By Ciarán Llachlan Leavitt

© 2000 by Ciarán Llachlan Leavitt.

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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The characters herein are fictional and any resemblance to a real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Published by:

Renaissance Alliance Publishing, Inc.

PMB 167, 3421 W. William Cannon Dr. #131

Austin, Texas 78745





Jae could see Reed slumped in the corner of a high-backed booth. The leather was worn and cracked, but looked homey rather than tacky. Large wooden posts held up the rough-hewn timber ceiling joists and wrought iron candleholders illuminated the walls. She made her way across the empty floor, careful not to disturb the chairs that were resting on the tabletops.


Reed looked up but remained silent, her expression unchanged.

"Tough night?" Jae asked.

No reply. The actress just shrugged her shoulders into her jacket and stood away from the booth.

"My mother used to give me the silent treatment when I was a kid. Hated it. Hating having to guess what I’d done wrong. If you’re mad at me tell me, then we can deal with it." Jae led the way back through the bar.

"S’m not mad," Reed slurred. "S’drunk."

"No. Really?"


"Yep." Jae agreed happily. "But I’m your smartass."


Jae opened the car door and nodded at the bartender. "Thanks." Reed had forgotten her question and was wrestling with the seat belt, finally claiming victory after successfully pinning the clasp against the buckle and sliding them together.

"No problem." The young man went back inside and locked the door behind him, shaking his head in amusement at the actress’ antics.

Jae could see why he had been reluctant to kick a drunk Reed out of the bar. Nice bar; bad neighborhood. "C’mon Roo. Let’s get you home."

They rode in silence, insulated from the noise of the road by thick glass and from each other by timid curiousity. Twenty minutes later the driver pulled up in front of the hotel. Jae waited for him to come round and open the door, so that he could help get Reed out of the car if necessary.

Reed eased herself out of the car and paced deliberately toward the elevator.

"Wow. You must have one Hades of a metabolism."

The actress turned from the wall. "Hell, Jae. Just say hell."

"Can’t. Promised my grandmother I wouldn’t swear."

"You promised your…grandmother?"

"Yep. In the fourth grade." She guided Reed into the elevator and hit the button for their floor.

"So what happened tonight then?"

If I were going to swear, now would be the time. The elevator stopped, and gave a small jerk as gravity caught up with them. Jae mulled over what to say, deciding to stick to plan A. "I got wrapped up in cutting the film and forgot. It was just taking shape so perfectly and next thing I knew..." she snapped her fingers, "it was after midnight. I should have called, for that I’m sorry."

"Happens to me too, when I’m working with clay."

It was Jae’s turn to be surprised. "Clay?" Reed appeared, at least on the surface, way too mercurial to be someone who worked with clay. It’s the first personal detail I haven’t had to pry out of her with a 2x4 though. Next she’ll be telling me she likes hominy and grits.

"So, what’s your story Morning Glory?" She pushed the door open and motioned for the actress to precede her.

Reed blushed and looked down at the floor. Oh boy, this is going to be good, thought Jae.

"...argument..." the actress mumbled, "...dyke...kiss...mad at left."

"You had an argument?" Jae prodded. "With who?" And how does it involve a dyke and a kiss? Or do I even want to know?


"You argued with Holly about the kiss? It’s a little late for a re-write on the book."

"Different kiss, in the bar."


"Rumours." Reed was striving to shed her shoes, having finally gotten out of her coat.

"Rumours?" Jae knew that if she went and looked in the mirror that her eyes would be as round as saucers. She couldn’t begin to imagine how they had ended up in a gay bar, though Holly did have a slightly warped sense of humour.

"It’s a women’s bar."

She resisted the impulse to add, ‘you don’t say?’, and opted instead to simply ask, "why?" As a precaution she sat on the bed, and made room when Reed joined her.

"The Kiss."



"Stick to acting, you’d make a lousy screenwriter."

"Everyone’s a critic."

Reed didn’t continue, and they sat in silence until Jae couldn’t take it anymore. "Okay, I’ll bite. What about The Kiss?" She could hear the capital letters.

"I wanted to find out if I could do it."


"And I had an argument with Holly."

Jae was positive Reed was trying to drive her insane. "You tried to kiss Holly?"

The actress shook her head. "No."


Reed leaned over conspiratorially and whispered, "Maribel is straight."

Jae could smell the mix of sandalwood, cigarette smoke and bar air that clung to the actress. It was all she could do not to turn her head slightly and breathe it in again. Instead she savoured the faint scent that lingered between them. "So who did you try to kiss?"

"No one."

She ran her fingers through her hair and counted to ten. Backwards. Slowly. Twice. Trying to figure out the next question to ask she looked up at Reed and found the other woman regarding her speculatively. "What?" she ventured.

"Would you do that one with me too?"

"What one?" This time she was deliberately not replying to the question being asked. Favourite fantasy and worst nightmare, all rolled into one neat predicament.

"The Crandon Beach scene."

"I need to go to the bathroom. Excuse me." Jae bolted for the safety of the bathroom and locked the door behind her. Oh boy. Her internal narrator provided not so subtle encouragement to balance her conscience. She turned on the cold water tap, and splashed a handful across her face, running the excess into her hair with her fingers to dry them off. C’mon, it’s not like you haven’t thought about it. No harm no foul. You kiss her, get your questions answered, she gets hers answered and you get to safely get her out of your system. She-ah right.

Without thinking about it she brought her hands to her face and threw a jab, then two more. In the mirror her target ducked away from the next combination so Jae countered with a jab, cross, hook. The bathroom was too small for legwork but she balanced her body over her knees and took up the rhythm.

Jab. Cross.

Jab. Cross.

Tell her? Jab. Cross.

Don’t tell her? Jab. Cross.

Jab. Cross. Tell her?

Jab. Cross. Don’t tell her?

Jab. Cross. Jab. Cross. Jab. Cross.

Her muscles were loosening, and she settled into an easy cadence.

Kiss her? Jab. Cross.

Kiss her not? Jab. Cross. Hook.

Jab. Cross. Hook. Kiss her?

Jab. Cross. Hook. Kiss her not?

Kiss her. Jab. Cross. Hook. Tell her?

Jab. Cross. Hook. Tell her not.

She threw a few more combinations, finishing up the light work out with a flurry of hooks. "Reed’s going to think I died in here." Jae splashed a little more water over her face to cool down the skin. Her reflection gazed back at her mockingly. "It’s just a rehearsal kiss, Jae. Get over it."

Right a rehearsal kiss. Then why do I feel like a nervous teenager before the prom? How would you know, you never went to your prom, remember? Ya. Now let me think. That little voice could be so annoying. Where’s the rehearsal line m’grrl hunh? You should be making her rehearse with Gwen. Jae turned the tap off and patted her face dry. "Be a moot point once we are back in LA, I’ll be too busy. This is a one shot deal."

Yeah. Right, commented her inner cynic. "And not while she’s drunk."

Jae exited the bathroom, and turned off the light behind her. "Sorry about that Reed."

There was no answer from the tall woman. While she had been thinking, Reed had crawled under the covers and was out like a light.

"No problem, I’ll just sleep in her bed." Jae grabbed her pillow, then made for the connecting door. Locked. Reed must have locked it earlier, and they had come in through Jae’s room. That left her two choices - dig through Reed’s pocket to find her room key or crawl in next to her.

"Some choice." Risk trouble now, or later. She eyed the bed with a mixture of apprehension and appraisal. "Big enough. But I’m keeping my clothes on." Gingerly, she slid under the covers and pulled them up around her.

Reed’s scent drifted across the slight gap between their bodies and Jae considered that maybe the floor would make a good option three. She closed her eyes and tried to keep from imagining what it would be like to kiss the woman sprawled beside her. If it had been hard before - now that she was actually going to do it - it proved next to impossible. It was going to be a long night.

The inside of her skull felt like it was trying to escape through her stomach. What was that old adage? Liquor, beer - never fear; beer, liquor - never sicker. Gingerly Reed opened one eye. So far, so good. The hotel room was still dark, the drawn curtains keeping out the morning light. The sound of soft breathing made her turn her head. Jae was curled up in a ball, back pressed against a pillow that separated their bodies.

Their flight out wasn’t until later, and they had no filming or other work scheduled this morning, so Reed closed her eye and settled back into the bedclothes, careful not to move her head too much.

I went out and did this - why? Because you’re chickenshit, she thought uncharitably. Her bladder refused to allow her to remain where she was and Reed forced her body upright. Not as bad as she’d feared. A little nausea, but otherwise her limbs seemed to be in working order. It wasn’t until she reached for her toothbrush that she realized that she was in Jae’s room instead of her own. A quick search turned up the courtesy toiletries, and she unwrapped the monogrammed OralB. Memories of the night before began to filter through the departing hangover haze.

Fuck Holly. Who the hell does she think she is anyway? Right. And Maribel? What’s your excuse for her, Sunshine? Face it. You like Holly, and now you’re pissed-off that she called you on something. But she’s still a dyke.


Maybe dykes — lesbians - aren’t all predators. Reed slammed the thought back down. And pigs fly.


The ice-cold water jarred her further away from things she didn’t want to think about and Reed splashed more onto her face, driving away the last remnants of drunkenness. What she really needed was a shower. Quietly crossing the dark room, she moved past the bed and a still slumbering Jae, and turned the handle on the connecting door. Locked.

How in the hell did that happen? The door was locked from the other side, Jae’s doorknob rotated easily in her hand. Without warning, the image of another door replaced the wooden one in front of her. Disoriented, she fell, the vertigo combined with the déjà vu too hard to combat. She half expected to find herself falling through the floor, her nightmare made real. The shock of the hard carpet startled her. "Ungh!"

The room slowly reasserted itself over the vision from her dreams. That hasn’t happened in a long time.



"Why are you sitting on the floor?" The director’s voice was still heavy with the sandman’s touch.

"I should think it’s obvious. I’m inspecting the carpet for hidden cameras."


Reed stood and returned to the bed, sitting on one corner. "Yeah, but to quote a friend of mine, I’m your smartaleck."

Jae laughed, her tousled hair flat on one side from where she had been sleeping on it.

"Not so loud." Reed winced.


"No, hangnail."

"My, my, we are in a mood this morning." Jae sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees. "Don’t suppose you could explain to me what happened last night in a format I can understand?"


"At least tell me what kind of damage control I’m going to have to do with my screenwriter."

"It’s between me and Holly."

"No Reed, you’re wrong. If it affects the movie it’s also about me."

She hadn’t thought of that. That by damaging her relationship with Holly she might also be impairing Jae’s with the writer. "Not about the movie. It’s personal."


"Can I ask you something?" Reed ventured. Jae’s question had reminded her of something else from last night.


"Did you say yes or no?" The director didn’t seem to be treating her any differently this morning, so that had to be a good sign.

"Lawks a mercy, Mizz Lewis, you done sleeped in ma bed an now you be askin if’n it’s alright to be kissin on me?"

Despite the pain that flared in her head, Reed couldn’t help but to laugh at Jae. "Oh God. That hurts."

"Seriously though, yes, I’ll help you rehearse. But look at me for a second, will you?"

Reed’s stomach clenched in apprehension. "What?" she asked warily, even as she turned to face the blonde.

"It’s just a kiss. A small simple peck. There are much more difficult scenes coming up. Put this one in perspective and just go with it. And keep in mind that it will be about as intimate as pitcher’s mound at a Dodgers game."

"You think I’m being stupid?"

"No. Stupid is not a word I would associate with you. All I mean is that you shouldn’t be putting all of this pressure on yourself over this scene. That’s why we are flying down and shooting it now - to get it out of the way." Green eyes were fixed on her solemnly.

"Thanks, I think."

"Look, I know this is hard for you. I’ll do what I can to help, but Reed, this is a movie about two people in love. That means you and Sarah have to sell it - in your body language, tone of voice - everything."

"This film is important to you, isn’t it?" Reed moved the topic out of dangerous territory back to something she felt she could handle.

"Yes." Jae paused. "It’s my shot at making a film that matters and that is mainstream. You don’t get many chances like that in Hollywood. If I blow it - I won’t get another one this side of Armageddon."

Reed nodded. Jae had as much professionally at stake here as she herself did. "Just a peck hunh?"

"Just a peck."





The airport was crowded, and the five of them wound their way past throngs of overdressed Midwestern tourists and underdressed Northern ones. Finally they found the gate that their charter would leave from. More crewmembers were already at the gate, and Reed watched Jae greet her temporary assistant and the Director of Photography.

"How’s the head?" Holly asked.

Surprised, Reed looked at the author. She hadn’t spoken to Holly all day, nor had the other woman seemed inclined to break the silence. "Ask me after the plane takes off," she answered wryly. Does Holly expect me to apologize? Go ahead, it’ll help Jae. "Look, about last night. I shouldn’t have sworn at you." That was as far as she could go right now. Reed couldn’t think how to phrase what she knew she should really say.

"No problem."

They stood in silence as Maribel and Gwen chatted across from them while Jae continued to lay down last minute details and plan the shooting schedule for Miami.

Her stomach fluttered nervously as she looked at the director. In spite of Jae’s claim about the insignificance of the kiss that they would rehearse tonight, Reed couldn’t get it out of her mind. How did one kiss a woman anyway? Was it just like kissing a guy - only with less facial hair? How would Jae react to having to kiss a woman? Be freaking great if she ended up throwing up all over me. As though aware Reed was thinking of her, Jae turned and met her gaze, smiling slightly. Her expression was soft and reassuring, and Reed smiled back.

"Hey, Gwen." Reed greeted her co-star, willing to try a little cordiality.

Gwen turned and smiled.

Reed found herself looking over a young man’s shoulder to where Jae was standing. The blonde director was animatedly drawing pictures in the air with her hands, and Reed watched raptly. Is Jae as nervous about this as I am? All morning her stomach had been doing backflips. At first Reed had chalked it up to the hangover, but it seemed, like now, to happen mostly when she was thinking about tonight, or looking at the director. And that worried her. She trusted Jae, but the last thing she wanted to have happen was to get sick or do something else stupid.

What? Like your first kiss? That had been a disaster. Jimmy Blake had walked her home from school every night for a week, finally stretching up to kiss her while they had been standing on her mother’s front porch. The novelty of having a boy pay attention to her had outweighed the initial discomfort. She’d been scared, and excited and nervous all at once.

She’d gotten a nosebleed and that had been that. Jimmy’s shirt had borne the brunt of her nervous reaction, and he had never again walked her home or tried to kiss her.

It hadn’t felt like that at all last night in the bar, Reed remembered. Jae ran her hand through bangs again then made her way back to where the actress was standing, stopping first to greet Gwen’s friend.


"Hey, back," Reed acknowledged the greeting.

"Cait has cars booked to pick us up and take us to the hotels, but the DP and I will be heading straight for Crandon. I want to get a look at it during sunset and twilight. I’ll see you after that, okay?"

"Sure," Reed shrugged in an attempt to have the remark seem offhand.


Was Jae blushing? The stewardess came out and announced that the captain was ready for them. Reed trailed along after the director and wished she knew what the other woman was thinking.


Jae swung into the front right window seat of the small ATR Turboprop commuter plane. There were lots of empty seats and she knew Reed would want to settle her long frame into one by herself. Still, she couldn’t help but to look up hopefully when Reed entered the aircraft.

Reed arched a brow and grinned. "Alright Tigger." The actress tucked her travel bag in the overhead bin above the empty front seat across the aisle, then buckled her coat into one of the unoccupied places, reserving it. Finished, she sat down next to the director.


"No problem." The seat belt clicked shut sharply and Reed wiggled slightly getting comfortable.

They sat in silence for a bit, until the stewardess began to do the pre-flight safety lecture. The engines whined and Jae could feel the plane shake in anticipation. Power surged through the metal frame as they began to taxi along the runway.

It was always worse in smaller planes, and it didn’t help that another commuter flight had gone down during take-off a couple of days before. She turned to Reed, and her breath caught in her throat. The actress had her head back against the headrest, eyes closed. Sunlight from the open portals to either side of them framed her profile, lighting her strong features. The contrast of light and dark was incredible, and if she had harboured any doubts about how physically attractive she found Reed Lewis, they were immediately dispelled.

Reed’s hand closed over hers, and this time Jae allowed their fingers to intertwine, squeezing back gently. "I really, really hate take-offs." The effects of zero g nailed her and her stomach lurched in response. At last the plane leveled out and she let go of Reed’s hand. The actress unbuckled and moved to the seat she had reserved.

The flutter in Jae’s stomach didn’t leave with the other woman or with the arrival of cruising altitude. Oh boy. This is worse that a real date. Forbidden fruit, Jae.

Jae looked over. Reed had reclined in her seat, back tilted against the window, legs stretched out on the other seat. Her laptop was out and she was busily tapping on the keys. Jae turned her own attention back to the script, in an attempt to get up to speed on what had been covered back in LA.

Every so often she would glance over, occasionally meeting Reed’s eyes as she did. They would exchange shy smiles then go back to their respective tasks. Is she thinking about tonight? The smell of warm sandalwood mingled with vanilla hung in the air, and Jae let her mind drift along the currents. Wonder if there’s a market for that scent. I know I’d buy it.

The hint of sandalwood grew stronger and Jae opened her eyes to find herself looking up into Reed’s indigo ones. Amazing how they change colour, sometimes so pale and cold, and at others deep and warm. She held the actress’ eyes for a long heartbeat, meeting the curious scrutiny without flinching. Reed curved a corner of her lip, in what for the actress was the equivalent of a full grin, and sat down, exchanging the visual contact for a physical one as she allowed Jae to take her hand in preparation for landing.

The plane could have dropped out of the sky at that moment for all Jae cared. Whether or not their relationship ever went any further than this instant, she knew with a devastating certainty that she had, against all the odds, found a friend who balanced her. It was the scariest, most exhilarating thing she had ever felt, and it was all she could do to keep the hysterical laughter from welling up and spilling out into the cabin.

"Hey, you okay?" Reed asked.

She let an ear-splitting grin sweep across her face. "I’m glad we became friends."

The actress looked startled, then looked down at their joined hands and applied a gentle pressure. "Me too," she whispered.




Mellow didn’t begin to describe how she felt. For the first time in as long as she could remember, her shoulders didn’t ache. She was still lying on the table, the masseuse having left it behind, a kindness that allowed her to continue floating in the half space between waking and sleep.

There was a soft rap, and Reed heaved herself off the table. The sheet trailed behind as she went to answer the door. A quick peek through the eyehole revealed her blonde benefactor, and she moved aside to let Jae in the room.

"They don’t connect this time." Jae laughed.

"No, I guess they don’t." She’d gotten used to having Jae around. The noise the other woman made as she went about her routine had been curiously comforting. Reed grabbed her sweatpants from the bed and tugged them up over her hips, then dropped the sheet before she added a white cotton shirt. "Thanks." She indicated the long narrow table where her body had received such exquisite attention.

Jae smiled. "I aim to please."

"You have good aim." Jae is so cute when she blushes, like a kid caught stealing candy. Her stomach had begun to flutter again, and Reed tried to figure out what to say next. "How’d it go?"

"Good. Provided the weather holds, we’ll shoot it tomorrow night."

The ‘it’ hung between them for a minute and Reed fingered her script. "How’d you know I had the lines down?"

Jae cocked her head sideways, and gave her a ‘what-are-you-kidding-me’ kind of look. "Reed, if there is one thing I don’t have to worry about on this film, it’s you knowing your lines."


"It was a compliment. You know we could always rent you a practice partner."

"They have those, for that?"

"This is Miami, Roo. They have everything here."

Reed tightened her grip on the script. Did this mean Jae doesn’t want to do this? She didn’t know what scared her more - kissing Jae or not kissing her. "I...I think I’d feel safer with you." There, it was out. It didn’t stop the nervous anticipation from clawing its way from her stomach to every limb in her body.

"Right. Let’s get this peck over with then, shall we?"

"What? Just like that?"

"Yep." Jae threw her jacket on the bed. "Do you want to do it with the lines or just the kiss first?"

Reed thought about it. Doing it in context would be less weird. She couldn’t imagine just leaning down and kissing Jae’s soft lips. Whoa. Where in the hell did that come from? Chill dummy, she’s a woman; of course her lips are going to be softer than a man’s.



Jae watched Reed think, the woman’s internal struggle written plainly on her face, now that she knew what signs of expression to look for from the actress.

"Umm, as part of the scene I think." Reed had opened the script to the correct scene and held it out.

"Got it already. I looked at it on the plane." She’d actually learned it by heart while reading the section of the novel. It was, without a doubt one of the mushiest, most romantic things she had ever read. To feel your soul sliding home like that. Wow.

"You start." The actress instructed.

Obligingly, Jae delivered the first line. "Can I ask you something?"

"Does this answer your question?" Reed leaned down and stopped.

Jae could feel the delicate tendrils of air brushing by the fine hair on her cheek. The smell of sandalwood mixed this time with chamomile, caressed her senses.

The actress straightened up. "I really don’t think I can do this. What if I throw up on you or something?"

"Then you’re fired."

Reed laughed nervously, and tossed the script onto the couch.

"Tell you what, it’s a big step, let’s try reversing the scene," Jae suggested. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she felt the butterflies churn in her stomach. Anyone would think I was the one who had never kissed a woman before. "Ready?"

"As I’ll ever be."

Jae moved forward. Then stopped. This wasn’t going to work. Just once I’d like to date or kiss someone shorter than I am. Be able to lean in and kiss them without needing to stand on a stair or wait for them to bend over. She hopped up onto the masseuse’s table. It was, she supposed, almost like sitting on a fence.

Reed looked ready to keel over but had gamely approached the high table and was standing just inside of Jae’s parted legs, their bodies almost, but not quite touching.

"Can I ask you something?"

She made the mistake of looking into Reed’s eyes as she leaned forward, the blue pools rising up to swallow her. "Does this answer your question?" Jae breathed the words out, then gently pressed her lips against Reed’s. Careful not to push too fast, Jae tenderly increased the pressure, glad she was already seated. The velvet smoothness of Reed’s mouth beckoned her and the flutters in her stomach quieted.

Jae pulled back, afraid of her own reaction to the tentatively returned kiss, vaguely disappointed with the loss of gentle contact. Reed still had her eyes closed, and both hands rested lightly on Jae’s waist. Looking closer at the slightly stunned actress, a flash of colour caught her eye, "Reed, your nose is bleeding." The director didn’t know whether to be flattered or worried.

Blue eyes sprang open and a hand flew to the corner of a sculpted nostril. "My nose is bleeding?" Clearly dumbfounded, Reed didn’t move or make any attempt to staunch the flow, and Jae guided her back into the wing chair.

"Don’t move. I’ll be right back." Jae hurried off to the washroom, and turned the cold water tap on full. Why are all hotel linens white? She soaked the cloths thoroughly in the ice cold water then returned to the main room. Reed was holding her nose pinched shut between thumb and forefinger. "Here," she laid one cloth on the back of Reed’s neck and the other over her companion’s aquiline nose. "Well that’s a first," Jae joked.

Reed looked up over the bunched face cloth. "Look on the bright side - I didn’t get sick."

"We could always shove cotton up your nose." That’s right Jae, keep it light.

Reed didn’t reply. Blue eyes were hooded, no longer open, the mask returned. Jae swallowed convulsively, unsure of what to say or do next. Professional detachment won out and she put on her director’s cap.

"I think over rehearsing this scene will take the impact away. Just make sure tomorrow you say Dar’s lines." She got up and moved across the room. Something had changed, and as much as Jae wanted to find out if Reed was okay, she didn’t dare ask. Didn’t want to risk facing what she had felt. "Night Reed."

The door shut behind her with a soft snick and still the actress hadn’t moved or spoken. Jae hovered in the hall for a moment, then purposefully strode down the hall, past the door to her room, and entered the elevator.

Reed heard the door shut behind the director. The absence of the woman did nothing to quell the gnawing coldness that was eating the pit of her stomach. Blood had finally stopped staining the once white cloth crimson and Reed discarded it, the wet thunk as it hit the floor passing unnoticed.

It had been nothing like she’d imagined.

The balcony door slid open soundlessly and Reed stepped into the night. The wind had picked up and an ebony cloak of hair blew around her face. Palm trees bowed to the battered shore as waves crashed against the hapless beach.

Like with the Nor’westers of her youth, she could smell the storm’s ire rising in the night. It would hit hard, and soon, then subside quickly - its fury spent. White caps danced across the ocean’s surface before committing suicide against the rocky outcrops. Reed inhaled deeply, the tempest around her a mirror.

She hadn’t expected it to feel nice.

When the rain began to fall in heavy sheets, the stinging whips soaked her clothes and she stepped forward and leaned out against the rail, losing herself in the violent display of nature’s temper.





"Roll Camera."



As Reed listened to the commands, light flooded into her eyes, so she was unable to see the crew or Jae. In front of her, Gwen also awaited the signal to begin. The blonde actress winked and smiled.

"Can I ask you something?" Gwen, as Kerry, delivered her first line.

This is it. Maybe I should have stuffed cotton wadding up my nose. "Does this answer your question?" Reed leaned down to kiss her co-star, not quite sure that she was up to the confident, self-assured butchy kiss that Jae had explained the scene called for.

"Cut." Jae’s voice rang through the curtain of invisibility created by the blinding lights. The blonde director stepped into the light, and Reed found herself unable to meet her friend’s eyes. They hadn’t spoken much at breakfast, Jae socializing with Holly and the DP, while she chased her eggs benedict around the plate. Their respective duties had kept them apart and prevented them from talking about last night.

Make-up trailed behind the director and approached Gwen. Finally the blonde’s hair was nailed back into place with a ton of hairspray and four clips to keep any more errant locks from obscuring her expression.

"From the top. Places." Jae gave them a last cursory inspection then left.

Behind her, the wooden rail of the fence supported her weight and she rubbed the smooth satiny surface idly. Gwen stepped back to her place and they began the wait for the cue to begin again.

"Can I ask you something?" Gwen had her head bowed slightly, suddenly seeming very shy and nervous.

Playing from the other actress’ cue, Reed reached out to cup Gwen’s chin and tilted her head up. "Does this answer your question?" She ducked her head and felt their lips connect. Reed counted the three that Jae had specified, then pulled back. That was nothing like last night, it feels like kissing the back of my hand. She got ready for the next set of lines, pulling Gwen in close.

"Cut." Jae interrupted the scene again. "That was good, but if you’re going to approach it that way Gwen, you need to turn a little more to the camera, like this." The director took the actress’s place, standing just inside of Reed’s open legs.

For the first time since they had practiced the kiss last night, she met Jae’s eyes, confused by what she thought she saw. There was no disgust, no anger - and something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

"Can I ask you something?" Jae delivered the line.

This time Reed followed suit and responded, "Does this answer your question?"

A tiny pulse point at the juncture of Jae’s throat jumped as her fingers brushed the warm skin before tilting the blonde head up. Just as their lips were about to meet, Jae stepped back and turned to Gwen. "See?"

It was all Reed could do not to pitch forward off the fence, unexpectedly losing her balance as the director moved.

"Got it," Gwen confirmed, once more taking up her mark.

"Great. Everything is fine. The delivery was good, we just need the camera angle." Jae returned to the camera monitor on the other side of the wall of light. The wall visually cut them off from being able to see the crew watch them, which provided the illusion of being alone on the beach.

Unsettled, Reed watched her friend walk away. Distracted, she missed her cue. Angry with herself for the error, the actress pushed away all other thoughts and concentrated on the task at hand, determined to nail it in the next take.

"Reset places." Film continued to roll. "Action."

"Can I ask you something?"

"Does this answer your question?" Instead of soft lips, hard points met her mouth and Gwen darted her head to the side, biting Reed on the neck.

"No, my question had to do with dinner." Gwen stood back, fake fangs dripping stage blood. Around them Reed could hear the crew erupt in laughter.

"Cut." In an accidental parody of an avenging angel Jae stood in the halo of light, green eyes flashing in mirth.

Deliberately, Reed got down off the fence and stepped around the still laughing actress. She came even with the director and then moved past the younger woman. Her trailer was at the end of the row, and Reed let her legs eat up the distance.

"Reed," Jae shouted from behind her. "It was just a joke lighten up."

She stopped then turned, her voice low and even. "No."

"You can’t just walk off --"

"The hell I can’t. I just did. Now deal." Reed spun on her heel and continued to her trailer. She roughly closed the brass catch, locking the door behind her.

Jae stopped, stunned. Things had been going fine. They had even gotten as far as the end of the scene three times, both kisses printable in all three of them, but not quite what she was looking for. Reed hadn’t thrown up, there had been no nosebleeds and the weather had held.

"Jae. I’m sorry." Gwen had come up behind her, the offending fangs now in her hand.

"I think you need to tell her that. But I’d wait a bit. It was funny, but this wasn’t a good scene to pull that with."

"You going to let her get away with that?"

"Yes. Just like I’m going to let you get away with what you did - this time." Jae tried to decide whether to go talk to Reed or wait.


An aide scurried up to them. "Miss Cavanaugh?"

"What?" She was still watching the trailer.

"What do you want the crew to do?"

"Take a break. We’ll restart at the morning twilight." It meant another long night, but the light was gone.

The crew evaporated and Gwen disappeared into her trailer. Only the three site security guards remained to keep the director company. Now that the sounds of a film under production had ceased, Jae could hear the pounding surf and the cries of sea birds. She removed her shoes and rolled up her pant legs and crossed to the sandy expanse of Crandon beach.

The cool sand felt nice between her toes and she made for the water line, nostalgic for the beach below her house. Her shirttails flapped in the stiff breeze and she could feel the salt-laden wind move through her hair. Water lapped at her toes and the wet mud gave gently under her weight. Moonlight reflected from the ocean, splintered then refracted in a kaleidoscope of patterns as the roiling waves caught the moonbeams and played with them.

Lost in thought Jae wandered along the length of the deserted beach. You nearly let her kiss you again. You wanted her to. Her mind trailed back to the previous evening, even though she knew she should be worrying about the lost filming time. That kiss had changed everything and somehow she had to fix it, repair their relationship.

Except she had no idea what was wrong. Had Reed felt it too? Was that why she got all quiet? For an instant her heart skipped a beat wondering if the actress had experienced the same sense of peace that she had. "Right, and that’s why her nose bled."

A large driftwood log was beached upon the shore, and Jae sat down, leaning against it. Would Reed’s friendship, assuming I can fix this, be enough? It’ll have to be, won’t it? It certainly brought up an interesting question though. One she had contemplated over several beer in the bar last night.

Does a sexual relationship define soulmates? She’d always thought so, but she wasn’t so sure. With Reed she felt a freedom that she had never had before. Sure the actress was volatile - tonight was just a reminder of something she’d known all along.

Maybe that had been her problem. Jae couldn’t remember the last girlfriend that she had had that she had actually been friends with. Most of her relationships started between the sheets, and a few had ended there.


Reed put the book down, letting it hang open from the edge of the table. Someone continued to knock on the door. The only problem with walking off a set, was that you had to walk back on again.

The actress wondered whom Jae had sent to cajole her out of the trailer. It wasn’t appropriate for the director herself to come, of course, but that didn’t stop Reed from hoping. The brass lock turned with a soft click and she swung the door open.


Gwen stood at the bottom of the trailer steps, collar of her jacket turned up against the wind blowing in from the ocean. "Can we talk? Or would you rather just use this?" She held up a wooden stake.

"That’s a tough one." Reed made no move to let her co-star in.

"So it’s going to be a long nine weeks, if we can’t sort this out."


"Why are you being such a bitch?"

"Moon’s in Sagittarius." She stepped back and moved inside without shutting the door behind her. After a few seconds Gwen followed. "So talk."

"Don’t waste words do you?"

"Or time."

"Touché," the blonde actress acknowledged. "Would it help if I apologized?"


"Look, Reed. It was a joke. I just wanted to lighten stuff up a bit. I remember what my first scenes like that were like. They just went on and on, and it wasn’t us, it was lighting or makeup or a thousand other things that can go wrong in a shot, but it got to us anyway. So I figured I’d take the edge off."

Reed turned the explanation over in her mind. It had been getting tense, and she knew she’d been angry even before Gwen pulled her little stunt. Was it worth starting a war over? She looked out toward the water. Jae was out there somewhere. She had seen the director go that way, watching her from behind the curtain. It wouldn’t be the first picture she had filmed without getting along with cast or crew.

"Alright." She didn’t want this to be another of those films.

"Then we’re cool?"

"We’re cool." Reed waited until Gwen was out of the door before continuing. "Gwen..."

The younger woman turned expectantly.

"Paybacks are a bitch."

"I’m counting on it." The blonde’s smile matched the humour in her own voice.





"Chappelle residence, Heidi speaking."

"Hey." Reed greeted her friend.

"What did you do this time?"


"Have you seen the Enquirer? ‘Ice Queen remains unmelted - Actress Reed Lewis has returned to Hollywood but even the charm of the magic kingdom hasn’t melted the statuesque actress. There’s more."

"I bet."

"So what happened?"

"Nothing." She shifted the phone to her other ear. "Rio around?"

"Geoff took him into town to pick up Finnegan. He needed shearing."

"How is he?"

"Finnegan’s fine," Heidi deadpanned.

"Not the sheep. Rio."

"He’s fine. Heart’s good and his lungs are still clear, so I think he’s kicked this one completely. Zerafa wants to see him next week. Any chance you’ll be able to get back for it?"

Reed relaxed. Every bout with pneumonia brought an increased risk that Rio’s heart would be overtaxed and the artificial valve would burst. "No, but I talked to someone. She gave me info on getting the video uplink to work." The meeting with the cardiologist would determine whether or not Rio would be a candidate for the program and Holly’s help would let her participate — even from L.A.

"Wednesday at one. Let me know what I need to do on this end. Though you’ll have to get Rio to do the tough bits."


"Ayup. And technology is no place for wimps."

"I’ll call later, maybe from Houston."

"I’ll tell him. So. How are you?"

"Fine. I need to go. They’re calling my flight."

"Reed, don’t let ‘em get to you okay?"

"Rolls right off. Bye."


The phone went dead, and Reed folded it up and put it back into her pocket. The actress hung back, letting the other passengers board first.

"Everything okay?" Jae inquired, startling her.

"Yeh." Reed gave her the same line she’d given Heidi.

"Coming?" Things were still awkward between them.

Reed nodded and followed the director to the gate.

"This is the final boarding call for Continental Airlines flight 1701, Miami to Los Angeles. Final Boarding call for Continental flight 1701."

The stewardess took their boarding passes and waved them down the long white painted corridor. Silence prevailed as they walked side by side. At the entrance, Jae stopped and looked over shyly. Reed raised a brow, quizzically. It appeared neither wanted to go first.

Jae wiggled her brows, green eyes glinting with mischief and held up a closed first.

"One." Reed played along, recognizing the game.


"Three," Jae called unexpectedly, a trifle ahead of the count.

Caught off guard, Reed left her hand curled in a fist, and Jae wrapped her smaller hand around it.

"Paper beats rock. You go first."


"Strategist," Jae pronounced solemnly, then winked, and Reed knew they would work it out.

That was neat, she thought to herself. That they could do that, a look, or a smile and it was okay, or at least not the end of the line. Reed was pretty sure she was in for one of Jae’s sensitive chats, but it looked like she had ducked the two-by-four this time.

Reed had to move past her seat to let the blonde slide into the one by the window. She shook her head at the director, but didn’t point out the obvious — that if Jae had the inside seat, she should have gotten on the plane first. It was a pleasant surprise to find that they were once again sitting together. She’d been afraid it was a privilege given up with her temper tantrum.

The aircrew finished their pre-flight checks of overhead bins and mouthed along with the safety lecture, while she watched Jae surreptitiously. The blonde looked like hell. There were dark circles under her eyes, and to Reed, used to judging pallor, the younger woman looked wan.

Before she could look away, Jae turned her head slightly, catching her. It could only have been for a few seconds but to Reed it felt far longer, their eyes meeting in silent search.

She ducked away first, raking a hand through her unbound jet locks in unconscious imitation of the director’s signature gesture.

"What happened with you and Gwen?"

After filming, they had ridden to the airport in a limo with an entertainment reporter for the Miami Herald, so they hadn’t been able to talk - though she had noticed Jae watching them with slight puzzlement.


"Ri-ight." Jae drew the word out in disbelief.

"We talked."


Reed grinned, a wicked gleam of her own lighting her blue eyes. "And I told her paybacks were a bitch."

"You didn’t?" Jae choked out over the gasps of laughter.


"Promise me something?"

"What’s that?"

"A warning."


"That reminds me," Jae said, shifting in her seat to face Reed. "Gotta put my director hat on for a minute."

Reed swallowed nervously. The plane shuddered under them and lurched forward as it began to move up the runway.

"Hold that thought." The director grabbed the armrest next to the window, knuckles showing white.

"How about I hold this instead?" Reed reached over and folded Jae’s hand inside her own, the director’s acceptance of the now familiar gesture tangible evidence that nothing fundamental or important had changed between them.

"Deal." The blonde squeezed their joined hands lightly, adding to the message.

Reed leaned back, letting the warmth of the contact wash over her. It had been so unexpected, and part of her knew it was dangerous to let Jae too close. But she couldn’t help it. Yeah, right, like you have a choice. Face it Roo, she’s already inside the wall. Once it would have scared her shitless - now it made her smile. And when Jae didn’t release her hand immediately upon the plane leveling out, instead adding her other one to the clasped tangle of fingers, one thumb tracing circles lightly on the back of the actress’ hand, she didn’t panic. Reed just waited, confidant that whatever Jae was going to say it wouldn’t mean the loss of a friendship.

"Never again Reed. Next time you walk off my set, it had better be for a good reason - not a reaction to a prank."

"Okay," she quietly agreed.


That had gone better than she thought it would. Reed hadn’t apologized, and in truth, Jae hadn’t expected her too. Aware that she was still holding the actress’ hand, she gave one last squeeze and released it. She sorted through the tasks in her mental pending tray; there was so much to do before filming began in earnest.

One nice thing about being stuck on an airplane - Chambers couldn’t call. Cait had phoned earlier in the morning, giving her a heads up that news had traveled fast and the executive producer had heard about the problems during filming at Crandon. And not just Chambers had heard. Hardcopy had run a story matching the article from Saturday’s Enquirer.

The Enquirer article was no big deal - as long as Reed didn’t get bent out of shape about it. But once the television newsrags picked up the scent of blood on a film set, they wouldn’t let go, and Jae knew they’d be circling for more gossip soon. The last thing any of them needed was to have every minor disagreement splashed across the small screen every night.



"Can your laptop do the email thing from up here?"

"Yes. Do you have your pop and smtp info?"

"My what?"

"The path to where your mail is kept. Usually by your ISP - internet service provider." As she spoke, Reed unhooked the Skyphone from its cradle and pulled the laptop out from under the seat.

Jae fished in a pocket of her backpack and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper that Cait had given her. "Is this it?" She handed it over, getting a small smile in return.

Reed began booting up and skillfully inserted the modem cord into the jack, long tapered fingers sure in their movements. A beep and the screen sprang to life, welcoming them to the world of Windows ‘98. A few keystrokes and Netscape Navigator opened; a few more and Reed speedily entered the email information. The computer chimed again and Reed looked over at her. "You need to enter your password." The machine was turned in her direction.

"It’s not on the paper?"

"Not unless your password is Cavanaugh."

"That would be it."

Reed shook her head and entered the word. "That’s worse than Rio."

"What’s Rio’s?"

"Can’t tell you."

Jae thought about what little Reed had said about her son and tried to make a guess. "Password?"

Reed laughed and nodded. "Yep."

"Cait told me I couldn’t use my first name - it didn’t have enough letters."

The actress rolled her eyes, humour rather than disdain showing through. "Last bit - credit card. It can get expensive."

"Money is no object." She handed over her Visa and Reed slid it into the slot on the back of the phone, then removed it.

"You’re up and running."

The fold-out table dropped neatly into place and Jae took the laptop from Reed and gingerly set it down. "Thanks."

She watched her email download. Two hundred and fifteen messages - you’d think I was on one of those mailing list thingys. Caitlynn had convinced her to sub to some sort of women’s list. The mail had cycled - and not just in volume. She’d opted to lurk, but remained fascinated by the community. There was a movie or at the very least a documentary in the phenomena. Or maybe a dissertation.

There were three messages from Cait and she opened the first one.

Hey, Babe
I’ve got some good news for you and some bad.
You can choose which to read first. J
Side note - Mar called, they want to know if you can join them for the Pediatric Aids Benefit.

Jae chuckled and clicked on the tiny envelope whose subject line read ‘The Good News.’

You opened this first didn’t you?
The good news is you’re almost home.

"Oh, oh," she exhaled. This m’grrl is not boding well.

"Hey?" Reed was looking over at her, brow raised questioningly.

"S’okay. Just Cait’s sense of humour."

"You sure?"


"Liar." The actress hadn’t dropped her eyes, and Jae held her gaze, losing her worries in the warmth.

"It’s okay, really."

"Jae, you look like shit."

"You say the most romantic things." It was out before she could stop it.

"Yeh well, I’m your friend, not your date. Give."

"Alright." Jae thought about what to say. The actors were supposed to be kept away from the politics and problems of shooting, but how could she expect Reed to be open with her, if she didn’t reciprocate? Not that she thought the actress would be interested in the technical end of things anyway. "It’s like this Reed...the only thing that travels faster than light is the speed of rumour in Hollywood - and the fastest travelling rumours are the ones about problems on the set."

"I’m sorry." Reed looked pensive.

"It happens." Jae shrugged, caught a little off guard by the unexpected apology. She looked down at the screen and manipulated the mouse pointer until it was over the yellow envelope marked ‘The Bad News.’

"It’s a trade-off, Cavanaugh." Rod Chambers leaned back in his chair, one hand waving in the air.

"Right. My integrity for your pocketbook." She had barely been back in LA two hours and had already been arguing in circles with the executive producer for one of them.

"Don’t look at it like that. It’s the same material, just shot differently."

"Shoot it differently and it’s not the same material."

"Bottom line - I’ll let the rest of what you did with the script remain - but..." he paused and leaned forward, "you need to include some sex. Look at it like a challenge. How erotic can you make it?"

Jae knew it was the best she was going to get out of Chambers. He was the executive producer and it was his money on the line. "This isn’t Bound." One last protest.

"No. It’s not. But it’s not an independent art film either. Welcome to the land of compromise."

Grimly she stood. "Alright." She turned to leave.

"I have every confidence in you...I’m told you have...experience with the subject matter."

She hadn’t thought it was common knowledge, but she wasn’t going to deny it either. "Does that mean you’ll trust my judgement on how far is too far?"

"This is Hollywood - there is no such thing as too far. But I’ll trust you to make it erotic versus pornographic. You may not believe this, but I’m as interested in making this a good film as you are."

This time when she turned to leave he didn’t stop her. Jae couldn’t decide if she was mad at having the script altered or excited at the possibility of being able to show something on film that no one else had dared to do.

Chambers had hit her right where she lived - in the excitement of telling a story, in presenting images and emotions and connecting with an audience.

The only way to pull it off was to change it. The subplot about Kerry’s eating disorder had been cut already. Instead they had opted for subtle conversation around exercise in a couple of ‘get to know you’ scenes. Two hours simply hadn’t been enough time to tell the whole story. The first time would have to come on the heels of the kiss - no dinner - no movie.

There was some dialogue there that she wanted to keep, though. And the popcorn thing. That was good. Maybe they didn’t have to lose the movie. On auto-pilot, Jae entered her office and grabbed her notebook.

What if we re-shot the end of the Crandon beach scene? The blue mechanical pencil danced over her knuckles as she twirled it around absently. "That could work." She sketched the layout of the set for Kerry’s living room and pondered the arrangement. "Keep the couch, keep the popcorn - lose Sunday. Works for me."

Lighting would be key. Shadow and suggestion - that was how to go.

"Now where did I put that script?" As usual, the gargoyle didn’t answer and she was left to search for it on her own. "Fat lot of help you are." She finally located the dog-eared and battered tome in her backpack.

Her cell phone chirped and she dug it out of the front pocket of the brown bag. "Cavanaugh."

"Is that any way to be answering a phone, Jacqueline?"

"Hello Mother." Jae rolled her eyes at the stone gargoyle and thought it grinned back in sympathy.

"Have you seen Hard Copy? You poor dear," the older woman clucked.

"It’s a publicity ploy, Mom. That’s all."

"So Roan didn’t die of a heart-attack?"


"His next of kin released the cause of death as a heart-attack, and the Coroner’s Office is set to release their official report tomorrow. Hard Copy says it was an overdose."

"Did they say ‘speculate’ or ‘confirm’?" She’d known the official results had been held up pending the notification of next of kin, but surely after nearly two weeks Roan was old news. Besides if it were anything serious Caitlynn would have heard and warned her. Or Chambers; he would have heard.

"I don’t remember dear. Your father taped it for you. Let me check."

Jae could hear her mother moving through the house. Could hear the echo of footfalls as she moved down the hardwood floors of the hall, along with staccato taps as she descended the white maple staircase to the family room. The familiar noises created a mental picture in her mind, almost like she was home again.

"Mother, is Daddy home?"

"No dear, he took the twins to little league."

"I hope you got them on the same team this year." Her sister had thought that putting Alex and Aine on different teams last season would help them with their own identities. Instead it had nearly sparked world war three as competitiveness had replaced co-operation.

"Your father stood in the league office and then finally had to agree to umpire in order to get them drafted together."

Jae laughed. She could picture her father trying to intimidate the executive, just standing there looking down at them until they gave in. "He must be slipping."

"I think he likes having an excuse to be there." The click of the video machine as it finished rewinding came clearly through the phone. "Here it is."

"Can you turn it up?"

"Hard Copy sources have learned that the Office of the Los Angeles County Coroner plans to release the details of the autopsy performed on Hollywood director Roan Pirsig. These same sources have told Hard Copy exclusively that the toxicology report indicated that Pirsig was carrying a deadly cocktail of booze and drugs in his system when he died. Pirsig was...."

"That’s enough Mother, thanks." Just as her mother turned the sound down, she thought heard Reed’s name and was tempted to have it turned back up again.

"I don’t know why you want to hang out with all of those awful people." It was a familiar rant, but tonight she didn’t have the energy to listen to it.

"I need to go Mother." She hit the blue button on her yak bak, sounding the buzzer on the children’s toy. Her mother needed a little help saying good-bye sometimes.

"Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Becky either."

Jae held her hand over the receiver and spoke to her stone companion. "No, that would have been too much to ask, hunh?" Then she spoke to her mother again. "I know. I’ll call and we’ll talk about it."

"If I leave it to you, we won’t talk about it until Christmas."

She wanted to say, ‘No, mother, if I had my way, we’d never talk about it.’ The last thing she needed added to the standard lecture about how dangerous it was to live in LA, was a list of her deficiencies as a romantic partner. Instead she opted for the safe route. "Sunday, I promise, okay?"

"That sounds wonderful dear. What time?"

Can you commit hara kiri with a mechanical pencil? It was still spinning around the knuckles of her left hand and she looked at it speculatively. "Around one. Bye Mother."

"Good-bye Jacqueline...and lock your car doors on those freeways."

"Yes Mother. Night." She hit end before her mother could add to the advice.

Somehow, blocking a sensual and erotic love scene after speaking with her mother seemed incongruous and a little weird. Not to mention that she had to find out what kind of damage control the publicity department was going to have to do.

Drugs. They were all over Hollywood, that she knew. But Roan?

Jae exchanged the cell for the receiver of the phone on her desk, hesitating momentarily before dialing. Busy. The insistent electronic beep of the busy signal sounded at regular intervals, she listened to it for several moments before clicking down on the receiver cradle. Well let’s tackle one I can do something about at least. She dug out the heavy studio phone book and looked up the MIS support number.


Caitlynn paced across the small area rug that guarded the couch, the soft warm weave a startling contrast to the cold wood. The clock revealed the time to be way later than she should sanely be up worrying about problems on the set.

Chambers had buttonholed Jae the moment she had walked into the studio, and the director had disappeared into the large mahogany appointed corner office of the executive producer. The set itself was tense as the supporting cast anticipated the arrival of the director and principals.

And now this.

Thom had called and given her a heads up on the next morning’s breaking news, news that was already making the rounds of the more sensationalistic television entertainment magazines. What would Jae want done? She stopped her back and forth exploration of the small apartment. Did Jae even know?

Three quick steps brought her to the low table where the base for the cordless phone sat unobtrusively. No phone. A survey of the room failed to reveal the errant handset, so she simply hit the page button and listened for the tell-tale beep.

"Ah-ha." It was between the cushions of the overstuffed green sofa. Cait dialed the familiar number and waited for it to connect. Busy. "Figures," the assistant director spoke to the tiny kitten curled up on the middle cushion. She could picture Jae bent over a ream of loose script pages and pencil sketches despite having just returned from Miami.

She slid her coat on and fished her keys out of the basket by the front door. Cait was also willing to bet the director hadn’t stopped to eat either. "What do you think furball? Curry or Ribs?"

"Mwrr." A tiny paw batted the air.

"Righto, Curry it is. Be good. Mummy’ll be back soon." Cait shut the door behind her, locking both bolts, then headed for the elevator that would take her one step closer to the studio.




The door was hot...she couldn’t breathe...the wooden barrier refused to fall. Behind her the hall disappeared, the floor vanishing as darkness swallowed the light. Panic welled up again, and she was powerless to fight the feeling or the inevitable plunge. She screamed and the sound echoed off the unyielding door. The knob twisted uselessly in her fingers and she made a last desperate thrust in an eternal quest to get through the door. Then it was gone and she felt herself begin to fall, the inky black maw once more claiming her. Her eyes closed in defeat and suddenly her downward plunge stopped, a hand on her wrist...

Reed lay in bed, chest heaving with the effort to draw a breath. It had changed. For the first time in seventeen years the dream had changed. Slowly she opened her eyes, letting her pupils gather in the sparse moonlight that shone through the half-shuttered windows of her bedroom. Something had caught her.

Her heartbeat slowed as the terror receded and Reed swung her feet out from under the duvet. The house was quiet, the only noise filtering through the room came from the city sprawled below the residences that hugged the sides of the Hollywood hills. Light after light came on as she moved from room to room, the kitchen illuminated last. The fridge yielded some eggs and a rasher of bacon along with some Havarti cheese and a tomato.

The skillet was already on the front burner of the stove and she turned the element on, adding a pat of butter to melt under the influence of the heat. Several strips of bacon went into the microwave, the noise filling the room. One-handed, she expertly cracked two eggs, their contents spreading across the bottom of the pan. A return trip to the fridge produced the milk and she added a dollop to the eggs. A wooden spatula traced lazy circles in the mixture as the yolks blended into the whites and milk. She added some herbs and turned the heat down, letting the omelette cook slowly.

The scent of coffee filled out the aroma of breakfast, as the first switch she had flicked on her way into the kitchen made its contribution. Reed leaned against the counter; the images from her dream intruded into the peaceful morning.

It had changed. And that made it more terrifying. Except that wasn’t quite right. It hadn’t felt terrifying in the nightmare. Her eyes scanned the clock - four a.m.. She wasn’t due at the studio for rehearsals until seven, the late start a reflection of the travelling they had just done.

The microwave beeped and she hit the door release, but left the bacon inside until the eggs were ready. Cheese, tomato and a smattering of pepper were laid out over the golden toast and she checked the omelette. It was nearly done so she laid the still hot bacon over the other ingredients then added the steaming egg top.

Coffee cup in one hand, plate in the other, Reed made for the breakfast nook. Reserving her attention for the open-faced sandwich in front of her, the actress banished the lingering images and impressions of the nightmare to the recesses of her mind. It was, after all, just one more nightmare.

A little later, red turned to green as the flow control signal gave Reed permission to enter the freeway. The powerful Rover engine throbbed and she guided the 4x4 into the commuter traffic and headed for the film studio. A silver thermos rested against the leather passenger seat, along with her laptop, both buckled in safely.

Jae’s spot already contained the silver Saturn and Reed parked her own vehicle in the slot with her name painted on the placard. This morning had been the first breakfast in almost two weeks that she hadn’t spent in the director’s company. As much as she had missed the solitude while in Miami, she found herself looking forward to seeing Jae.

It was just before six, but the lot was already crawling with actors, crew and oddly, studio security. Jennifer looked up from her desk and nodded at the security guard stationed at the entrance to the corridor that led to Jae’s office.

"Morning Ms. Lewis."

Reed acknowledged the salutation with a small flick of her head and moved into the long corridor. The door to Jae’s office was closed and she knocked lightly on the stout oak. There was no answer or sound of movement from within, so she reasoned that the room was unoccupied.

Trepidaciously she reached out and turned the knob, pushing gently, and opened the door slowly. Feeling like an intruder, she walked across the room to the cluttered desk and set the flask among the tangle of paper and pencils.

"How do you think with all of this around you?" The gargoyle perched on the only clear spot on the desk was probably the only one who knew. Or Rio. He seemed to have an affinity for bric-a-brac that rivaled the director’s.

Reed turned to leave the room, eyes stopping here and there to examine the objects in the room. Every time she was in the office new things jumped out at her. On the couch, a blanket covered in Scooby-Doo characters was heaped. Over blonde hair.

Jae was sound asleep, food cartons and even more paper strewn about the area rug in front of the low sofa. Tufts of hair poked out from the top edge, and now that she looked closely, Reed could see the steady rise and fall of the coloured material in time to the soft exhalations of the still slumbering woman.

"How late did you work, Tigger?" There was a small kitchenette area in the far corner, equipped with a sink, bar fridge and toaster oven, along with a small cupboard. "If I were a coffee cup, that’s where I would hide."

On her way across the room she spotted the still unpacked cardboard cartons that Jae had been rooting through last time she’d been here. More books were piled on the far side of the couch. "Maybe not," she observed. There were lots of places for coffee cups to hide in here.

A huge ‘Scotty’ mug rested in the tiny sink and Reed lifted it out. "Interesting mug for a technophobe." The red-shirted engineer smiled cockily back, unaware of her comment. It looked clean enough, but a quick rinse under some hot tap water ensured that the mug was both clean and no danger to the temperature of the coffee. Hot coffee in a cold cup seemed to defeat the point of storing it in a thermos.

The seal released with a satisfying pop, the aroma of the rich, dark roast spreading through the room. Jae was wrong - the smell of coffee spreads faster than rumour or sound.

She poured a generous serving into the warmed mug and crossed to the couch, taking up a comfortable spot on the floor next to where pale locks peeked at the world. Reed didn’t speak, letting the coffee do its job. Jae began to stir, mumbling inaudibly.

More shifts of the blanket and a blonde head lifted sleepily. "Tell me I’m not dreaming."

"You’re not dreaming."


"Who were you expecting? The fairy goddess of coffee?"

"Close enough. Thanks." Jae took the mug, cupping it between her hands, the handle facing away from her, fingers laced together through it. She took a long sip, then leaned back against the armrest, knees up, the blanket tucked around her. "I could get used to this."

"Don’t get any ideas," Reed admonished, drinking from her own travel mug.


"You sleep here often?"

Jae ruffled her hair, returning it to its pre-sleep state of perpetual disarray. "Seems like."

"You don’t have to."

"It’s not that simple." To Reed, Jae sounded defensive and her hunch was confirmed when the director resumed speaking, having paused to take another swig of coffee. "It’s what I do, and it means long hours."

"That’s not what I meant," she clarified, quietly. "You can use my trailer."

"Oh." Jae looked down at her cup, finger tracing the rim. "Sorry."

Reed waited for the other woman to continue and took another sip of coffee. Three sips later Jae spoke again.

"I get a lot of grief about being too dedicated." The nervous laugh that accompanied the confession told Reed more than the words had.

"Not from me."

Jae gave her one of the wide-open smiles that lit the green eyes with life and vigour that seemed too large to be contained in such a slight frame. "Thanks."

They sat and drank their coffee in silent communion. Noises of other people beginning their own work days drifted into the room but didn’t disturb the mood.

Cait rounded the corner muttering to herself. Jae had broken her promise and hadn’t left the studio after all. The white chalk marks she had put on both the asphalt and her friend’s tire had made it plain that the car hadn’t moved. They had months of filming and post-production work left, and she was afraid that her boss would burn out if she didn’t slow down.

With Jae it was a fine line. Her friend would only tolerate so much nagging or cozening before pushing back. It would be her job, Cait knew, to help Jae manage everything and hopefully keep the intense and driven young woman from burning herself out before the project was completed.

The door to the office she and Jae still shared was unlocked and she entered, mini-rant on the tip of her tongue. "I can’t believe you --" Cait stopped. Jae was sitting on the couch, blanket tucked around her waist, hands cradling the large Star Trek mug she’d liberated from Cait. But it was the woman sprawled comfortably on the floor at the director’s feet that had cut off the lecture undelivered.

Reed Lewis turned her head and Cait flinched. The actress’ eyes were cold and full of challenge and the relaxed posture stiffened perceptibly. Now that is interesting.

"Morning Cait." Jae greeted her warmly and motioned her to the unoccupied end of the couch. "What can’t you believe?"

The actress was watching her intently and the assistant director kept her amusement to herself as she replied. "That you didn’t leave me any curry."

Jae laughed and Cait studied the lithe blonde. If the evidence hadn’t been in front of her, she wouldn’t have guessed that the director had just flown across the country and worked most of the night. The dark circles that had been under her friend’s eyes the previous day were all but invisible now.

Out of the corner of one eye she snuck a peek at the actress. Unaware of the observation, her stance had softened a little and the way she looked at Jae was markedly different from what Cait typically associated with the aloof actress.

"Speaking of food. You two up for breakfast?" Jae threw the question out casually, but Cait caught the undercurrent of tension.

"Already ate." The actress shook her head negatively.

"Me too," Cait added and Jae shot her a dirty look.

"Okay. The direct route then. We have a publicity problem Reed, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better."

The actress’ reply was to reach up and pour more coffee in Jae’s mug.

"Ummm. Thanks." Jae took a sip then continued, "They’re going to release the autopsy report on Roan this morning."

Cait watched the two women. It was like she wasn’t even in the room. Reed was focused on Jae, and the director in turn seemed to be trying to find the best way to explain what she needed from the actress without sounding condescending or demanding.

That was it. Cait put her finger on it. Jae wasn’t so much briefing Reed as she was conversing with her.

"No. I won’t do it Jae." Reed sounded angry, but it sounded different than the fight the whole studio had overhead the day Roan had died.

Here it comes. Cait readied herself for a flash of her friend’s temper. Jae was not one to accept defiance on her set or about issues with her movie.

"Okay." The director spoke softly. "Then I need you to say nothing at all. Not a word, not a grimace or the slightest smirk. Nothing."

"And?" Reed prompted, one brow raised.

Cait couldn’t believe it. She looked closer at her friend. Oh my God, Jae has feelings for the Ice Queen.

"And you do a photo shoot with Gwen. As Dar and Kerry."

"Why?" Reed had stood and was poking through the books on the shelf to Jae’s right.

The director pushed the blanket to the side and joined the actress, leaning against the built-in wooden shelf, green pools intently focused on the taller woman. They were only inches apart, yet seemed unaware of their proximity.

Jae didn’t let many colleagues or casual acquaintances inside her personal space, and Cait knew she had never seen anyone within five feet of the actress unless it was part of a scene.

"Because the media will be all over us. With Roan’s cause of death fueling things we need to pre-empt any hint of discord on the set. At this point I’d rather be dealing with rumours of a set romance, than rumours of catfight." It was one of the options they had discussed last night.

"Is that all?" The actress had crossed both arms over her chest.

"Nope." Jae was smiling mischievously. "We’re all going to participate in the Pediatric Aids Benefit."

"What?" Cait looked at Reed to see what her reaction was. The actress looked stricken.

It was Jae's turn to fold her arms. "Oh C'mon. It'll be fun. Every one'll be there."





"Great. I forgot the towel." Jae glared at the linen free vanity. It was warm enough that she would dry quickly, the hot Los Angeles sun overpowering the air conditioner. Naked, she padded from the en suite to her room, water droplets tracing a path down her back and torso.

A dark blue sarong patterned with white incandescent suns and scattered stars hung over the end of the cedar bed frame. A half-twist and a tuck and it rested snuggly on her hips. The glass of ice tea rested where she’d left it. Icy rings of water had migrated to the table, the pattern marking the papers with the unmistakable stamp of summer. She took a long drink and enjoyed the contrast of cold water against the heat of her bare skin as more droplets escaped and ran down her chest.

The third step from the top creaked under her step as she descended to the floor below and made her way to the living room to curl up on the linen couch, book in hand. Words wiggled on the page and she gave up trying to make sense of the paragraphs. Restless and full of energy, she got up again and wandered out to the back porch.

The high hedge that protected her privacy had remained lush despite the heat and she watched an assortment of insects flit about the foliage. Above her the sky was cloudless, the cerulean expanse close enough to touch. Another shade of blue came to mind and she smiled, mentally matching Reed’s moods to different shades of blue. The sky was curiousity.

Wonder what you’re up to today. It was an off day, cast and crew alike taking advantage of having a rare smogless Sunday off. Reed was probably splitting her day between the script and her son. Which had to be a thousand times better than what she had planned.

Jae wandered back inside in search of some clean clothes that her mother would find appropriate for Sunday dinner. In the hall a long mirror reflected her current state of undress back at her and for a brief second she was tempted to go as she was. "But Mother, all the natives in Samoa dress like this."

Her mother would look back, lip curled in ethnocentric disgust and admonish her. "If all your friends jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge would you jump too? Honestly Jacqueline." Jae mimicked her mother in the mirror, then laughed and made for the stairs and her closet.

Twenty minutes later she was on the freeway, bound for Isla Vista. A crisp clean white shirt was tucked into her Gap khakis, black leather belt colour co-ordinated with the crop top and nine-hole docs. The wind had billowed the unbuttoned shirt, letting air circulate up her back.

Jae engaged the clutch and dropped into fourth. The powerful engine responded to the increased throttle. Her mother would pitch a fit when she saw the bike, but Jae figured it would balance out the lecture she was going to get. "Well that and the roast beef." The air ate her words and she smoothly switched lanes, the loaded semi not having enough power to travel at the speed limit up through the pass. On the way by, she repeated a childhood pastime and pumped her arm in the air twice. The trucker obliged and sounded his horn, smiling down from the cab of the huge truck.

"Cool." She waved back and then left him behind. The Dunlop tires ate up the miles, and soon she entered the small gated community her parents lived in. The security guard recognized her and waved, the resident’s sticker a further guarantee of her right to enter the streets of her childhood.

Children played on neatly kept front lawns and a couple of teens jumped on and off the curbs, their skateboard wheels spinning and flashing in the sun. She turned into the driveway and pulled up next to her father’s Pathfinder. Her sister, Danielle, had already arrived, her car tucked next to the garage. No sooner had Jae turned the ignition off than two tow-headed children attacked her.

"Auntie Jae, Auntie Jae."

"Whoa. Hold on a second you two." She laid her driving gloves over the seat and ruffled her nephew’s hair before repeating the gesture with his sister.

"Jacqueline Anna Elizabeth...what is that?"

"Hello Mother." Jae tugged the strap free from the D-ring and pulled her helmet off. "Honda Hawk." She closed the visor and hung it over one handlebar of the silver and red bike. She pulled the brown leather jacket out from under the bungy cord netting on the passenger seat and tossed it over one shoulder.

"Don’t be smart with me young lady." Elizabeth Cavanaugh spun on her heel, imperiously mounting the front stairs and re-entering the house.

"Grandma’s mad at you," Alex pronounced solemnly.

"I know kiddo. But look on the bright side. It means she’s not mad at you two." Jae ran a hand through her hair, raking it back to its natural disarray. "C’mon you guys."

It was after seven and thus far Jae had managed to stay one step ahead of her mother. They were her family and she loved them, but now she remembered why it had been a year since the last time she had agreed to Sunday dinner. The porch swing on her parent’s deck still creaked. No matter how often it had been oiled, disassembled or otherwise tinkered with, the rhythmic noise remained, as familiar to her as her own heartbeat. One leg was curled under her body; the other propelled the swing back and forth.

Lulled by the motion that she had pretended was a ship when she was younger, Jae indulged herself in a moment of idle fantasy.

The swells were getting higher, the waves threatening to swamp the small boat. They had already dropped the spinnaker and were running under only the Genoa, the main sail having shredded beneath the gale force winds. Dumping her cargo was not an option so Dr. Jae "Nevada" Cavanaugh fought her way to the bow.

She had already sent the men to relative safety below decks. There was nothing they could do up here, getting them through this was her job. The thick rope that held the wheel steady also provided her an anchor against the lashing tongues of icy water and wind-driven sleet.

"What were you thinking, traveling on that...that thing?"

"Hmm?" The reverie of the childhood pastime was broken, and Jae looked up at her mother.

"You know I don’t like motorcycles. Honestly Jacqueline."

With a wicked gleam Jae let twenty years of childhood roll back, ignoring her mother. They had survived the storm only to be picked up by a German U-boat crossing the same Atlantic route that would have taken her to New York and on to fame as the archaeologist who had brought the Lion of Corinth out of Macedonia.

Instead she was being interrogated. The leather of her jacket had hardened slightly after its bath in the ocean and the collar scratched at her chin. But she held her resolve to say nothing.

"You can’t keep this up."

Ah, but I don’t have to. Soon my partner will be here to help liberate the crew and the treasure. The errant thought accomplished what her mother’s lecture couldn’t and brought Jae fully out of the refuge of childhood. Partner?

"Are you listening to me Jacqueline?"

"Yes, Mother. I was just thinking." Confused by the sudden shift in the normal flow of her daydream and by a conversation she hadn’t been paying attention to, Jae gave a stock reply.

Her mother sat next to her, face softening slightly. "It probably still hurts right now."

"What does?" Jae was even more confused.

"The way things ended with your friend Rebecca."

"A little." Except it didn’t. Now that she thought about, Jae realized that she had resumed life as if Becky had never been part of it.

"You love her a lot?"

"I thought I did. She didn’t think so."

"Some people aren’t meant to get married or fall in love. You have a career that you married instead. Be proud of that. Love isn’t for you, never has been."

For some reason that was the most depressing thing Jae had ever heard. But her mother was right. Love just wasn’t something she did well. "I know." The swing continued to creak, filling the awkward silence.


Reed shut down the computer and pulled the phone cord out of the modem. She didn’t bother to get up and put it back into the wall jack. Anyone worth talking to would call on the cell.

Talking and playing with Rio hadn’t helped. Things she had forgotten and buried were now impossible to hide from. Things like Roan.

Even in death, she wasn’t completely free of him.

"Cut." Roan stalked across the sound stage, and she struggled to focus. "Deliver the line, then pick up the gun. It’s not that difficult. Even you should be able to do it, stoned or not."
The director looked vaguely unfamiliar and she stared at him in confusion, wondering why he was yelling at her. Another wave of pain swept through her guts and it was all she could do to remain on her feet.
"You’re coming down aren’t you?" His hand grabbed her chin, and wrenched her jaw until he was staring at her pupils. "Stupid cunt. You’re in withdrawal." His thumb traced along her lips and she repressed the shudder. "Too little, too late."
Dizzy, she jerked her head out of his grip. "For you."
He leaned forward, hot breath raking her ear. "Still mine Reed, don’t forget it."
It was now or never and she knew it. He thought he still owned her, and if she didn’t get out he would. He’d own both of them. Roan moved back to the chair behind the main camera, and the cast moved back into place, the crew likewise.
The faux tableau resumed its simulated action and Reed pushed the pain back down, delivering her line. "You’re wrong. There’s one difference between you and me." She picked up the prop gun. "You’re dead." The actress pulled the trigger.
"Cut," Roan yelled. "What the fuck is wrong with you? Line, gun, trigger."
Another sharp pain tore at her and Reed swallowed the involuntary gasp. "There was nothing wrong with that take. If the gun comes after both lines, then Cleary has warning."
"I don’t pay you to think. Just act. And you can’t even do that." His pupils were dilated and glassy. He was coming down from his own high, unpredictable temperament made more so by the uncertain combination of chemicals in his bloodstream. "Take thirty," he called over his shoulder, dismissing the cast and crew. "And you. Here. Go get yourself together."
A bag was thrust at her and she took it, hand closing spasmodically on the plastic as another wave of spasms brought fresh pain. She nodded and struggled to remain on her feet. Finally he shook his head and moved away.
"You can’t win Reed." Roan’s footfalls echoed mockingly.
"I already have," she whispered, then collapsed. Reed closed her eyes, the hard floor her last anchor to consciousness. It would have been so easy to let him win, to let the drugs swallow her. But she had already kicked them - she was clean. And the reason she had kicked them prevented her from giving in and letting Roan win.
She dropped the baggie and heaved herself to her knees. Water was spreading under her, the material of her pants wet. Oh God. It was too soon. What had looked like withdrawal to Roan, and what she had assumed were Braxton-Hicks, was in fact labour.
The car keys. Where were the car keys? The trailer, they were in the trailer. Breathing heavily, she stood and began to make her way out of the studio. The heavy metal door swung shut behind her, closing on her dreams. Tears stung at her eyes and one hand rested on the slight curve of her abdomen. "Hang on, okay?"
That was the one thing in all this mess worth anything, and Reed was determined to get to a hospital. The drive passed in a haze of pain and blur of cars. She ditched the car, walked around the corner and hailed a passing cab.
"Are you alright Lady?"
"Just drive."
Two blocks from her destination, she told the driver to stop and paid the fare, walking the remaining distance on her own. Three hundred meters that seemed more like a marathon. The pain was unbelievable and for a second she considered lying down and quitting. Beneath the pain that nearly crippled her, Reed felt the baby kick, its first movements all day. No. She would give this child chances she’d never had.
One foot in front of the other - one at a time. She repeated the mantra over and over. The wide white doors hissed open and she passed out.

They’d made it. It had been touch and go for awhile, but they’d made it. Both of them. And she had never gone back. Until necessity and desperation had forced her hand, a situation that had culminated in a vicious argument with the man Jae had asked her to defend. The room had grown darker as late afternoon had become evening. Shadows flickered about and Reed watched them play on the far wall, deep in thought.

How long do I have before they dig up the rumours? Before Jae starts to ask questions that I can’t answer? The younger woman had accepted her refusal to toe the party line of the production company, exacting instead a promise of silence.

There had been a brief flash of anger in Jae’s office, then nothing. Even now she couldn’t touch the core of rage that she knew lay buried under the veneer of indifference, tucked safely away with the other hurts and betrayals.

The nightmares that had all but vanished during the trip to Florida were back with a vengeance. She was emotionally stretched to her limits. Too much had changed in too short a time. Years of isolating herself had left her unprepared for the return to public life.

The biggest change was Jae. Reed smiled, thinking of the blonde director. They had known each other barely three weeks, but to the actress it felt like a lot longer. Most likely it was a result of close proximity during filming in Florida. One thing was certain; she missed the younger woman. That had been a surprise. Their routines had meshed perfectly and Reed hadn’t felt her privacy encroached on.

In the growing twilight she headed to the kitchen. Red or white? Red, she decided, and poured a glass of the full-bodied wine. Out on the deck she leaned against the rail and watched the lights twinkle as cars traversed the surface roads. It took her a minute to identify what was missing. Guitar music. Someone who lived below her played guitar and the familiar sound had kept her company in the evening as she studied her lines and did her prep work. Tonight it was silent.

Brrreeep. The cell phone chirped and she wandered back inside, picking up the sleek black handset. "Lewis."



"Am I disturbing you?"



The line went quiet. Reed tried to figure out what to say. "What’s up?"

"Not much. Tough day. You know."

Reed returned to the balcony and settled into the lounge chair. "Band practice?"

That got a laugh and she could imagine Jae shaking her head. "No. Sunday dinner with my folks."

"They live in LA?" She hadn’t pegged Jae as being a native of LA.

"Just outside of Isla Vista. My mother objected to my mode of travel and things went downhill from there."

"She objects to a Saturn?"

"650 Honda Hawk."

"Goes with the tattoo."

"A Harley would go with the tattoos, but they’re too noisy."

"You have more than one?"

"More than one what?"

"You said tattoos, plural."

"Don’t miss much, do you?"

"No. So give."

"Hmmm. Trade you. I’ll tell you where the other tattoo is if - if you’ll give me a personal detail."

"You already know more about me than anyone else except Heidi and Rio."


"Yep. But let’s see, what do you want to know?" It was a dangerous offer.

"Where do you live?"

The production company paid the rent and Jae had been in the limo that had picked her up for the flight to Orlando, so Reed was sure that the director didn’t mean the house in the hills. "Eastport, Maine."

"You don’t sound like you’re from Maine."

"It’s cause I’m not."


"So when’s the shoot?" She moved the conversation back out of personal territory.

"Thursday. You still okay with it?"

"Yeah." It was odd, but the whole thing bothered her less than it had before. A cool breeze had sprung up and she grabbed the blanket that rested on the end of the chair. "Did you get the script approved?"


Reed laughed. "You didn’t really expect a male producer to film a movie about lesbians and not want the sex increased."

"I thought it would freak you."

Serious, she leaned forward in the chair. "Remember the first time we met?"

"Yes. You’re not the sort of person one forgets their first meeting with."

"You told me you weren’t known for directing pornography. Has that changed?"

"No. No it hasn’t."

"Then I’m behind you all the way." She paused. "Though you might want to consider a body double. I don’t think stretch marks would be too erotic."

"You don’t have stretch marks."

"Now who doesn’t miss much?" Reed teased, to cover her surprise.

"It’s not my fault you seem to think clothing is optional."

"Unhunh. Pot calling the kettle black, if you ask me."

"No one’s asking you."

"Me thinks the Lady doth protest too much."

Jae was laughing so hard that Reed had to take the phone away from her ear. The director sounded in better spirits than when the phone first rang.

"I missed this," Jae said.

"Me too."

"I need to go. See you in the morning?"

"Wouldn’t miss it."


"Night Roo." The line went dead, and Reed paused a moment before hitting end.

The strumming of a guitar drifted up from below, and unconsciously Reed sang the familiar words, mind on the woman she had just been speaking with. "I knew you, before the fall of Rome, and I knew you when the west was young, woohoohoo."

Reed walked back inside, dropping the blanket back onto the chair as she passed by on her way to the bath. Twin silver faucets served the porcelain tub a generous helping of steaming hot water and she eased her body into the soft, clear pool. She closed her eyes and sank back into her role, escaping into Dar’s reality. It was easier and easier to put on the intense executive, to let her behaviour mirror that of her character.


Jae held the receiver of the cordless phone, staring at the now quiet bits of technology and plastic. That was not the conversation she’d expected to have, and certainly wasn’t the reaction to upping the intensity of the love scenes she’d been expecting either.

The whole thing was...weird. Not bad weird, just weird, weird. Her palms were sweaty and she wiped them on the legs of her pants. "Bet my heart rate is up too."

But Reed seemed to have taken the whole conversation in stride, oblivious to the subtext. "I haven’t flirted that blatantly with women I’ve been sleeping with. And that comment about stretch marks...I can’t believe she took that one in stride." She grabbed a beer from the fridge. The twist cap came off easily in her hand and she moved out onto the back deck, shadows dancing where sunbeams had played earlier.

An enigma. That was Reed. Stuff wasn’t adding up; or did Reed just not see it? Jae stepped back inside and reached up for the pack of lantern matches she kept tucked in the side of the doorframe. Her guitar was still in the hall, right where she’d left it after returning from Florida. She carried it back outside and peeled the travel tape from the case before releasing the straps that kept the 12-string nestled in its protective shell. The catches snapped open and Jae lifted the lid.

A thin, dark, felt-wrapped package rested on the body of the Guild, tucked under the steel strings. It slid out easily and Jae turned it over in her hands. There was no note or card visible, so she untied the string that was holding the parcel together. The embroidered, slightly manic face of Tigger smiled up at her and she giggled. Unfolding the forest green and black material revealed the words, ‘Tigger Wear’ around the elastic top of what she realized were boxer shorts. A small slip of paper flittered to the deck. Boxers still in one hand, Jae picked up the note, holding it so the lamp-light made the bold printing visible. ‘Forgot to give these to you in Orlando.’ A wide grin spread across her face. She didn’t need a signature to know who had left the gift. "Reed...."

Moments later she was comfortably ensconced on the top step, beer just out of reach of her elbows, a lantern flickering in its own unique tempo, and the guitar nestled on her lap.

"Hey little girl is your Daddy home, did he go and leave you all alone? Unhunh. I got a bad desire, oh ho, ho I’m on fire. Hey little girl is he good to you? Can he do things for you that I do? Oh ho, ho I’m on fire." She continued to finger pick the notes of the chorus, mind drifting with the music.

Jae hummed lightly with the notes her fingers drew from the strings under her fingers. Then she laughed as she recognized the tune. Her hands flew over the fret board as she threw herself into the demanding riffs and hypnotic words, voice ringing out in the cooling desert night. "...come lay your body beside me, to dream, to sleep with the lamb. To the question your eyes seem to send. Am I your passion, your promise, your end? I say I am, yes I am. Yes I am. I am your passion, your promise, your end. Yes I am. Barring divine intervention there is nothing between you and I, and if I carelessly forgot to mention, your body, your power can sanctify…."

The cicadas chirped in counterpoint, and the moon illuminated the grass. "Yes I am...I say I am.…"





"Ms. Lewis, what did you and Roan Pirsig argue about?"

Flashbulbs were going off in her eyes and she turned away from the reporters. A jumble of questions were being directed at her, and Reed did her best to tune them out.

"Did you see any evidence of his drug use?" A large burly photographer stepped in front of her.

"Get out of my way."

"Have the police contacted you?"

"You walked off a set of a movie directed by Pirsig, why did he hire you back?"

It was only four o’clock in the morning, but the vultures were out in full force. The post-mortem had confirmed the rumours of drug use. Where was security? Reed began to shoulder her way through the pack. "I said, get out of my way," she growled, the rumble coming from deep in her throat.

"Do you feel anything about his death?"

"Not a God-damned thing. Now get out of my way." She stared at the man obstructing her progress into the building and he moved out of the way, camera still clicking off photos.

"What a bitch."

"Bitches sell more papers." Laugher echoed after the words, then the hullabaloo was cut off as the door to the sound stage shut behind her.

The cavernous building was unoccupied and Reed moved through the different sets until she came to the ones that made up Dar’s condo. Movable walls were open; camera tracks and lighting mounts were visible along the floor. She blocked out the evidence of reality and imagined warm sun beating through large glass windows, concentrating on letting go of the incident outside until she felt at home amid the props.

Black leather gleamed in the low light, and Reed settled onto the couch. In her head, scenes unfolded and she mentally manipulated the camera, getting a feel for what she wanted to do.

A hinge squeaked and she heard a door slam shut as foot steps echoed through the sound stage. Jae. Reed grabbed the tingle of pleasure the director’s arrival sparked and filed it away to draw on later. Idly she wondered how much her interactions with Jae were tinted by her own portrayal of Dar. Probably more than you realize, she thought wryly. Or less.

"Pick a hand."

Reed leaned forward and put her fingers on her temples, pretending to use psychic powers to decide. "Right."

"Bingo." Jae passed over a tall cup, brown cardboard heat sleeve standing out against the white and green Starbucks logo. "How’d you guess?" The blonde sat down on the couch, feet tucked under her body, Indian style.

Shifting, she turned slightly, facing the director. "Well I had a 50-50 shot, but you’re left handed. I figured you’d have your own coffee in your dominant hand." Their bodies were nearly touching and Reed half expected Jae to curl up against her. You have been watching too many movies.

"Ah, logic."

"I could make a Spock crack but I can’t think of one." The coffee tasted as good as it smelled. "Dammit Jae, I’m an actress not a prognosticator."

"That’s Bones, not Spock." A low chuckle filled the stage, warming it.

"Your point?" she deadpanned.

Jae shook her head before leaning back against the leather. "Thanks."

"For what? You bought the coffee. Thanks by the way."

"You’re welcome. But I meant these." The director snapped the elastic waistband of her boxers under her shirt. "It was a nice surprise."

"Good." For a second she’d thought Jae was going to actually show them to her. Reed looked at her watch. "I’ve got to get to wardrobe."

"Cait’s probably wondering where I got off to."

People were beginning to file into the building and the place was coming to life. Food was being set up on the far side and they walked over to the heavily laden table. Reed grabbed a banana and peeled it.

"See ya Tigger." She winked and headed for wardrobe.

"Not if I see you first Roo."

The child-like banter followed her through the doors and she resisted the impulse to turn around and stick her tongue out.

Jae trudged across the asphalt, headed for her office and the mound of work that still needed to be done before calling it a night. It had been a good day and they were right on schedule, though there was more water on the sound stage floor than in the hot tub.

Reed had filled the bottom of the tub with a dozen wind-up crabs, surreptitiously winding them up while her co-star was getting some last minutes cues. The young actress had come up out of the tub in record time, a tidal wave of water following her.

A wrestling match had ensued between the two leads. The resulting sense of camaraderie had lingered while the cameras rolled, and the afternoon’s takes were perfect. A very good day indeed. "Very good indeed."

"What’s that?" Caitlynn asked.

"Nothing. Just thinking aloud."

"You better sit down."

"Why?" She sat on the couch.

Her assistant opened the cabinet and turned on the TV then hit rewind on the VCR. "See for yourself."

Jae watched the tape. She recognized the studio and then Reed’s Range Rover coming to a stop. The narrator referred to candid reactions and made exaggerated claims of bad blood on the set. But the sinking feeling in her stomach told her that they might not be exaggerated after all. The film was undoubtedly cut and edited to make it look like an interview vs. a sneak attack, but it was unmistakably Reed’s voice speaking in response to a reporter’s question. "Not a God-damned thing. Now get out of my way."

Then there was stock footage of a much younger Reed and a captioned advert for tomorrow’s show.

"I thought you gagged her."

"I did." Angry, she stood and grabbed her keys off the desk. All you had to do was keep quiet. What were you thinking? Well, she’d find out soon enough.

The silver Saturn prowled through the sloped streets of the Hollywood Hills. Spanish style architecture mixed effortlessly with post-modern bungalows and replicated Roman Villas. Jae turned right and pulled into the driveway of Reed’s rental house.

She killed the engine and sat in the car for a few minutes. The house looked to be dark and either the 4x4 was in the garage or the actress wasn’t home. Still angry, Jae got out of the car, slamming and locking the door behind her.

No answer. Frustrated, she pounded on the door one last time, then turned away. Halfway down the concrete stairs, she stopped and pulled out her cell phone. On the third ring the phone was picked up.


"You home?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I’m at the door." Jae remounted the last stairs and stood in front of the heavy wooden door. Curved terracotta tiles guarded the entrance and protected the house from the intense LA heat.

"Hold on."

The line went dead. The scrape and clink of brass hardware filtered through as the door was unlocked, then swung open. Reed had one hand on the edge of the door, the other in a pocket of cotton shorts. A dishtowel was slung over her left shoulder, and the actress quirked her top lip in a small grin. She waved Jae in and the director stepped inside, shutting the door.

"Why Reed?" Jae shot the words out before she could forget why she was there.

"Why what?"

"All you had to do was say nothing. Leave the party line to everyone else. But no, you had to comment."


Reed felt the elation from seeing Jae standing on the front steps evaporate under the barrage of questions. The light flutter in her stomach had become lead. "All you had to do was have studio security keep --"

"Don’t lay this on me. You’re the one who commented. Have you seen the footage? You sounded like you’re glad he’s dead."


"So? A man is dead Reed. Gone." Jae’s hand movements reinforced the angry delivery.

What the hell is Jae so bent out of shape about? Reed moved into the living room, the small hallway too confining. Her own anger level had increased and she needed to move. "We all go sooner or later."

"You can’t mean that."

"I don’t say things I don’t mean."

Jae looked stunned. "How can you be so cold about a man’s death? I would have thought that with Rio --"

"Don’t you dare mention my son’s name in the same breath as that monster." Reed spat.

"He was a friend, my mentor."

Reed stalked forward. "Don’t you fucking dare defend him to me!" The rage she had felt flare in Jae’s office flashed again and this time she gave into it. Jae shrank back from her, and she followed the younger woman across the room. "He deserved what he got."

"No one deserves to die Reed."

‘What the fuck do you know about death? What do you know about your...friend?" She hurled the last word like an epithet.

"I know that he taught me about managing a set and to believe in my dreams. I know that he gave me the chance to direct a film." Jae’s voice was raised as she hotly defended Pirsig.

"Are you sure Jae? Or did he use you like he did everyone else?" Reed dropped her voice an octave, letting the words slide out slowly. "Did he see something in you that he didn’t have? Did he find a way to have you direct his movie while he got the credit?"

"It wasn’t like that."

"Or were you his whore? Those are the only two choices with Roan. Which was it Jae? Your body or your talent?"

"Stop it Reed!"

Tears had formed in the corners of the director’s eyes, but Reed ignored the twinge of guilt, focusing instead on the anger. "Can’t handle the truth? Your so-called friend took what he wanted from people."

"What did he take from you Reed? Why do you hate him so much?"

The questions took her off guard. She hadn’t expected Jae to turn the tables; the other woman should have walked out on her by now.

"Your body or talent. Wasn’t that what you said? Which did he take from you?"

"Get out."

"No. You started this."

"I said...get...out." Salt was stinging at her eyes and she fought to hold back tears.

"I’m not leaving Reed." Jae sounded perfectly calm. The director had a maddening habit of doing that whenever someone got angry.

"Then I will." Reed moved through the living room and grabbed the door handle.

"You’re good at that aren’t you?"

"Good at what?" she paused, the door open slightly.


"Fuck you!" The door slammed behind her and she ran down the steps, oblivious to the fact her shoes were still in the house. Jae’s car was blocking the garage so she began to walk, the pavement felt cool against her bare skin.

Better now than later because she’d have been out of there in a flash if you’d told her anyway. That’s how it worked. People didn’t stick around. "What did he take from you?" She could hear Jae’s voice as clearly as if the woman were walking next to her.

"Everything," Reed whispered. "Everything."

The door slammed violently, the force of impact against the wooden frame shaking the panes of glass and rattling the walls.

Now what? Jae asked herself. "Do I go after her or wait?" Reed’s words echoed in her mind. "Or were you his whore? Those are the only two choices with Roan. Which was it Jae? Your body or your talent?"

Roan had made a pass at her, which she’d neatly deflected by introducing him to her girlfriend and the subject had never come up again. Disturbed by the actress’ accusations, Jae looked around the room for something to take her mind off the implications.

It was sparsely furnished to begin with, but there didn’t seem to be many personal effects in the room. A couple of battered novels were on the coffee table and she looked at their spines: one was by Holly, the other by Eco. A small pile of videotapes rested neatly next to the VCR. Curious, Jae picked them up. ‘Desert Hearts’, ‘Peach’, ‘Go Fish’, ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ - her eyes widened as she shuffled through the last two cassettes - ‘Bound’ and ‘It’s in the Water’.

On the desk next to the TV a stack of loose-leaf pages were held in place by a black roller pen, sheets covered in the same neat printing she remembered from the previous night. Jae resisted the impulse to flip through them, in case they were private letters, and not research notes as she suspected.

The other corner held a blue wooden frame made of painted Popsicle sticks. Eyes the same shade as Reed’s smiled up at her from the portrait and she picked it up. He looked to be around six or seven, and his grin proudly displayed a missing tooth. Tucked in the lower left side, a smaller 3x5 portrait of Reed with the boy confirmed for her that this was Rio.

Reed and her son were perched on a large driftwood log, the ocean and the setting sun visible behind them. The actress’ chin rested on Rio’s head and their fingers were intertwined. The angular planes of Reed’s face contrasted with the softer darker features of her son. For some inexplicable reason, Jae felt a lump grow in her throat, the poignant image telling her more than anything Reed had.

Jae put the picture back and headed for the door, deep in thought.


continued | back to fiction