“What do you mean you’ve got a secret?” the woman with the bright red lipstick asked, her eyes wide with wonder.
“I mean… I’m your brother!” Rome Verona said, doing his best to feel the line as if it were true. He looked across the room at the reader sitting behind the table, holding her gaze for a moment, his expression unwavering, until the man next to her ended the scene.
“Wonderful. Thank you, Rome.” He smiled, nodding his head and taking some notes. “We'll be in touch.”
“Thank you,” Rome said, trying to look confident as he nodded and waved, heading out the door to his right.
Once he was out in the hall, he took a few deep breaths. He’d done fine. The audition had gone as expected. The only problem was, the audition was for a role in a soap opera, not exactly the big break he’d been looking for.
Rome brushed his dark blond hair out of his eyes and pulled his phone out of his pocket, stopping to thank the girl behind the reception desk, who was batting her eyelashes at him. He ignored it, used to girls flirting with him. Stepping outside, he called his best friend, Balthasar Pierce, to let him know how the audition went.
Bart answered on the first ring. “Well?”
“Hello to you, too,” Rome chuckled, pulling his keys out of his pocket to unlock his Mercedes. It had been a present from his parents for his twenty-first birthday. In the last four years since they’d given it to him, he’d dreamed of making his own way so that he could afford to buy his own replacement when he needed to.
“How did it go?” Bart asked. “Did you get the part?”
Climbing into the car, Rome answered, “I don’t know yet. They don’t tell you right away. I think it went okay. I’ll find out in a few days, I suppose.”
“I don’t get you, man. Your dad owns one of the biggest production companies in LA. Hell, in the world. What are you doing auditioning for bit parts and soaps, Rome?”
Shaking his head, Rome answered the same way he had the last twenty times he’d been asked the question. “I told you. I want to do this myself. I don’t want anyone saying I rode my dad’s coattails to fame.”
“But this is Hollywood. Everyone does that.”
“Not me.” Rome switched his phone so that it was utilizing his Bluetooth so he could drive. “I don’t want to be that guy, Bart. You know that.”
“Yeah, I guess so. All right. Well, let me know what you hear. I would think after that big movie you just did, this should be easy.”
Rome scoffed, pulling out of the parking lot and merging into traffic. “Dad’s still pissed about that. Besides, the movie might be big, but the part was little.”
“He can’t have it both ways. If he’s not going to help you, he can’t be mad at you for doing what you have to do.”
“I know. And when I took the part, I had no idea that dad’s archnemesis was the one doing the marketing for that movie. Just because he doesn’t work with Sinders Cinema Marketing doesn’t mean that no one does. They’re the biggest marketing firm in LA.” He got in the turning lane so he could head back to his apartment.
“So why is he pissed?”
“He just hates anything and everything that has to do with Lloyd Sinders, that’s all.”
“That’s dumb. Your dad should put you in one of his movies.”
“Bart, we’re talking in circles now. I’ve gotta go. I’m almost home.”
“Okay. Are you going out tonight?”
“Probably. But I’ve got to call Mark and see what he’s up to.”
“Don’t forget he’s got new digits.”
“Oh, yeah.” He’d written Mark’s new number down somewhere. It was probably in the pocket of the jeans he’d worn out to the club the night before. “I’ll talk to you later, Bart.”
“All right. See ya.”
Rome disconnected the call and pressed his code into the gate that was meant to keep unwanted people out of his apartment complex, not that it wasn’t easy enough to get in if one tried hard enough. He headed for his parking spot, hoping he could get this role so he could continue to live here. While he had money left from the last job, the movie Bart had mentioned, he needed to keep making more if he was going to stay independent and not have to go crawling back to mommy and daddy looking for funds.
A busty blonde walked by as he was getting out of his car. “Hey, Rome!” She pulled her sunglasses down and looked at him over the top of them. “You going out tonight?”
He’d seen her around, but he had no idea what her name was. She was pretty in that traditional California girl sense, but girls like her were a dime a dozen here. “Maybe.”
“Well, I’ll be at Lucky Red if you wanna hang.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” He smiled at her, but as soon as he turned around, he rolled his eyes and the smile faded.
Rome headed into his apartment, planning to check his email, answer a few texts, and call his friend Mark. Going out on the town was a surefire way to forget about having to find a new role. He was getting older now, though. At twenty-five, drinking, dancing with hot, easy chicks, and the hangovers that followed, weren’t quite as appealing as they had been a few years ago. He was ready to settle down, get his shit together, maybe even get a long term role in a television show. And find the right girl.
And she wasn’t going to be hanging out at any of the clubs his good pal Mark dragged him to. Of that, Rome was almost positive. Because the girl he’d want to make his forever one day would have to have a little more substance to her than the chicks he met at clubs, like his last girlfriend, Candy, who’d had great boobs but no common sense. No, Rome was just about ready to leave that world behind.
He sat down on the couch, phone in hand, trying to determine whether or not to give it all one last hurrah--or two. He knew if he called Mark, his friend would talk him into it. With a loud sigh, he pulled himself up to go look for that phone number.
It took a while to find it. Eventually, Rome located a wadded up paper in the back pocket of his jeans. He smoothed it out and stared at the numbers. Was that a one or a seven? As he puzzled over it, his phone rang. He hoped it was Mark so he wouldn’t have to figure it out, but it wasn’t. His agent was calling. Doubting she had word about the role yet, he was reluctant to answer because she’d have more questions than Bart had. Still, he decided to get it over with. Taking the paper with him, he headed back to the couch. “Hi, Marge….”
The promo poster she was working on was just about finished. Ella just needed to add a couple of more filters to get the lighting just right, and she’d be ready to send it to her father for his approval. There was just one thing--she had become transfixed on one of the supporting actors and hadn’t been able to concentrate on finishing. A check of the time told her that her stepmom would be in to check on her soon. She needed to be finished, or else she’d have to eat dinner alone in the attic while she completed the job. Since her cousin Tim was supposed to come over tonight, she wanted to get done.
Rome didn’t know what to think about the phone call he’d just made. Sinders Cinema Marketing was the company the producers of the film he’s just finished were using to do the marketing. What were the chances he’d accidentally call them when he meant to call Mark? How was it that their numbers were so similar?Beyond that, the girl he’d spoken to—Ella--had been really cool. Her accent had caught his attention right away. He couldn’t tell what sort of accent it was at first, so when she’d mentioned that she was originally
The clatter of silverware against dishes was jarring. Ella wasn’t used to being around so many people. Even when she was free to go wherever she wanted, it was just her and Aunt Suzette most of the time. Her stepsisters, Anna and Drew, never stopped talking either. They were prattling on about how awful the auditions they’d gone to earlier that day had been. Tim ran a hand through his dark hair, doing his best to pretend to be interested, but Ella could see in his eyes he really didn’t care what either of the girls had to say. He was listening because he was being polite.
Lucky Red was loud and crowded, and Rome wished he hadn’t bothered to come out at all. Even after a couple of beers, he wasn’t feeling any more relaxed.“Would you lighten up?” Mark urged him. “Come on, man. Rosa’s looking hot tonight. She keeps smiling at you, and you’ve only got eyes for your beer.”Rome loo
Concentrating on her newest marketing campaign was super hard for Ella when all she wanted to do was stare at the picture of the actor from yesterday’s poster and check her phone. She knew it seemed ridiculous to think that Rome would actually call her back, especially so soon after he had called the first time, but that didn’t make her any less anxious to hear his voice.She had his number from the caller ID. In fact, she’d memorized his number. She couldn’t call him, though. Teresa might not actually do all of the things she threatened to do,
He had waited until almost 4:00 in the afternoon, but now that his audition was over and he had nothing standing in his way, Rome sat down on the edge of his bed and purposely called the number he’d accidentally called the night before. He prayed Ella was working and that she was the one who answered. For all he knew, Sinders had a whole bunch of customer service representatives.“Sinders Cinema Marketing. This is Ella.”
Dinner was almost over, and Ella hadn’t heard a word anyone had said at the table, she’d been so lost in her thoughts. Rome knew who she was. He wanted to meet her. In real life. That was both amazing and terrifying at the same time.Ella wasn’t that pretty. She had been told for most of her life that she looked like her mother, who happened to be a famous model. But she knew now that she hadn’t inherited her mother’s beauty. Her stepmom told her all of the time that she had a witch’s
Rome called Ella every day, sometimes twice a day if he didn’t get to talk to her too long the first time. Some days she had more time to chat than others. Every time he talked to her, he became even more fascinated with the girl. Within days of meeting her, he knew how extraordinarily special she was. He wanted to be with her so badly, but every time he asked her out, she said she was busy.“What about your aunt’s birthday party tonight?” Rome asked Friday afternoon. He’d called her a little earlier than normal because he wanted to see i