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Rapture

By:Danielle Jamie

CHAPTER 1

When a rapid-fire staccato of steps echoed through the foyer and Grace’s mother swept into the living room without knocking, Grace regretted giving her the security code to her Hollywood Hills home. Her mother’s habit of waltzing into Grace’s house unannounced really had to stop.

With the dramatic flair of a former actress, her mother flung a magazine onto the coffee table and stabbed the offending print with a manicured finger. “What is this?”

Sighing, Grace put down the script she’d been reading and sat up on the couch.

The magazine on the table was Tinseltown Talk, one of the trashiest celebrity gossip rags around. “Let me guess. Either it’s another photo of me picking up my dry cleaning without makeup, or I’m secretly pregnant with twins, suffering a mental breakdown after gaining two pounds, or having a torrid affair with Neil Patrick Harris.”

“Neil Patrick Harris is gay.” Her mother lowered her voice and added, “And so are you, apparently.”

“Uh, what?”

Her mother sank into an armchair and shoved the gossip rag across the table.

Grace picked it up and turned it around so she could read it.



The most prominent headline on the cover read in scarlet, two-inch-tall letters: Exposed! Grace Durand caught cheating on Nick! Secret GAY tryst! Below it, they had added in smaller letters: See a shocking photo of Grace and her LESBIAN lover only in this issue of Tinseltown Talk.

Grace snorted. Whatever photo they had was probably as fake as the breasts of some of her co-stars.

“I told you something like this would happen,” her mother said.

“Mom, this is bullshit. I’m not having a secret gay tryst.”

“I know. But if they’re already writing ridiculous things like this, can you imagine the headlines once they find out what’s really going on with you and Nick?”

Grace could, and that was why she hadn’t told anyone but her mother and her lawyer yet. She said nothing.

The silence in the living room was deafening.

Her mother leaned forward. Her gaze darted back and forth between Grace and the open French doors leading to the stone patio. “You aren’t…you know?” she asked, her voice lowered to a whisper.

“Gay?” Grace asked.

“Hush! You don’t want the neighbors to hear you.” Her mother’s gaze went to the French doors again, even though Grace’s home was perched on a hillside bluff high above the city, with no neighbors living nearby. “No, I mean, are you drinking again?”

Grace gritted her teeth. She hadn’t touched a drink since she’d been seventeen years old. She’d worked hard to live up to her mother’s expectations and to make up for the sins of her youth, but apparently, it wasn’t enough to make her mother trust her. “Why would you think that?”



Her mother waved at the magazine.

Frowning, Grace flipped through the gossip rag until she found the page with the headline about her “secret gay tryst.” She skimmed the article, noticing with amusement the exclamation points after almost every sentence, probably meant to let readers know they were reading something scandalous and exciting.

According to the article, Grace had been out partying after she’d wrapped up shooting her latest movie and had gotten drunk with her cast mates.

Grace huffed. Never going to happen. After spending fourteen hours a day, six days a week with her co-stars, she didn’t want to hang out with her colleagues, no matter how much Roberta, her publicist, urged her to.

Well, this probably wasn’t the kind of headline Roberta had been looking for. Being caught in a compromising situation with a fellow actress was not the way to promote a family-friendly movie about a heterosexual love story.

Grace searched the article to see which actress Tinseltown Talk was putting her in bed with.

Oh, shit. Jill.

Her gaze jumped to one of the pictures on the page. It was a little grainy and had apparently been taken with a telephoto lens. In the picture, she and Jill had their arms wrapped around each other while they swayed up the steps to Jill’s trailer. The caption beneath the photo said, Grace Durand and Jill Corrigan stumbling into bed for a drunken tryst.



“Would you excuse me for a minute?” Grace threw the magazine back on the table and reached for her cell phone. She walked past her mother as she scrolled through her contact list and dialed Jill’s number. Her mother’s disapproving stare drilled into her back, but she ignored it for once. This was more important than placating her mother. When Jill picked up, Grace stepped out onto the patio and closed the doors behind her.

“Hi, stranger,” Jill said. “Long time no hear. Are you busy writing your Oscar speech?”

Grace laughed. “Hardly.” They both knew the romantic comedies she usually starred in wouldn’t get her one of the coveted Academy Awards, but they had made her a household name, celebrated as a younger, hotter Meg Ryan. “How about you? How are you doing?”

“No Oscar speeches in my near future either, but otherwise, I’m fine,” Jill said.

“Good.” With her back to the house and her mother, Grace sank onto one of the lounge chairs next to the pool. “Listen, I’m not just calling to say hi. Have you, by any chance, seen the newest issue of Tinseltown Talk?”

“Can’t say that I have. I try to stay away from trash like that. So, who’s pregnant—you or me?”

“Neither,” Grace said. “At least I don’t think so. It would be pretty hard to become pregnant from a lesbian affair.”



Jill let out a wolf whistle that nearly pierced Grace’s eardrum and made her pull the phone away from her ear for a moment. “They seriously think the two of us are doing the horizontal mambo?”

“Yeah.” Morosely, Grace stared down at the skyline of LA beneath her.

“Well,” Jill said after a moment of silence, laughter in her voice. “I’m honored to be sleeping with the woman who has been voted one of the sexiest women alive, but please tell Nick not to kill me.” When Grace didn’t laugh, Jill sobered too. “What’s going on?”

“They photographed us going to your trailer, with our arms wrapped around each other. You have to be more careful.”

Jill sucked in an audible breath. “Damn. You didn’t tell them anything, did you?”

“No, of course not.” It hurt that Jill even had to ask.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that you would…”

Grace sighed. “It’s all right.”

The irritating sound of fingernails tapping on glass interrupted her. When Grace turned, her mother stood on the other side of the doors, staring at her through the glass.

“I have to go,” Grace said into the phone. “Please take good care of yourself.”

“Will do. You too, okay?”

“I will.” Grace said good-bye and ended the call.

Her mother stepped onto the patio. “Who was that?” She gestured toward the phone.

“Jill.”



“Was that really necessary?” Her mother frowned as much as that was possible after her recent Botox injections.

Grace pocketed the phone and squeezed past her mother, back into the house. “You don’t think she deserves to know what the tabloids write about her?”

“Well, yes, but you have to think of yourself and your career first and foremost. You worked too hard to let rumors like that,” her mother waved in the direction of the magazine on the coffee table, “destroy everything.”

Before Grace could think of an answer, the phone in her pocket started to ring. Not sure if she should be relieved or annoyed at the interruption, she pulled it out and glanced at the display. “It’s George.”

“I know,” her mother said. “I called him as soon as I saw that article in Tinseltown Talk. We can’t have them write something like that about you.”

Grace suppressed a sigh. She was grateful for everything her mother did for her, but sometimes Katherine took her duties as Grace’s manager a bit too far, acting on her own instead of asking Grace what she wanted first. She swiped her finger across the screen to accept the call and lifted the cell phone to her ear. “Hi, George.”

Not bothering with a greeting, her agent asked, “Did you see the newest issue of Tinseltown Talk?”

Grace groaned. “Yes, I did. Mom just brought it to my attention. You know it’s not true, right?”

“Where are you?” he asked instead of answering her question.



That had to be the most-asked question since the invention of cell phones. “At home,” Grace said. “Trying to read scripts.”

“Can you meet me in Westwood in half an hour?” George asked.

“Westwood?” Grace wanted to go back to reading the script, not drive all over Los Angeles. “Why? What’s in Westwood?”

“Your new publicist.”





Lauren cursed herself for agreeing to the nine o’clock slot the reporter had suggested for the interview. It meant that she had to spend an hour crawling through rush-hour traffic on Sunset Boulevard instead of working through the two hundred e-mail messages in her in-box.

The light mist of LA’s infamous June Gloom coated her windshield, and she eyed the low-hanging clouds as she crept east. At least she had booked the photo op for Ben’s new album for this afternoon, when the fog would have burned off.

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