gently rocking her, Kristen lost in thought.


“How did you get in here?” She finally asked. Mark chuckled.


“Ron’s out walkin’ around the property. Circling the house. He didn’t want to admit anything was wrong either, but he didn’t argue when I said I was comin’ to check on you.”


Kristen had thought Ron was heading to bed. That he was still up, going on twenty-four hours, meant he was truly worried. She held back a shudder, hoping that he wouldn’t find anything on his rounds of the property.


“What about…uh…Renee?” Kristen asked. Mark smirked.


“She’s gone out to eat with one of the camera guys.”


Kristen snickered, and the sound surprised her. “And that doesn’t bother you?”


“Why would it?” Mark asked, honestly perplexed. “I told you darlin’…we’re not really a couple. We do what we want. As long as it’s discreet.”


Kristen held back a laugh. Renee seemed to be anything but discreet. “Open marriage.”


“Hell, any more open and we’d have to live in separate houses.” Mark stated, deadpan. Kristen giggled, her hand covering her mouth to keep it quiet.


“I was still tryin’ to think of a way for you to get out of that.” She finally said.


Mark shrugged. “You have your own problems, Kris. Don’t worry about mine.”


Kristen lifted her head and looked at his eyes. “I guess I should say that same thing at you.”


Mark smirked. “You could. I think I’d probably ignore it though.”


“No doubt.” Kristen reached up and brushed a lock of Mark’s hair back from his face. Her fingers brushed against his earlobe. Mark stopped rocking, holding very still as her fingertip traced the outer edge of his ear.


“Probably a really bad time to be thinkin’ naughty thoughts.” He said, his voice lowering into a husky whisper.


“Seems like the perfect time to me. Make me forget.”


“Forget?” Mark asked, resisting the urge to duck his head and kiss her.


“I don’t want to be worried. I don’t want to be scared. Make me forget for a little while.” Kristen whispered. Her fingers trailed down his jaw, his neck. She could feel Mark holding himself back.


“You’re tired.” He said finally. It sounded weak.


“So are you.” Kristen moved her head, pressing her lips to the soft skin of Mark’s neck. “Stay with me then.”


“Here?” Mark closed his eyes at the feel of her mouth.


“Yes. In bed.” She mumbled against his skin. “I’ll sleep better if you’re here. We can lock the door. Nobody will even know you’re here.”


Mark hesitated. “I don’t know if I can sleep in a bed with you and not go crazy, Kris.”


She smiled, taking in a deep breath, inhaling the scent of his skin. “You can. For a little while.” She pulled back and met his eyes, giving him a heated look that he could not misinterpret. Mark looked at her, his expression serious, and nodded.


“I’ll try to behave myself.” He said, lips curved a bit. Kristen wiggled out of his lap and pulled the sheet from her body, spreading it on the bed once more. “You don’t have to torture me.” Mark commented, watching as she bent to smooth the sheet down. Kristen grinned at him.


“Wasn’t meant to torture. Just wanted to make sure you remember…to wake me up later.” She winked and climbed onto the bed. Mark rose to his feet, hesitated, and tugged his shirt off.


“You could at least put on some pajamas.” He grumbled. “Gonna make this hard on me.”


Kristen giggled and waited as Mark finished undressing. He slid under the sheet, as naked as she was, and scooted over until his body was against hers. Kristen reached out and turned off the light. Mark pulled her into his arms, spooning her against his big warm body. She had never in her life felt so safe, so warm, as she did at that moment, in the dark room with Mark wrapped around her. With a sigh, she snuggled into him and closed her eyes, exhaustion taking her down into the depths of sleep.




Warm fingers stroking across her stomach brought Kristen’s eyes open some time later.


She blinked and was confused for a minute. The room was utterly pitch black. It dawned on her where she was…but more importantly…who the fingers belonged to.


“Mornin’.” She muttered, flinching a bit when Mark found a ticklish spot near her ribs.


“Afternoon, more like it.” Mark said, his voice just as low. He brushed his lips against her cheek. Kristen shifted away from him. “What? You said…”


“Yeah, I know. Can I at least brush my teeth first?” She asked, wiggling even more. “You might want to do that too.”


“What are you tryin’ to say woman?” Mark chuckled but gamely rolled off the bed.


“Mornin’ breath ruins the mood.” Kristen stated, heading toward the bathroom door.


“I didn’t bring a toothbrush. Gonna share yours?”


“Eww…no. That’s gross.” She flipped the switch, flooding the bathroom with light.


“So you’d let me shove my tongue and uh…maybe other things in your mouth, but won’t let me use your toothbrush?”


Kristen stared at Mark, eyebrow up, feeling a bit sluggish still. It struck her finally what he’d said and she had to laugh. “Well you have a point there. But I’m using it first.”


“Fair enough.” Mark smiled. “Shower?”


“You sayin’ I smell?”


“I was just wondering if you were going to take one. Are you always this grumpy when you get up?”


“I’m not grumpy.” Kristen said, speaking around her toothbrush and a mouthful of toothpaste. Mark stood back and watched, smirking. Kristen didn’t seem to realize she was once again fully naked in front of him. “And stop staring. It’s rude.” She said, flicking water at him. Mark grinned sheepishly and averted his eyes, sneaking glances when he thought he could get away with it. Kristen rinsed her mouth and toothbrush then reluctantly handed it over to Mark. “I’ll be in the bed.”


Mark watched her retreat from the bathroom, eyes on her rear, leering openly. Kristen shot him a look over her shoulder, but she was grinning. “You don’t have to tease you know.” Mark grumbled before brushing his teeth quickly. He made sure to rinse out her toothbrush and place it in the plastic cup on the sink before switching off the light and finding his way back to the bed.


Kristen smiled when his weight caused the mattress to dip. Mark slid against her once again, pressed his mouth to hers, and gave her lips a little flick with his tongue. “Better?”


“Oh yeah. Much thanks.” Kristen reached up and tangled a hand into Mark’s long hair, pulling his mouth back to hers for a real kiss, lips pressed together, tongues stroking each other. Mark moaned against her mouth and slid his hand across her stomach again, reveling in the silky feel of her smooth skin, breathing in her warm scent.


Mark broke the kiss and nuzzled Kristen’s neck, his hand sliding up her ribs, fingertips brushing the bottom of her breast. She strained upward, urging him on, more than ready to feel him touching her, teasing her. His tongue flicked the skin under her ear, and Kristen moaned softly as his hand moved, fully covering her breast. His palm was warm, almost hot, and Kristen felt her nipples hardening against his skin in response to his heat.


Kristen heard a pounding noise, sure for a moment it was the rush of blood from her heart as Mark touched her. The illusion was broken when the pounding was followed by a voice from outside her door. “Yo! Kris!”


Mark and Kristen both let out exasperated sighs. She would have found it comical in other circumstances. Now it was just frustrating.


“WHAT!” She yelled it back, sounding as put out as she was feeling. “SOMEBODY BETTER BE DEAD JOHN!” She knew John’s voice, and knew it was him at the door. He’d gotten there in record time.


There was silence for a moment. John cleared his throat. “Somebody is dead Kris.” Even though his voice was low, and it came through a fairly solid door, every word was clear.


Mark froze, not moving, and Kristen felt as if she could not breath. “Hold on a minute.” She said, her voice lower. She reached up and found Mark’s face in the darkness, stroking his cheek with her fingers. “Gotta get up.” She kept the worry from her voice. He wasn’t a bit fooled. He grabbed her hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing her palm gently.


“Go on. I’ll wait here for you. Or sneak out the back way.” Mark said softly.


“Wait for me. Please?” Kristen asked, not wanting to sound too needy, but feeling as if she’d need his strength after speaking to John.


She felt him nod against her palm. “I’m not goin’ anywhere darlin’.” He kissed her hand one more time then let her go. Kristen reluctantly slid from the bed and grabbed her robe. She wrapped it tightly around herself before disengaging the lock and cracking the door open. John stood across the hall, looking tired, his expression unreadable. She stepped into the hallway, careful John didn’t see Mark in her room, and crossed her arms protectively over her chest.


“What’s going on?” She asked, keeping her voice down.


“You’d better come downstairs so we can show you.” John said, his voice full of regret and…worry? Kristen wasn’t sure. It was foreign in her dealings with the younger bodyguard. She followed along behind him, padding barefoot down the stairs, frown marring her features. Ron was in the kitchen, newspaper spread in front of him. A woman that Kristen had never seen before was seated to his right, peering over his shoulder.


“Now, what’s going on?” Kristen asked, her stomach twisting itself into knots.


Ron looked up at her. His expression was grim. The woman looked Kristen up and down, as if sizing her up. Kristen self-consciously adjusted the robe and cleared her throat. She hated being scrutinized, and that was crazy considering her job, but at least in a movie she had makeup and hair and…


It was silly to be worrying about how she looked when obviously something was wrong. Ron sighed heavily and took a sip from the coffee cup in front of him before speaking. “Miss Williams…this is Jaden Sheridan. Detective…Sheridan.” He emphasized the title.


“Miss Williams…” Sheridan began.


“Just Kris.” Kristen said absently. Detective Sheridan was pretty, and Kristen never would have pegged her to be a cop. She had long dark hair, almost black, in a single plait down her back. Her eyes were dark too, a midnight blue Kristen had never seen outside of contact lenses. She wore jeans and a simple white shirt. Nothing flashy about her.


“Kris then. You can call me Jaden…or Jay. I answer to both.” Jaden smiled.


“Ok, so does somebody want to tell me why there is a detective sitting in my kitchen?” Kristen said, breaking into the niceties, feeling impatient. John, Ron and Jaden exchanged a look. Ron sighed again and shifted the newspaper in front of him.


“Here…read this.” He pushed the paper toward her. Kristen picked it up and looked at the article that had been circled with black marker. Apparently sometime during the previous evening, a woman had been strangled to death in her bed. There was signs of a sexual assault.


“So? What does that have to do with me? I’m sorry that some psycho went nuts, but…” Kristen distastefully put the paper back on the table.


“This is a small town, Kris. Tiny.” Jaden said, her voice low and soothing, as if Kristen were a wild animal she was trying not to scare. “Things like this…they don’t happen here.”


“Things like this happen everywhere.” Kristen said flatly.


“There hasn’t been a murder in this county in over eighty years.” Jaden informed her.


“Then you were overdue.” Kristen stated.


Jaden sighed and looked at her, directly into her eyes. Kristen willed her nerves to calm down as the woman reached into a folder she hadn’t noticed. It was mostly buried under the newspaper. “The killer…he left a note at the crime scene. There was no other evidence, no fingerprints other than the woman’s, and hair and fiber are going to take a while.” She said, as if reciting a practiced speech. “But first of all, I want you to look at this picture.” She held out a photograph. It was in a plastic bag. Kristen didn’t want to touch it, she didn’t know why, but she took the offered baggie and studied the picture through the clear plastic.


A young woman with long dark hair smiled from the photograph. Kristen shook her head. “I don’t know her if that’s what you’re wondering.”


“Actually, we knew her. Her name was Cassie Franklin. Thirty years old. Looks younger doesn’t she?” Jaden shook her head. “She lived alone.”


“Ok.” Kristen sighed. “And?”


“You don’t see it do you?” John asked, sounding incredulous.


“See what?” Kristen glanced at the picture again, frowning.


“The hair. The eyes.” John pointed out. Kristen looked again. The woman…Cassie…had light colored eyes, but it was hard to tell. The picture looked a bit grainy.


“Wait…you think she looks like me?” Kristen asked, her voice skeptical.


“Not completely.” Ron shook his head. “But there’s a resemblance. The hair mostly I think.”


Kristen found that now it was pointed out, the woman did seem to have the same style and color hair as she did. “Oh god. Don’t tell me this is him.”


“Who him?” Jaden asked.


Ron quickly explained about Kristen’s alleged stalker. The expression on Jaden’s face didn’t change, but her eyes seemed to darken a bit. Whether it was worry or…something…Kristen didn’t know.


“You said there was a note.” Kristen reminded her. Jaden nodded and pulled out another plastic bag.


“We found this next to the body. It was in an envelope. With your name on it, Kris.” Jaden showed them the envelope before once more reaching into her folder. “This was the letter inside. We would have never made a connection to you if he hadn’t left the note.” She handed the letter over to Kristen. She took it with shaking hands.


Heads I win, tails you lose 
I always play by my own rules 
And I don't believe in wasting time 
So long before we end this night 

“Is this some kind of poem?” Kristen asked, reading it over and over. There was nothing else on it, just the loosely rhyming words.


“It’s actually a country music song by Faith Hill.” Jaden offered. She had a pained expression on her face. “The song is called ‘You Will Be Mine’.”


Kristen set the letter down. Her hands were more than just trembling now. She felt chilled to the bone. “Christ. He killed some girl thinking…what? I’d be impressed? I’d be scared into his sick game?”


“To him this is not a game. He thinks you’re in love with him. And he reciprocates. But he thinks you’re playing hard to get. So this is how he figures to win your affection.” Jaden explained.


“You have any experience with this kind of thing?” Ron asked her, staring at her.


Jaden smiled. “Honey, I’m a transplant. I just moved here six months ago from Los Angeles. So yeah, I think I know a thing or three about murders and stalkers.”


Kristen heaved a sigh. “So what do we do now?”


“What we do now is no more alone time. Here at the house is fine, on the set with other people. But no runnin’ off to grab breakfast or go shoppin’.” Ron stated firmly. Kristen could only nod in agreement.


“We might want to get a couple more guys in here.” John added.


Kristen huffed. “He’s one person. What am I, president?”


“You underestimate your value, Miss Williams.” Ron said softly. Kristen glared at him.


“For the millionth time. It’s KRIS. Any more ‘Miss Williams’ crap and I’ll fire the both of you and deal with this myself.”


“All right…Kris…” Ron held up a hand, trying to calm her down, sounding uncomfortable with the use of her first name. “We have to stay rational. That’s going to be the key here. You can’t outthink a crazy person, there’s no rhyme or reason to what he’s thinking. So if we all stay calm, keep our cool, we’ll nail him. He’ll screw up and the bastard will rot in jail.”


“You sound confident.” Jaden said, looking at Ron closely.


“I’ve been in L.A. too. I’ve been through this kind of thing before.” He said, keeping it simple, his tone implying that he would not answer questions about his past wards.


“All right then. Kris…” Jaden rose to her feet. “We’ll be questioning most of the crew tonight, just…”


“Is that necessary? I know almost everyone…”


“It’s standard procedure.” Jaden finished her thought as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “For now, sit tight here at the house. I’m going to talk to your director, see if he’ll allow a night off while we investigate.”


“Christ…” Kristen ran her fingers through her hair, realizing for the first time how tangled up it was. “This is really happening.”


“Don’t go blamin’ yourself Kris.” John said softly, resting his hand on her shoulder. “Some of these guys, they reach a point where they think God is talkin’ to them from the sewers. There’s no reasoning with them, and no way to understand how the hell they think. But Ron and I are here, and we’re not going to let that bastard come near you.”


Kristen took a shaky breath and nodded, comforted slightly by John’s surety. “I’m going back to my room. I need to think.” She waved off John’s offer to walk her up and padded back through the house and up the stairs. “Hell.” She muttered under her breath. Mark was still in her room. The sexual mood she’d been in earlier was gone, replaced by a sick feeling of dread low in her stomach. Maybe it would be best if Mark just stayed away from her. She didn’t want him to be in any danger by being with her. She knew that the stalker could not know that they had…sort of…a relationship, but all the same, she didn’t want to risk it. She would have to tell him what had happened, and gently send him on his way. She’d been foolish to think they could form some kind of relationship under all of this stress anyway. Ignoring the sadness that seemed to clutch at her, Kristen trudged down the hall to her room, never in her life wanting to be someone else as much as she did at that moment.




Mark refused to listen to Kristen’s worries. He pulled her into his arms as soon as she was done talking, holding her tight, ignoring her protests. He would not leave her, not now, now when it seemed that she needed him to be there with her.


Kristen could not fight him for long. She clutched at Mark, feeling as if she was drowning and he was her lifeline. With a shaky sigh, she looked up into his into his eyes and pulled him down into a deep kiss. In spite of it feeling wrong, in spite of the fact that being with her could be dangerous, she wanted him. And he wanted her. She could feel it, could feel him holding himself in check, fighting for control of it.


She slid her hands down his chest, reveling in the feel of warm skin against her palms. Mark hadn’t bothered to get dressed. He wanted Kristen to be as naked as he was. He slowly eased her robe from her body, letting it drop to the floor. Kristen shivered at the feel of his skin pressed to hers as he pulled her close against him once more. She clutched at him, holding tight, as he kissed her again, more thoroughly, deeply, leaving her breathless.


Mark’s hands slid down Kristen’s back, over her bottom, until her grasped at her thighs and lifted her off her feet. She moaned softly at the feel of sliding against him as Mark turned and lay her gently down on the bed. He knelt there beside her, one hand touching, stroking, lingering over her body, as if he were using his fingers to learn every exposed inch of her. Kristen almost felt like crying, he was being so damn gentle with her, and after their animalistic beginning it surprised her. He did not want fast and rough and uninhibited, he wanted to make love to her. Kristen understood the difference, and it scared her…but damned if she didn’t want it. She wanted to know what it felt like when Mark let himself go completely, when he was gentle and easy and intense.


Mark kissed, licked and nibbled until Kristen thought she would go crazy with wanting him. All thoughts were pushed aside as Mark used his mouth and tongue to stroke her silken skin, from her mouth all the way down to her knees and back up again. His big hands stroked her, following the path his lips had made, drawing soft moans and murmurs of approval from Kristen.


His body moved along top of hers as Mark settled himself between her legs. He stroked into her ready body slowly, centimeter by centimeter, until he was sheathed completely in her aching depths. He set a slow pace, rocking his hips slightly against hers, more intent on kissing her, it seemed, than making love to her. Kristen arched under him, pressing more fully into his body, urging him on with her soft whimpers. It was all he could do to reign in the fire inside him as he felt her inner walls clamp tight around his overheated flesh and she moaned his name. With a shudder, he climaxed deep within her, unable to hold back any longer.


They lay panting in each other’s arms, hands stroking softly, neither wanting to go back to reality just yet. Mark was the first to move, shifting his weight away from her, making her groan at the loss of his warmth. He smiled in the dark bedroom, tugging Kristen until she lay sprawled on top of him. She sighed and nestled against his chest, her fingers drawing lazy patterns on his smooth skin.


“Marry me.”


Kristen almost convinced herself she had imagined his voice. It was low, quieter than a whisper. Her fingers still their movements and she waited, unsure of what to say or do.

Mark tightened his grip on her. “You said you would help me with my problem.”


“Right, I did.” She smiled.


“Really the only way I can think of to fix it.” Mark said, as if that were obvious.


“You’re already engaged.” Kristen murmured, still smiling. She thought he was making a joke, had to be. He had no seriously asked her to marry him.


“Yeah well, I was thinkin’ about that too…” Mark said softly. “We could tell people that my engagement was a fake, so the tabloids would keep away. I mean, who gives a shit if some wrestler gets married? But if you got married, it would be a zoo.”


“You got that right.” She suppressed a shudder, just thinking about the mess her eventual wedding would cause.


“So to hide it, I got engaged and we used this movie as an excuse to spend time together and secretly get married.”


“You really have given this some thought, haven’t you?” There was humor in the question. Kristen thought it was a novel and rather funny idea.


“Pretty much all day.” Mark admitted. “And maybe more than that. So how about it?”


“How about what?” Kristen asked, resuming the movement of her fingers against his skin.


“Marry me.”


“Ha, ok, it was funny the first time…”


“Wasn’t a joke.” Mark grasped her fingers, stilling her motion against him. “Hell…this is hard, but here goes. Call me a fool if you want to. I wanna marry you, Kris. I’ve managed to go and fall in love with you. Wasn’t my intention, didn’t even want it to happen, but it did. I don’t want anybody else, I don’t wanna marry anybody else, I want to be with you. I want to protect you and make you laugh and love you and…” Mark suddenly stopped and cleared his throat. “I’m ramblin’.”


Kristen said nothing for what seemed a long time. “Mark…”


“Don’t try to argue me out of it, darlin’. My heart is set on you, hell if I know why or when it happened, but it did. I’m not a deep thinkin’ person, but I know my own mind and heart, and all I can think about is you.”


Kristen bit her lower lip and sighed. “Is this because you want to get out of marrying that demon woman you call a fiancé?”


“No, Kris, this is because I finally found somebody I could fall in love with.”




“Ok what?”


“Ok I’ll marry you.” Kristen kissed his chest.


“That’s it?”


“You wanted more?”


“I expected a long drawn out argument with lots of screaming and crying…” Mark chuckled nervously.


“I don’t have the energy for a display like that right now.”


“You wouldn’t just be sayin’ that because of my…situation would you?” Mark asked hesitant again. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to do it, just to keep Renee away from me.”


“Don’t be dense.” Kristen rolled her eyes. “I would never marry anyone for any reason unless I loved them and actually wanted to spend the rest of my life with them.”


Mark was silent then, mulling her words, realizing that somewhere in there she had admitted she loved him back. He grinned and held her tight, kissing the top of her head. “You won’t regret it.”


“I’d better not.” She poked his side playfully then laughed.


“What is it?” Mark asked, curious as to her sudden good humor.


“I just realized…we forgot the condom again.”  Kristen said with a giggle.


“Well hell…” Mark muttered and released her long enough to smack his forehead with his palm. “Didn’t even think about it.”


“Me either.” Kristen said happily, snuggling even closer to him.


“Don’t worry? I thought you said you didn’t want to tempt fate?” Mark said it in question form, trying to recall her exact words.


“Yes, that’s true. But that was before I got engaged. Now I can’t wait to have a kid.”


“Hell, you didn’t tell me you were gonna turn into a baby factory.” Mark said jokingly, tickling Kristen’s ribs, making her squirm.


“You never asked.” She said breathlessly when he finally stopped his tormenting. “That’s presumptuous of me, talking about kids already.”


“Don’t worry. I want a few more myself.” Mark had not, in fact, wanted any more kids after Lucas, but since Kristen was the one who would be helping him make the children, he found himself eager to be a father again. A girl this time, maybe, with Kristen’s gray eyes and beauty. He could almost imagine the little one now. Mark shook his head. Once again, he was getting ahead of himself. They had to get through the wedding first, before they got to work producing their first child.


“What are you going to tell Renee?” Kristen asked, bringing him out of his thoughts. Mark made a sour face.


“I don’t know. The truth always works I guess.”


“Better you than me then. I don’t want her thinkin’ I stole her cash cow out from under her.” Kristen said with a laugh.


“I think you’ll be surprised at her reaction.” Mark stated confidently. He smiled in the darkness, his hands stroking Kristen’s back as she lay on top of him. “Very surprised.” He refused to think about what Kristen had told him earlier. He would have to, he knew it, but not now. For now he wanted to enjoy holding his beautiful fiancé in his arms, enjoy her joking and her warm body, and forget the outside world existed if only for a little while.




Jaden sat at her desk in the squad room, rubbing her temples with her index fingers, staring blankly at the computer monitor in front of her.


It had been a long day, starting at just past five in the morning. It was nearing on that time again. She was no closer to figuring out who had killed Cassie Franklin, even after the lab work that had been done that day. The room was clean, the only hair belonged to Cassie, and Jaden was at a dead end already.


The phone rang at the desk at the front of the room. A sleepy looking sergeant picked up, holding a steaming coffee in his free hand. Jaden saw his body tense, and was already rising to her feet before he could beckon her to the front.


“Got it. Ten minutes.” He slammed the phone down. “Rookie. Biggs says he found another one. Saw a woman runnin’ down the street screamin’, stopped her and calmed her down long enough to hear that she has a body in her motel.”


“Which one?”


“Deb Adams.” The sergeant shook his head. “Same thing as yesterday.”


“Fuck me runnin’.” Jaden sighed. She picked up a notepad and scribbled a note to herself, writing down the address of the motel and the woman’s name. “No way in hell we’re gonna keep this quiet. Not two in two days.”


“Fuckin’ reporters.” The sergeant spit out. “You want to make a call out?”


Jaden bit her lip thoughtfully before shaking her head. “Not just yet.” The night shift in this sleepy little town consisted of four men. A call out would bring in the next shift early. They weren’t due until seven. “Let me see what we’ve got before a dozen rooks go stampin’ all over my evidence.”


The sergeant nodded, his lips curling up in a sneer. The county had just put up a bit of money to hire on ten new police officers, and all of them were kids barely out of high school. Jaden sighed and grabbed her things before heading out to her car. The drive to the motel took only five minutes, and she stood in the parking lot looking at the building before going in.


There were only eight rooms. This area didn’t get a lot of tourism, but the No Vacancy sign was the only light besides the lamps in the lot. The film crew, at least a dozen of them, had rented the place out for the duration of the movie’s filming. A black and white patrol car sat near the building. Jaden heard voices coming from that direction and moved, taking in the night around her.


The officer, one of the young ones, was attempting to get the owner of the motel to calm down. She was babbling incoherently, her hands shaking. Jaden shooed the officer away, leaning toward Deb with a concerned look on her face. Deb was in her forties, with short blonde hair and a chubby figure. She had six kids, all of them off to college or beyond. Her husband had died just a year before. She ran the motel efficiently and all by herself.


“Deb…hon…tell me what happened.” Jaden said softly. Deb looked at her, seeming to stare through her, and took a shaky breath.


“I couldn’t sleep.” She finally spoke, her voice trembling. “So I was doing my early morning prep even earlier than usual. Getting towels and things ready…” She trailed off, chewing at her lower lip. “I saw the door to room four standing open…just a little bit. I thought I should close it…you know, those movie people…maybe they had a party and she was drunk and forgot…So I went to close her door. The bathroom light was one. I could see a corner of the…of the…bed…” Deb started to stutter as her teeth rattled together. It was a warm night but the older woman shivered as if cold. Without being asked, the young officer went to his trunk to get a blanket, and wrapped it around Deb’s shoulders.


The woman gave him a grateful smile. Her expression turned serious. “It’s summer. I always use white during summer, makes the room seem cooler. The comforter is white with pale blue flowers…and when I looked in the room the comforter was red. Dark red. And it looked wet. So I thought, hell, maybe she needs help, fell and cracked her head, I don’t know. So I opened the door…” She swallowed hard, closing her eyes. “And she was layin’ there on the bed, all bloody and…” Deb shook her head. “I can’t. I don’t wanna remember.”


“It’s all right, Deb.” Jaden squeezed the other woman’s shoulder and glanced at the officer. “You stay with her, don’t let anybody in. Call on the CB, get another car in here, and we’ll clear out the motel.”


“They were all in the hall when I peaked in.” The officer said. “I told them all to stay in their rooms, we’d come tell them when they could leave.”


“Good thinking.” Jaden smiled and squared her shoulders. Christ, two dead bodies in a day. She was on her way to setting a record. “I’ll be out in ten minutes. Tell the sarge to do the call out.” She walked away after making sure that the young man was going to follow her directions.


Room four was the second door past the desk, on the left. It was still cracked open. Jaden didn’t bother taking her gun out. Like the night before, the perpetrator would be long gone, the body beyond saving. She knew it in her gut. She used her elbow to knock the door open, not wanting to get her fingerprints on the knob, knowing that the officer outside and Deb had probably already destroyed any evidence of that anyway. She did it out of habit.


The smell hit her first. Jaden didn’t know why, but the smell of blood had always seemed particularly strong to her. She wished she’d through to bring a mask, but it was too late to go back to the car to get one. Using her elbow again, she found the light switch and clicked it on, wincing as the room flooded with a yellow glow.


The bed was a mess. Blood stained the once white comforter from end to end. The girl laying in the middle was spread eagle, totally naked, her sides, stomach and chest marred by small punctures. The guy had used a knife this time. She held her breath and leaned forward, studying the woman’s neck. Just as she’d figured, there were bruises. The woman hadn’t been strangled to death, she’d probably died of blood loss, but the perp had tried to choke her out first. As if he hadn’t wanted her to feel the pain of her rape and death.


The woman’s eyes were open. Jaden studied her face, a frown forming on her features. Except for her eyes, which had probably been a dark chocolate brown, the woman on the bed could have been Kristen Williams. She had the same hair, the same build. Jaden racked her brain, recalling the interviews she’d done the day before, when the director had agreed to halt production for the day.


The name came to her. Rosalyn Redd. It sounded like a stage name, and Rosalyn had laughed and said it was her mother’s idea of a joke. She was Kristen’s body and stunt double. It was no wonder they looked so much alike.


So now, not only did she have a look-a-like, Jaden had someone who worked closely on the set with Kristen. Her stalker was growing bold, but he still kept to town, not bothering Kris in any way. At least not yet. Jaden knew this was far from over, that the guy was just getting started. Yesterday’s body had been almost clean, except for the bruising. Today he’d gotten messy. And from the bruises on Rosalyn’s inner thighs, she’s also been raped before her death. This guy was playing some sort of sicko mind game, and Jaden had to figure out what it was before someone else died.


With a sigh, she glanced around the room. Nothing seemed out of place. If there was a struggle, it had all happened in the bed. Perhaps the killer had straightened the blankets. Jaden eyed the comforter dubiously, wondering if he’d left another note. Her eyes were drawn back to the body. To the puncture wounds in her stomach specifically.


Something had struck her as strange, but Jaden had been intent on finding bruises on the neck. Now her eyes fell on one inch long cut right above Rosalyn’s belly button. Something poked out of the hole. Jaden went into the bathroom and grabbed some toilet paper, using it to cover her fingers as she gripped the slippery plastic object and pulled it free from the wound. Her nose wrinkled in disgust as it slid free, covered in blood.


It was another note. Inside a plastic bag. The guy had given some thought to how he would leave his message, which made Jaden’s blood run cold. He was planning this out, carefully setting the stage for…what? She could not know that yet. She used the toilet tissue to wipe away a bit of blood, and saw Kristen’s name printed in block letters on the paper. “Shit.” Jaden carefully extracted the note, setting the bloody plastic next to the body. She heard voices from the hall. The other officers had finally arrived. She ignored them for now, using even more toilet tissue to unfold the note.


I will have held you 
I will have kissed you 
I will have claimed you 
You will be mine 
I will have loved you 
Wrong or right 
I will have your heart 
You will be mine 

The chorus to that country song. Jaden had listened to it earlier, but country music wasn’t her thing and she hadn’t seen what connection it could have.


“Found something?” A voice asked from the doorway. Jaden turned to see the captain of the police, Allen Summers, standing there.


“Another note.”


“Williams again.” Summers shook his head. “Damn Hollywood bullshit. Next time somebody wants to bring this shit to town, I’m fuckin’ movin’.”


“That makes two of us.” Jaden muttered. She hated to have to do it, but she was going to have to break the news to Kristen again. This time it was not some stranger. It was someone she knew, someone she worked with, and someone she could not deny looked like her. “I’ll leave the note for you guys to bag. I’m going out to the ranch where they’re filming. There’s got to be something we’re missing here.”


Summers nodded, stepping aside as two men in head to toe safety gear entered. They would be collecting evidence and dealing with the body. Jaden stepped out of the room, breathing deep of the cleaner air of the hallway, her mind spinning at all that had happened in her quiet little town since the movie had come to town.




Kristen was quiet. Whether she was stunned or tired, Jaden didn’t know. She thought it might be a little of both. Her costar, a guy that looked familiar, sat beside her, holding her hand. Someone had told Jaden that Mark was a wrestler. She didn’t have a chance to watch much television, but she didn’t doubt it. The two looked rather cozy together as they listened to her.


When she was finished, Kristen had tears in her gray eyes. She blinked them back furiously. “Why? Why would somebody do that Roz?” She asked, not expecting an answer.


“We already figured the why Kris.” John, her bodyguard, stood nearby, listening in silence. It was the first time that morning that he’d spoken.


Jaden explained about the second note. Kristen’s frown deepened. Jaden didn’t want to press her, but time was important. If they were going to stop this guy before he killed again, Kristen was going to have to tell her anything that she could possibly know.


“What is it?” Jaden asked, catching Kristen’s eyes with her own.


“Nothing…” But she sounded unsure.


“Something. Spill it.” Jaden waved a hand.


“Well…about six or seven years ago, I was in this movie…” Kristen shook her head. “Wasn’t the greatest flick in the world, but it did all right. That song made me think of it…”


“Oh? Why is that?” Jaden asked, leaning forward.


“The movie…it’s called You Will Be Mine.” Kristen stated, her voice blank of all emotion. “Hell, I don’t know why I didn’t remember before. I played a woman who was getting tormented by her ex-boyfriend, and he killed all of her friends off before coming for her.”


“Life imitating art?” Mark asked, casting a worried glance at Kristen.


“Well, this guy is killing off girls that bear a resemblance, not just friends. So it’s shaky.” Jaden said, sighing. “I don’t think I saw that one.”


“You’re lucky. Not one of the better ones I’ve been in.” Kristen matched her sigh. “It’s just…the first girl that died in the movie…she was strangled. The second one was stabbed.” This caused them all to go silent. Kristen looked from Mark to John, Jaden to Ron, and rubbed her neck. “The ex left notes with the bodies. Love poems. Since my character and his were broken up, the cops didn’t connect them, they thought he was going after women he was dating currently…”


“Fuck. Didn’t you die in that one Kris?” John asked, suddenly remembering. She was right, it had not been a great movie, but it had been interesting all the same. Especially since she got killed off fairly early, leaving only her sister to find her killer.


“Fourth one.” Kristen gave a very unconvincing smile.


“Fuck. So if he’s copying the movie…”


“Then we’ve only got one more victim until he comes for Kristen.” Jaden finished John’s thought. “I need to see this movie.”


“We can download a copy on the computer.” Ron said, finally speaking. His silence had been even more thunderstruck than John’s.


“Good.” Jaden moved to rise, an idea occurring to her. “Tell me Kris…is there anyone working here with you now that worked on that other film with you?”


“Why?” Kristen asked, confused.


“Just curious.” Jaden said, keeping her voice neutral.


“Well…” Kristen sighed. “Derek. He was the director.”


“He’s directing this one right?” Jaden asked.


“Yes. He’s very good.” Kristen smiled wanly. “The best at the horror movies. If you listen to the fans.”


“And he’s the only one?”


“The only one I can remember.” Kristen spread her hands. “It was a big production, we had tons of extras running around.”


“That’s all right. Let’s go check this movie out.” Jaden said to John. Inwardly, she was making a mental checklist. Derek Wilson had been smooth, suave, sophisticated the day before when Jaden had spoken to him. She’d dismissed him as a harmless flirt. Now she had a new title for him besides director. She was sure before the day was through that Derek would be her number one suspect. It made sense, in a twisted way, the man wanting to live out his movie.


John loaded up the movie on his laptop, and Jaden settled onto the couch to watch. She had a notepad and pen ready to take notes, to see if the movie would give her some clue about what the killer would do next. After this she was going to have a long talk with Derek Wilson. She would have to survive on coffee again. Sleep seemed a long way off for her that day.




“There is absolutely no way in hell.”


Jaden crossed her arms, ready to argue with the tall director. Derek had answered her questions with a hint of amusement sparkling in his eyes. He had been upset over losing Roz, but he was not the kind of person to let a death bring him down.


Behind him a huge building had been erected. On the outside it was painted plain gray. It looked like a warehouse. Inside, a hammer pounded rhythmically before being drowned out by a power saw starting up.


“For the safety of everyone…” Jaden began, raising her voice to be heard over the racket from the construction.


“We called off shooting yesterday.” Derek reminded her. “I didn’t mind that. But we can’t shut down for two days. As if is, we’re all going to have to film on Sunday to make up for yesterday. And we can’t get over budget, we have no room to move money-wise.” He shook his head.


“This is ridiculous. You would put your stars and co-workers in jeopardy…and for what? Money?” Jaden was incredulous.


“It’s not about the money, Detective. Although from a studio’s standpoint it is. As any of them here…” Derek gestured at the crew that worked on the building. “Ask Kris or anyone acting on the film. We want to finish this up and go home. Two more weeks, if we keep on a tight schedule. That means no more unexpected shut-downs.”


Jaden sighed. She very well could go get a court order to stop the production, but to what end? She’d have every tabloid, every media outlet, every studio reigning down on her before she could more than hand Derek the papers. The town was quiet, she aimed to keep it that way. She could not deal with a hundred nosy reporters trampling her crime scenes.


“Ah…Good afternoon Kris.” Derek’s tone did a complete one-eighty. Kristen walked over and smiled at him.


“Wow, they got this up awfully fast.” She commented, checking out the building. Derek smiled and took her arm, leading her toward the structure. Jaden had no choice but to follow.


“It’s crunch time, Kris.” Derek said. He glanced at Jaden. “The end of our movie boils down to a stand off in an old barn.” He pushed the door open for the women and let them enter first. “So we’ve had to make one to suit our needs. Completely collapsible when we’re done.” He said, before Jaden could ask why they didn’t use a barn that was already standing. There was no shortage of them around town. “We needed something huge, with an environment we can control.” Derek said, as if she’d asked him anyway.


Kristen looked around, nodding. From the outside it was just a square building. The inside was a surprise. The left wall was lined with stalls. Through the doors at the back she could see the bales of hay piled up, waiting to be strategically placed. Wooden posts reached up to the ceiling, over four stories up. She whistled. “Could you have made it taller?” She asked with a smirk, watching as one of their stagehands climbed down a metal ladder on the back wall. High above them a catwalk had been erected. Another crew member was up there, and appeared to be attaching lights to the shaky looking metal.


“It’s optimum for our lighting effects. And the mounted camera.” Derek pointed it out. “No one is allowed up there but Joe and Miles. They’re the smallest guys. We figure after the lights all go in, we can’t get more than another hundred and fifty pounds on there before it collapses.”


“Well don’t be asking me to crawl up there.” Kristen felt dizzy just watching Miles as he leaned over the side. Derek gave her shoulder a squeeze.


“Don’t worry Kris. All of our shooting is from the ground this week.” He smiled. His eyes swept the room. “Ah. There’s our Brianna.”


Kristen turned to say hello to her tiny co-star. Abby was holding onto her father’s hand, looking around in awe. She had only arrived the night before…the shooting they had done mostly featured Mal and Jack searching for their daughter. The barn would be where she was found.


“Hiya Kris.” Abby said, grinning. She let go of Kevin’s hand to give her a hug. Kristen and Abby had become friends over the course of filming. She was going to be sad when the movie ended, if only because she wouldn’t see the little one again.


“What’s shakin’ Abs?” Kristen said with a laugh. She glanced at Kevin. “And hi to you.”


“Place isn’t what I expected.” Kevin said looking around. “But damn, it looks like a real barn in here.”


“Just the reaction I was hoping for.” Derek said with a smile.


“Excuse me.” Jaden reminded everyone she was still there. She looked from the kid to the man beside her, and had the strangest feeling that she knew him from somewhere. “I’m Jaden Sheridan. Detective Sheridan.” She added. Kevin’s left eyebrow raised. That was the only reaction she got. “Who are you?”


“Kevin Davis.” He smiled down at the little girl and Kristen. “I’m Abby’s dad. And Abby here is in this movie.” Kevin gave his daughter’s head a pat. “Why are you asking?”


“I might want to talk to you soon.” Jaden did not answer him. She was the one who would be asking questions. No one had mentioned this Kevin Davis to her during any of her interviews. She knew that Derek, at the moment, was still her best suspect, but she could not overlook anyone. “I’m going to the station. I need to make some calls. I’ll be back this evening, Mister Wilson.” She directed that at Derek. “And I will expect to see you as well, Mister Davis.” With that, Jaden turned and left the building. The adults looked at each other for a moment.


“Somebody want to fill me in?” Kevin finally asked.


“I think I’ll take Abby to the food tent, maybe see if I can scrounge up some ice cream.” Kristen said. She did not want Abby to overhear anything that Derek said to her father. The little girl was more than happy to accompany her. They got one of the cooks to fill two bowls and sat companionably at a table under the shade of the tent.


Abby talked enough for both of them. She chattered away about anything and everything that came to mind. Kristen only listened with half an ear, lost in her own thoughts.


“…visited my real dad and…”


That got through. “Wait.” Kristen held up a hand. “Your real dad?”


Abby grinned. “Yeah. He gets me every other weekend if I’m not filming.”

“So Kevin’s not your dad?”


“No way. He’s my…uh…step-dad.” Abby laughed at herself for forgetting. “I got to be the flower girl at their wedding. It was fun. I had the prettiest dress.”


“Oh, I’ll bet you were more beautiful than the bride.” Kristen said with a grin. “How long have they been married?”


“I dunno.” Abby took a huge bite of her cold treat, making Kristen wince in sympathy. “Right before I got this job, I think.”


“Well he certainly does care for you.”


“Yeah. He’s great.” Abby giggled happily. “He sings. You should hear him in the shower. Always makes me laugh.” She took a breath and attempted to imitate her stepfather. “You will be mine…you will be mine…” She laughed again, at herself and at her ‘dad’s’ poor singing voice. “He likes country music. It about drives mom…Kristen? You all right?”


“I’m fine, dollface.” Kristen managed a smile. “I think I ate too much ice cream.” It had been the song, that damned song. Hearing it in Abby’s sweet little girl voice only served to creep her out. Kevin? She didn’t even know the man and yet she was thinking…maybe it was him. Maybe he was the one…


Kristen pushed the thought away. It just wasn’t possible. Or was it? She would have to call Jaden, tell her what the little girl had shared. She looked around, spotted Kevin moving in their direction, and finished her last bite of ice cream. “I’m going to have to run for a little while, Ab. I’ll see you back here this evening, all right?”


“Sure Kris.” Abby looked surprised at Kristen’s sudden departure but figured it was just another one of those weird grown up things that happened.


Kristen hurried across the field, back toward her own house. She kept glancing over her shoulder, expecting something or someone to run up behind her any second. It didn’t happen. She was standing in the kitchen, chugging water from a bottle, when John walked in.


“Filming tonight?” He asked, doing a double take at her reddened cheeks and quick breathing. “What’s wrong? What happened?” He stepped toward the door, meaning to have a look around. Kristen waved him off. It seemed silly, how panicked she’d gotten.


“Went for a little exercise. Let me finish this and I’m good.” She emptied the bottle. “And yeah, we’re filming. The barn is ready.”


“Good. Three more days and we’re out of here, huh?” John grinned. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, and although this small town seemed nice, the country life was getting to him.


“Knock wood.” Kristen rolled her eyes. Although the film had two weeks to go before being wrapped, her part would end in just a few days. The writer had finally released the end of the script, and in it, Mallory died during the rescue of Brianna. It had made Kristen cry to read it…after everything the family had gone through, Mal would be killed. She hoped it translated well onto film. Things like that could either be very touching and cause tears…or a disappointment. It was in Derek’s hands to figure out how to make it work.


Mark was going to join her in LA as soon as he was finished up. They both wanted to be together but they understood they needed to wait at least until after the filming. There was too much going on to move forward at the moment, and neither wanted to deal with the media attention their relationship would bring on top of the stalker, the murders, and the movie.


“I’m going to go lie down for a while. Can you get me up in an hour?” Kristen asked, as John peered out the window over the sink.


“Sure thing, Kris.” John watched her, eyes concerned, as she left the room. She’d been through hell the last few days, and he hated to see her looking so scared. And defeated. John smacked his fist into his palm and grimaced. He’d have to see about fixing that. He liked Kris, not just because she paid him to watch over her, but she was a genuinely nice woman. He didn’t want anything to happen to her. Hell, he’d started to think of her as something akin to a little sister. He saw her relationship developing with Mark and had to approve. He’d known Kris for a while now, and he knew better than some that she needed a life outside of her career. He only hoped they could stop this killer and give her a chance to live it.




“Cut it!” Derek called out, waving his arm in the air. Kristen rolled to her knees and stood up, grimacing at the feel of the fake blood that coated her.


It had been a quiet few days. She’d talked to Jaden about Kevin. The detective had listened, nodded, and gone out to dig up any information she could about Abby’s stepfather. He came back clean as a whistle. Jaden still thought that Derek was her best suspect; she didn’t know why, it was just a feeling she had.


“Kris…great work. Wanna check it out?” Derek asked. Kristen waved a hand. She’d have to see the movie eventually, and she trusted Derek to make her look good. At that moment, all she wanted was a hot shower and some sleep. Her house was empty. Ron was in town, nosing around, and Trina had left the day before to visit Glen. John was on set, keeping a watchful eye on everyone who came and went.


And Mark would be busy for hours yet. He still had a week of filming before he was finished, and that was if everything ran smoothly. Kristen sighed and trudged toward her rented house. She could hear voices behind her, fading, as Derek moved the crew outside and further into the woods that surrounded them. The area of shooting was brightly lit. Kristen had to squint when she turned to observe the exodus from the structure they’d built.


John was around somewhere now. He wouldn’t come into the house unless he knew she was settled in. Instead he prowled the grounds, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. Kristen hesitated at the back door. She looked toward Mark’s house and saw a light burning in an upstairs window. His bedroom.


She frowned. It couldn’t be Renee up there, Mark had said he’d spoken to her and she’d left. It had been easier than even he had thought it would be. Renee was not in the least upset…she was tired of playing wife to someone who didn’t want her around.


Mark was still on the set. Although…now that Kristen thought about it, she hadn’t seen him since her scene with him earlier. She couldn’t remember if he was going to be in the shots Derek was taking tonight, or if it was just random zombie footage. She smiled and turned away from her door. If Mark was in, maybe he wouldn’t mind her crashing there. If not, she would be neighborly and shut off his light.


Mark’s back door was unlocked. Kristen let herself in and stood in the dark kitchen, getting her bearings. The house was utterly silent. She held her breath and listened for a moment, hearing nothing but her own heartbeat in her ears. So he wasn’t here. She’d get his lights and go to her own bed. Maybe he’d join her later. John and Ron were used to Mark coming and going by now…Kristen had been upfront with them about their relationship.


Her eyes finally adjusted. Kristen shuffled down the hall toward the stairs and climbed up. The upstairs hall was faintly illuminated by the light from the bedroom. She followed the spill of yellow light to a door that was open a few inches.


Kristen paused with her fingers tented to push the door open. She hadn’t noticed it in the kitchen or on the stairs, but up here in the hall a strange smell permeated the air. She wrinkled her nose, trying not to breathe too much of it in. No wonder Mark didn’t come over here very often. She didn’t know how long she could stand it.


With a sigh, Kristen gave the door a push. She had put one foot across the threshold before she registered what was on the bed.


A body.


A battered, bloody, beaten body. Bleached blonde hair was spread on the pillow, losing any luster it had held while the woman lived. It looked like straw to Kristen’s shocked eyes. Blue eyes stared at the ceiling, a grimace of horror and pain frozen onto the face.


It was Renee. Mark had said she was gone but here she was, laid out on his bed, flat on her back, arms and legs spread wide. She wore nothing, and Kristen saw every stab wound, every bruise.


She tried to scream. At least, she thought she did. What came out was a weak sounding whistle. Her throat had closed down to what felt like the size of a straw. She couldn’t breathe. Kristen stumbled backward, gasping, her breath making harsh rasping noises in her throat.


She let out a startled yelp when her back hit the opposite wall of the hallway. Kristen finally found her lungs, and her pent up breath whooshed out of her. She felt as if she’d been hit in the stomach. Eyes wide, forcing herself to keep inhaling and exhaling, Kristen bolted for the stairs.


Her footsteps echoed hollowly off the stairwell as she thundered down. Without slowing, she gripped the bottom banister and swung herself with her forward momentum into the hallway. The kitchen door stood open in front of her, and a large shadow blocked out the weak light from outside.


Kristen couldn’t stop in time. She ran face first into Mark’s chest, sobbing uncontrollably. Mark gathered her up in his arms, holding her close.


“Kris…darlin’…what’s wrong?”


Kristen clutched at Mark, feeling tears build up again at the concern in his voice. “Oh god, Mark…upstairs…Renee…” She couldn’t seem to string a sentence together. She looked up into Mark’s handsome face and was surprised by the annoyance she saw on his features.


“You weren’t supposed to see that.” He said softly. Kristen froze.




“Damn it.” Mark gripped her shoulders with his big hands and squeezed. “What the fuck are you doing here Kristen? Nobody invited you over.”


“I was…I thought…” Now her mind was really racing. Mark knew about the body. And if he knew about the body, it must mean that he had done it. He had killed Renee.


Mark’s fingers pressed into her shoulders, and Kristen suddenly snapped. She didn’t know if it was the pain, or the way Mark was looking at her. With a wordless cry, she reared back and slammed her head forward, catching him in the chin.


He was stunned into releasing his hold on her shoulders. Kristen gripped her aching forehead with one shaking hand and spun on her heel, bolting for the front door.


She heard Mark curse behind her, but didn’t bother to look around. The front door was unlocked. She yanked it open and ran as if the fires of hell were on her heels. They might very well have been. She could hear Mark’s footsteps as he gave chase. Kristen tried to control her breathing, and pushed harder, running for her life.


Where the hell was John when she needed him? The thought kept going through her mind as Kristen raced down the hill toward the movie set. Surely her bodyguard would think it was strange that Kristen was running from her boyfriend.


Another curse came from behind her. Kristen risked a glance over her shoulder. Mark had gained on her, his face a mask of fury, and pain. He had twisted his ankle. His gait was marked by a limp now. Kristen put her face forward again and even though she felt a sharp pain along her side from the exertion, she ran faster.


The barn that Derek had built loomed in front of her. She debated on running for Derek and the rest of the crew in the woods. She could follow the lights and find them. But that meant that Mark would have an easier time keeping track of her. And in the trees she wouldn’t be able to see him. At the last second, she turned, spinning into the sliding door that led to the set. The barn was completely dark. Kristen slid the door shut behind her and rammed the bolt that locked it into place.


She heard labored breathing from the other side of the door as she stood there. “C’mon Kris. Let’s talk about this.” Although winded, Mark laughed. The sound sent a shiver down her spine. “OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!” The door creaked as Mark suddenly snapped, throwing himself against the flimsy wood.


“Fuck you!” Kristen yelled back at him. The door splintered. A sliver of wood flew past her, and she felt the sting as it scratched her face. Without waiting to see if he’d break it down, Kristen turned and looked around.


Her eyes had adjusted. The only things in the barn now were random equipment and hay bales. Kristen couldn’t hide anywhere. Mark would not stop looking until he found her, and no one would be back here for a while. Her eyes fell on the metal ladder that lead up to the catwalk. Without giving herself time to think, Kristen dashed toward it and gripped the cool steel, climbing without giving herself time to think of how high up she was.


The door shuddered again, and more wood exploded onto the set. Kristen didn’t stop. She was nearing the top, only twenty more steps to go. She felt the ladder shudder under her and heard Mark’s laugh as he began climbing behind her.


“Now where…the hell…do you think…you’re goin’?” He sounded out of breath, but he was gaining fast. Kristen found a rail and pulled herself up onto the catwalk, dropping to her knees as it swayed with her rapid movements. She began to crawl, sliding across the metal floor, not looking down. She kept her eyes focused on the metal in front of her until she came up against a wall. It was a dead end. She’d known it, she’d seen it herself over the last several days. She vaguely remembered Derek saying something about a weight limit. She only hoped he’d been right.


Mark shifted from the ladder to the catwalk and turned, facing Kristen across the room. He was smiling. It wasn’t the insane smile she’d expected either, it was the one she’d melted for when they’d first met.


“Kris…come on now. Don’t make me come across there and get you.”


“Mark…why?” She whispered. Her voice echoed and carried in the mostly empty building.


He shrugged and took a step forward. Kristen felt the catwalk sway again and gripped the rails on either side of her to remain steady. Mark did not seem to notice. He moved another step.


“Why? You know why, darlin’. I love you.”


“Fuckin’ crazy way of showing it.” Kristen said, a bit of anger seeping into her voice. Mark had stopped walking. He seemed to sense the catwalk buckling under his weight and would venture no further. He had her trapped, he knew it, and he would wait her out.


Kristen knew she would have to draw him further. She knew how to do that of course. She was going to have to make him angry.


“Spent years tryin’ to figure out a way to get your attention. Hell, even Glen didn’t have a fuckin’ clue.” Mark chuckled and leaned against one of the rails. “Dropped a few comments here and there. Found out a little about you on the ‘net. Easy as shit.”


“I don’t understand.” Kristen said, sinking down onto her knees.


“Of course you don’t.” Mark said, his tone soothing. “I fell in love with you the first movie I ever saw you in. And the movie was a piece of shit.”


“You will be mine.” Kristen whispered.


“You got it. Fuckin’ awful movie, but I thought if I could just rework it a little bit…”


“You’re crazy.” Kristen said. She wrapped her arms over her stomach and felt like throwing up.


“Crazy about you. Had to plan it all out really careful. Drop more hints to Glen. Met Renee and told her that I could get her a part in a movie, one of yours. You should have seen the way that slut jumped at the chance.” Mark chuckled and shook his head. “The rest all depended on you. And you fell right into it, just the way I figured.”


Kristen gagged. She could not believe she had let him touch her…that she had actually thought she was in love with him. How could she not have seen it?


“Now, the hard part was waiting. Renee was nice enough to drop off the flowers on the porch. Had to make sure nobody saw that.” Mark rubbed a hand thoughtfully over his goatee. “Had to kill those two in a certain way, to make sure that it all got tied in to the movie.”


“But…why?” Kristen choked out.


“Because, Kris. You were supposed to think it was Kevin Davis.” Mark spoke to her as if she were a slow child. “Or Keith Davidson, probably the name you remember him under.”


“Keith…” Kristen felt tears trickling down her cheeks. Keith had been her co-star in that awful movie, her deranged boyfriend. After getting panned by critics, he’d retired. “Oh god…”


“Yeah, he changed his name, got married, hell even managed to marry into a Hollywood family.” Mark laughed again. “When I heard that Abs had gotten the part of Brianna I knew it was going to work. That’s the reason I didn’t fight against making this movie. You think I want anymore spotlight on me?” Mark shook his head. “I get enough of that as it is. I wanted to get close to you, and I did.”


Kristen pictured Kevin in her mind. Now that Mark pointed it out, she realized it was Keith. He’d changed his hair, gotten surgery, but still Keith. It was undeniable. She shook and cupped her hands over her face, feeling her hot tears against her skin.


Mark’s voice took on a note of concern. “Come on now baby…no need for cryin’. Just come over here and let me take care of you. We’ll leave. We’ll disappear, nobody will know where we are, and we can get married and be together.”


Kristen sobbed. His voice was so soothing, so gentle, but he was a cold-blooded murderer. She rose shakily to her feet and wiped at her eyes. Mark smiled and held out his hand.


“Come on darlin’. You know I would never hurt you. I love you Kris.”


Kristen took one uncertain step forward. Mark matched her step, ignoring the way the catwalk groaned beneath him. She lowered her hands and stood still, watching him.


“I’d rather fucking DIE than let you touch me, you sick son of a bitch.” Kristen spat the words out, sidestepping toward the rail on her right. Mark’s concern disappeared as if her words had flipped a switch.


“Don’t be like that Kris. We can work this out.” He said it through clenched teeth, watching riveted as Kristen leaned against the rail. He took another step forward when she swung a leg over, straddling the low metal wall that protected them both from the forty-foot drop.


“Work it out yourself asshole!” Kristen said, her voice utterly void of emotion now. She began to slide her other leg over the side, and felt the catwalk sway as Mark suddenly moved, running toward her.


“No…Kris…” Mark’s weight buckled the catwalk in the middle. His foot faltered over a metal edge that slid upward. He tried to catch himself before he fell, grasping for the railing.


Kristen watched from her perch on the rail as Mark fell headlong onto the rickety metal catwalk. The metal groaned and there were several loud popping noises as the metal cables holding the walkway snapped. Mark hit the metal tiles of the catwalk, and fell through, more cables snapping as his weight crashed against the floor.


Kristen screamed then, watching as Mark grasped first one breaking cable, then another, trying in vain to save himself. She clutched the rail in a death grip as Mark fell to the floor below. He hit with a sickening, bone jarring thud. Kristen screamed again and clambered over the rail, back onto the catwalk.


The metal groaned as she walked toward the center. Mark had fallen through, leaving a hole about eight feet long, but the rail was still up, and still attached to the cables. She shimmied her way across, finding toe holds and praying to whatever god there might be to keep her from falling. She sighed in relief when she reached the other side, and started crying again when her fingers found the ladder.


More tired than she’d ever been in her life, Kristen climbed down, barely able to hold on. Her whole body was shaking and she felt as if she were running a fever. She was weak. Sick to her stomach. Utterly terrified. Her feet found the floor and she fell to her knees, this time the relief being too much for her.


She could hear a shouting voice outside. It was in the distance though. It did not matter. She crawled across the floor to Mark’s broken body, trying not to see, but seeing anyway, the way his leg was twisted under him, and the pool of blood that formed around his head. Kristen leaned over him, staring at his face in the dim barn, her emotions warring with each other as she watched him gasp in his last breaths.


He opened his eyes once. Intense green focused on troubled gray. Mark smiled. His lips moved but no words came out. Kristen thought he was telling her he loved her one last time. His breath left him. Mark was still.


Kristen was still kneeling there when John found her. Confused, worried, scared to death, he pulled Kristen into his arms and half carried her away from the body on the floor. He’d seen Mark’s door open, the front and the back, and had gone into the man’s house to see what was up. He’d found another dead body and had spent fifteen minutes trying to find Jaden. The detective was on her way when John had sensed something horribly wrong, even more than finding the beaten and bloody girl on the bed. Kristen’s scream had brought him running.


She trembled against him, her whole body wracked with sobs. John lifted her easily in his arms and carried her toward her house. There was a lot of explaining to be done, but not now. Kristen was on the brink of completely breaking down, he knew it, and he would not let Jaden or anyone else run roughshod over her. John hugged her tight to him and whispered to her, trying to convince her that it was all right now. He knew better. It might never be all right for Kristen again.



Eight Months Later


Kristen sighed and ran her fingertips over the ends of her newly cut hair, still trying to get used to how short it was. She’d had long hair for so long, three days after her restyling and she still couldn’t believe she’d done it.


Loud voices carried up to her room from downstairs. Glen and Trina, obviously, having one of their ‘discussions’. Glen was notorious for being easy to work with, but he was more than willing to stand up to Trina when he wanted his way.


“Christ, that man.” Trina’s voice interrupted Kristen’s thoughts, causing her to look around. Her friend had come into the room, and looked absolutely gorgeous in a black evening gown she’d borrowed from Kristen’s closet.


“You invited him.” Kristen reminded her with a sigh. Her own dress was silver, long, flowing. Her short hair was swept back from her face and held with a pin. Kristen stood up and slipped into a pair of low-heeled shoes. “Ok, tell me my fans aren’t going to run screaming when they see this.”


“Your fans are going to love you in this one, Kris.” Trina grinned and moved forward, adjusting the necklace Kristen wore so it hung straight. “I cried like a fuckin’ baby watching the dailies. I can’t wait to see what happens on the big screen.”


Kristen smiled. “No deranged vampires. We’ll see how it goes.”


A month after the ordeal filming Derek’s movie, Kristen had gotten a script in the mail. It was an independent film, miniscule budget, no stars to speak of, but the script had seemed powerful and magical to her. And it wasn’t a horror movie. Instead it was a story about a woman who had thought she’d lost her father, only to find out he’d had a secret other family for the past twenty years. Schmaltzy yes. But it had been a welcome break from bloodshed and moaning zombies.


The news of what Mark had done had been sensational from day one. It was all anyone talked about. The story got twisted and turned, embellished, and slowly forgotten. By everyone except for Kristen that was. That was life in Hollywood. News was news, but only for a few days, until some starlet decided to get high and go for a drive in their daddy’s new BMW.


Kristen made her indie movie, and hid from public view. It wasn’t hard, she had never sought out the spotlight to begin with. And the plus of making a movie like this…no big deal over the opening night. It was expected to do well but not overwhelmingly so. She could go and enjoy the evening with her friends and pretend for a while that everything was all right.


Her hand stroked the soft curve of her stomach. Trina grinned at her. “Is he kicking?”


“Like crazy. Feel.” Kristen took Trina’s hand and laid it against her belly, letting her friend feel the fluttery movements her son was making. Two months after Mark had died, Kristen discovered she was pregnant. There was no debate on whether or not to keep the child. It wasn’t his fault his father turned out to be a psycho. Kristen had to admit that he was conceived in love, even if Mark’s side had been distorted.


Jaden had pieced together the entire story from Kristen. Eventually. What Kristen didn’t know, Jaden could fill in for her. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen a stalker go overboard, but it was the most convoluted plot she’d ever run up against. Added to Mark’s obsession over Kristen was the fact that he had lied to her from day one. He had no son, and had never been married. He’d only met Renee two months before the day of their engagement party. Everything he’d told her to win her over had been carefully fabricated to pull her into his life.


The movie wrapped. Without Mark to play Jack, the entire last weeks of filming had to be rewritten. Kristen refused Derek’s plea to come back and film more scenes. She was done with horror movies in general and that one in particular. He managed to piece it together. It opened, without its big name star appearing at the premiere, to record ticket sales for a horror movie. Kristen opened an account in her son’s name and deposited the money she’d earned for her part in the movie. She didn’t want the money. But he might be able to make use of it some day.


“Hey, Kendall…” Trina bent over and was talking to Kristen’s belly. “Ready to go out for a movie?”

Kristen laughed. “You talk to him more than I do.” She smacked Trina’s hands away and went to her bed to grab her purse. “Let’s get this over with.”


Trina grinned and led the way downstairs. Glen was waiting for them, looking handsome in his tuxedo. “Wow. Look at my girls.” He said with a grin.


“You see any fuckin’ girls here?” Trina asked him, shaking her fist.


“Sorry, my women. Better?” Glen kissed her upraised fist.




Kristen shook her head watching them play. Their playful fighting was interrupted by the doorbell. “I’ll get that.” She said, laughing as Trina tried to function in her fancy dress.


Kristen opened the door and her smile widened. “Hi John.”


John grinned back at her and stood uncomfortably in his tuxedo. “Kris. How are you?”


“Good. Better than I have been.” She let him into the house and they headed away from Trina and Glen in the living room. They sat down at the kitchen table and were silent for a minute before John cleared his throat.


“Ron would have my ass if he knew I asked you out.” He admitted, boyish grin lighting his features.


“Don’t you mean if he knew I asked YOU?” Kristen smiled. After Mark had gone, and the threats had disappeared, she’d had no choice but to release Ron and John from their bodyguard duties. John remained her friend though, and helped her through quite a few rough spots. It amazed her how close they’d gotten. John was open, he was honest, he was caring. And she felt safe with him. She had tricked herself with that before, with Mark, but this time she knew it was for real. Even though she was pregnant, even though she had been the center of massive amounts of rumor and speculation, John had stood by her side. She loved him for that.


“Yeah, that too.” John leaned over and kissed Kristen on her cheek. “This movie is going to blow them all away.”


“Well, let’s hope it’s at least a little bit accepted. I’ll be happy with that.”


“We’ll see.” John smiled and took her hand. “We’ll just see.” Kristen met his eyes and gave his fingers a squeeze. She had the feeling that John was right, that this was going to be a new beginning for her. She only needed to trust in him, in herself, and in her fans that she had done the right thing. No more scary movies. She’d had enough of that to last her a lifetime.


The End.