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Casting Lacey

By Elle Spencer

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2018 Elle Spencer

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Casting Lacey

Coming out is easier when you’ve got someone by your side. At least that’s how the hyper-private Quinn Kincaid sees it. When her publicist suggests a good old-fashioned sham of a Hollywood relationship, Quinn reluctantly agrees. And that’s how the star of Jordan’s Appeal, TV’s highest rated legal drama, ends up with a fake girlfriend—the very real, very sexy, and very gay soap star, Lacey Matthews.

 

The two clash immediately, and often hilariously, as they figure out how to fake a budding romance. And of course, things are never as simple as they seem. A freak accident, some reluctant caregiving, and a chance to work together on Jordan’s Appeal force Quinn and Lacey closer together—for better or worse.

 

In Casting Lacey, Elle Spencer gives us a funny new take on a classic storyline, complete with nosy mothers, fawning assistants, and two beautiful actresses who might learn about true love. If they don’t kill each other first.

Casting Lacey

© 2018 By Elle Spencer. All Rights Reserved.

 

ISBN 13:978-1-63555-411-3

 

This Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, NY 12185

 

First Bold Strokes Books Edition: August 2018

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

 

Credits

Production Design: Stacia Seaman

Cover Design By Streetlight Graphics

By the Author

Forget Her Not

 

Casting Lacey

For my wife—my love, my forever.

Chapter One

“I don’t want to do this, Jack.”

Jack Harris put the car in park and turned toward Quinn. “We’ve talked about this. It’s the best way to get what you want.”

“And keep what I have. I know, Jack. You’ve mentioned it at least a thousand times.” Quinn Kincaid shook her head in disbelief. She’d been doing that a lot lately, ever since she’d decided to entertain Jack’s ridiculous idea.

Jack reached for her hand and gave it a little squeeze. “Besides, she’s perfect.” He beamed with pride. “I’ve completely outdone myself.”

Quinn pulled her hand back and turned away in a dramatic huff. “How do you manage to be the publicist who gives all the other publicists a bad name? Do you know how hard that is?”

“What can I say?” He gave her an insincere shrug. “I’m a winner.”

Quinn lowered her sunglasses and shot him a glare. “I’m serious, Jack. I really don’t want to do this.”

“Just give me five minutes. I haven’t even told you about her yet.” He unrolled Quinn’s heavily tinted window. The anticipation was killing him. He had to know what she would think of his choice for her. “The one at the end, with the long brown hair.”

“Dammit, Ja—” Quinn froze, her mouth hanging open.

Jack wanted to laugh out loud at Quinn’s reaction, but he covered it up with a clearing of his throat. If he wasn’t sure before—and by God he wasn’t—he certainly was now. Quinn Kincaid was indeed gay. He leaned over and looked out the car window with her. “I expect a week at your Aspen condo. Peak season. Not friggin’ late April. That’s just insulting.”

Quinn kept her eyes on the woman. “Remind me again why I have to pay your retainer and give you my condo in exchange for carrying out your dumb-ass idea?”

“Because I’m that good.” Jack grinned, entirely too pleased with himself. “Now then, would you like the lowdown before you go down, Quinn darling?”

“Late April, just for saying that. Maybe even May.”

“And here I thought we were friends.” Jack put his reading glasses on and opened a file folder. “Her name is Lacey Matthews. Thirty years old. Lives in New York—”

“New York? Then why is she sitting at a Starbucks in West Hollywood?”

“She comes here every day. Gets her out of that shitty little hotel she’s staying in. Now, can I give you her history without any more interruptions, please?”

Quinn waved a dismissive hand while she kept her eyes on the brunette. “Please do. We both have better places to be.”

“She came up in the business. Spent her childhood on a daytime soap, went to college, then back on the soap. Left the show last year, so she’s in L.A.—going to every audition she can. She really needs the work.”

“Any luck?”

“She’s good, Quinn. She has a couple of Daytime Emmys, but nothing so far.”

“I’ve never heard of her.” Quinn impatiently looked at her watch.

“Does it matter? And by the way, anyone who watches soaps would know who she is.”

“So, she’s like this generation’s Susan Lucci?”

Jack chuckled. “So, you do watch soaps.”

“You know me better than that, Jack.”

He closed the folder and opened his iPad. “Shall we YouTube her?”

“No. Just tell me about her love life.” Quinn glanced at her watch again and then lowered the car window a little more.

“Broke up with her ex about six months ago. Word is, the stress of coming out was too much for them.”

Quinn stilled herself and slowly turned to Jack, glancing at him quickly before turning to the window again. Looking the woman up and down, her eyes widened. “She’s gay?”

Jack smiled, feeling so very proud of himself. “Perfect, right?” Quinn didn’t reply. “Quinn?”

She gave him a nod. “Okay. I’ll need a face-to-face before we make an offer.”

“Well, as you can see, she’s alone. Just don’t get into any specifics until we have a signed nondisclosure agreement.”

“Great,” Quinn replied. “I was ready to open with ‘Hey, good lookin’, want to hear my publicist’s half-cocked plan?’ Now I need another pick-up line.”

“Cockblocker by day, publicist by night. Just doing my job!”

Quinn shot him an indignant glare and then looked away. “I don’t know, Jack. I’m having second thoughts about this.”

“Quinn.” He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “How many times have you told me you can’t do this alone?” His tough publicist façade gave way to the face of a friend, because the truth was, he and Quinn were friends. She trusted him more than anyone else in the business and with good reason. He’d been by her side through a very tough time. The last thing he wanted to do was break that trust. “You’ve always said you need someone on your arm when you announce it to the world.”

“Always?” Quinn scoffed. “I mentioned it once—after two glasses of wine, I might add. And then you came up with this crazy idea.”

“It’s not crazy, it’s smart. This way, we control it.” And the publicist was back, pushing every one of Quinn’s buttons. “We control the whole thing. And nobody loses anything.”

Quinn shook her head in disgust. “I can’t believe I have to do this. I mean, seriously?”

“I still can’t believe you’re gay, and neither will the rest of the world. They’ll think it’s some sort of stunt to boost ratings, and then they’ll hound you relentlessly until they get a photo of your girlfriend, so forget about dating for real, Quinn. No woman would put herself through that. Not even for you.”

“So, what you’re telling me is, I have to live a lie, or the world won’t believe me?”

Jack reached across her and opened her door. “Welcome to show business, baby.”

 

 

“No, Dad. Nothing yet.” Lacey rubbed her forehead. These daily phone calls from her father were getting tedious. “Yes, I used the security bar on my door.” She sighed. “Dad, I grew up in New York. I think I can handle L.A.” Her eyes widened in surprise as she tracked a woman who had just made herself at home at her small table. “Dad, I have to go. Talk soon. Love you.”

“Sorry for interrupting. I hope this seat isn’t taken.”

Lacey slowly shook her head. “No.” She’d had soap fans insinuate themselves into her personal space before, usually to praise her for standing up to that TV husband of hers, or because they desperately wanted to give her advice on how the storyline should go, as if she had any control over that sort of thing. But this time, Lacey was pretty sure she was looking at Jordan Ellis. No, not Jordan Ellis. That was her character’s name on that law show. She was looking at—

“Quinn Kincaid.”

Why the hell had Quinn Kincaid just plopped down at her table? Was she a soap fan? Lacey reached across the table and took the offered hand. “Lacey Matthews.”

“Actor?” Quinn pointed at Lacey’s iPad. “I noticed you’re looking for auditions.”

Not a fan, apparently. Then again, no one was anymore. Two more rejections just this morning had cemented that fact. Lacey tossed the iPad onto the table. “Yeah, I guess I am,” she said, with a tinge of frustration in her voice.

“Anything interesting?”

“Absolutely…not…a damn thing,” Lacey answered, frowning.

“Sorry. It’s tough out there right now.”

“Not that you would know.” Lacey leaned back in her chair. It was a small table and she felt the need to regain some of her personal space.

“I got lucky five years ago,” Quinn said. “I was in the right place at the right time and I got the gig of a lifetime. I’ll deny it if you quote me. I tell the whole world how hard it is, but it’s mostly luck.”

“Oh, well that’s great news,” Lacey sarcastically replied, throwing her hands in the air. “And here I was, thinking that owning the ten o’clock slot on Thursday nights had something to do with talent.” Was it really all about luck? Had Lacey been working hard every day, honing her craft, becoming the best at what she did, only to be told it all came down to fucking luck?

Quinn’s smile brightened. “I take it you watch Jordan’s Appeal?”

Hell, no, Lacey didn’t watch the show. Why would she watch the woman her ex-girlfriend fawned over every Thursday night? Yeah, they would joke about Dani’s crush, but it irritated Lacey more than anything else, since Dani couldn’t ever seem to find the time to watch Lacey’s soap. But saying that out loud didn’t seem appropriate. “My ex watched it. Religiously.”

“I see. And what about you? What do you think of the show?”

Lacey shrugged. “Honestly, I was memorizing my lines while she watched, but she thinks you’re amazing.” She huffed out a breath, wishing she hadn’t said that last part. Dani and her damn celebrity crushes. And they were never women who looked anything like Lacey. Always blond, California girls. Dani had a type. Jesus! Why hadn’t Lacey ever figured that out until right now?

Quinn pushed her sunglasses up on top of her head, giving Lacey a close-up view of those ice-blue eyes she was so famous for. “Will you tell the network that? I keep asking for a raise and they keep shooting me down,” she joked.

Lacey smirked. “What, from one million per episode to two? I’m sure you’re doing just fine.”

Quinn’s eyes widened in surprise. “Am I really sitting here arguing with a stranger about my pay?”

Lacey leaned forward and picked up her cup of coffee. “I introduced myself. Lacey Matthews, remember?” She took a sip and held the cup close to her mouth, peering at Quinn over her cup.

“How could I forget?” Quinn picked up the coffee she’d ordered before sitting down at the table. She took a sip and they stared at each other for a few long seconds before she said, “Now that we’ve established how unfair this business is—”

“I’m sorry,” Lacey interrupted. “I guess I’m just a little bit bitter about the huge pay gap between daytime and prime-time actors.”

Lacey was bitter about a lot of things, and sitting here looking at Quinn Kincaid wasn’t helping. The woman had it all; a great career, a great marriage to some other A-lister, enough money to last her two lifetimes, Lacey guessed. And yet, here she sat, flirting with those blue eyes like there was no tomorrow. With a total stranger. A female stranger.

Lacey glanced around, wondering if she was being punked.

“Look,” Quinn started. “It’s like I said before, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, which is a perfect segue into asking you if you’d like to come to a party at my place tonight. I could introduce you to some industry people, because it’s also all about who you know. And now you know me, so…”

Lacey’s brow knitted as she folded her arms. “Weird.”

“What’s weird?”

“I’m a New Yorker. I don’t take people at face value, and this is weird.” She glanced around again.

Quinn glanced around too. “What are you looking for?”

“Hidden cameras,” Lacey replied, with all seriousness.

Quinn leaned back and laughed. Few people were famous for their laughs. Quinn was one of the few. It wasn’t a laugh that you heard across a crowded room. It was a little subtler than that, but it made you want to laugh right along with her, even if you hadn’t heard the joke. “I promise there are no hidden cameras. Well, paparazzi maybe, but not like one of those hidden camera shows. So, can I ask what you find so weird about this?”

Lacey leaned forward and lowered her voice. “Well, for one thing, I’m getting a gay vibe from Quinn Kincaid, who everyone knows is married to…” Lacey looked away for a second. “God, what’s his name…”

“Divorced. We’re divorced.”

“Are you?” Lacey was genuinely surprised, not that she kept up with celebrity gossip. That was more Dani’s thing, but she’d never mentioned that her celebrity crush had gotten a divorce. “I guess I should read the tabloids more often.”

Quinn chuckled. “Well, if you read those, you would know that the divorce was due to the fact that I’m infertile.” She put up her finger. “Oh, and also, I was too fat for him.”

“What a pig,” Lacey said, still leaning forward on the table. Their eyes locked on each other for a few seconds, and then Lacey asked, “When was the last time you plopped down at someone’s table in West Hollywood?”

“I don’t make a habit of it,” Quinn admitted. “And you can question the weirdness of it all day long, since you have so much time on your hands. Or you can graciously accept an invitation to my party tonight.” She didn’t wait for a reply. She grabbed a napkin and quickly wrote down the address. She slid it across the table and smiled. “See you later.”

Quinn didn’t make it out of Starbucks before someone stopped her, wanting a selfie and autograph. She gave the woman both and then turned back around. Lacey was staring at her with her arms folded, looking rather perplexed. Quinn gave her a little wave and left.

 

* * *

 

Jack opened the door from the inside and Quinn slid into the passenger seat. “Well? How did it go?”

“You’re right, she’s gorgeous.”

Jack grinned. “I knew you’d think so. Brunette. Big, brown eyes. Legs that go on forever.”

“Okay, settle down there, big guy.” Quinn watched Lacey collect her things and get up to leave. “She’s not a fan, but I kind of like that.”

“She didn’t fawn over you?”

Quinn almost snorted. “I’d say it was the opposite of fawning.”

“Hey, as long as the camera likes the two of you…” Jack handed his camera over to Quinn. “I took a few shots. The blonde, brunette thing is killer. You already look like a couple. She’s even scowling at you in one of the shots.”

Quinn scrolled through the photos, and sure enough, Jack was right. They did look good together. “We’ll see how it goes tonight. She might not even show up.”

“Oh, she’ll show up. She’d be a fool not to.”

Quinn handed the camera back and looked out the window just in time to see Lacey walking down the sidewalk to her car. She couldn’t help but smile because, goddamn, Lacey Matthews had it all in the looks department. And yes, Jack was right—her legs looked fabulous in those shorts she was wearing. And truth be told, Quinn Kincaid had a thing for brunettes. “Good work, Jack.”

Finally, the praise Jack knew he deserved. “My wife says Presidents’ Day weekend would be perfect.”

“For what?”

“Aspen.”

Quinn shook her head at him for the hundredth time. Jack was nothing if not pushy. “Fine. Tell Amy to pencil you in.” She raised her window and rested her head on the back of the leather seat. “If this doesn’t blow up in my face before then.”

Chapter Two

Lacey stood in front of the huge wooden door wondering where the hell the doorbell was. It was one of those ultra-modern homes where all the essentials like light switches and the damn handle to flush the toilet were hidden. She’d been in a home like that in New York—some unnecessary party she and the rest of the cast had been invited to. Needless to say, that particular toilet went unflushed.

And why did she have to find the doorbell anyway? Quinn had already let her in the security gate. She was probably watching her on a security camera from inside the house. Lacey pounded on the door. She considered flipping off the camera on the overhang with her spare hand, but she thought better of it.

Quinn opened the door with a smile. “Hi.”

Lacey pushed her hands into her pockets. Feeling awkward and slightly annoyed, she forced herself to smile back. “Hi.”

Quinn opened the door wider. “Come in.”

Lacey took a quick look around but didn’t see any other guests. “Either I’m early, or this isn’t a party at all.”

“A party of three,” Quinn said. “Me, you, and if things go well, eventually my publicist.”

Lacey spun around. “So, I was right. When we met this morning, I was right?”

“Which part?” Quinn led Lacey into a meticulously decorated room. A long, white sofa faced floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto a large swimming pool. Lacey was pretty sure she got her period just looking at the sofa.

As living rooms go, this one was a blatant display of wealth. Lacey wasn’t impressed. And even if she was, she’d never admit it. She’d met a few A-list actors in her time, and rarely did she come away believing they were anything but self-absorbed, egotistical—and okay, yes, they were usually gorgeous to look at, but God they could be shallow pricks.

Quinn asked again. “Which part were you right about, Lacey? The gay vibe or the not so random plop down?”

Feeling like she’d been played, Lacey didn’t bother with pleasantries as her eyes lingered on Quinn’s tits. That dress was certainly hugging her in all the right places, and clearly the moment called for just the right blend of bitchy and coy. “Play your cards right and maybe I’ll tell you.”

Quinn didn’t acknowledge the comment. She sat in a chair and motioned for Lacey to sit on the sofa. A bottle and two glasses were perfectly placed on the coffee table. “Wine?”

Lacey sat down and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Trying to get me drunk?”

Quinn suppressed a grin. “You’re not a pushover. I like that.”

“I’m a little jaded.” Lacey stared at Quinn intently, trying to read her expression. In other words, trying to figure out why the hell she was there. The house was empty. Dead quiet, except for some depressing classical music playing in the background. And so tidy, she wondered if anyone actually lived there.

“I don’t blame you. Child actor. Smart. A bit of a has-been—”

“Five minutes off camera and I’m a has-been?” God, this woman!

Quinn offered Lacey a glass. “It’s been a year, hasn’t it?”

“A hard year.” Lacey took a large sip of wine, almost emptying the glass. Then she tilted her head and frowned. “And now I have to wonder how you know that. Surely you have better things to do than watch soaps all day.”

“That was my mother. Still is, I’m sure.”

“So, you didn’t grow up watching the soaps with your mom?”

“I was too busy studying and playing the piano and trying to be the perfect daughter.”

“Oh.” Lacey seemed to have hit a nerve. She could’ve commented on how Quinn had succeeded by the looks of it. She was perfectly dressed in her, what was that color called? Oh yeah, cornflower summer dress with matching sandals, sitting like such a lady with her hands clasped on legs crossed at the ankle. Instead, she leaned forward and held her glass out for a refill. “Nice wine.”

“Glad you like it.” Quinn filled the glass and resumed her ladylike position.

Lacey wondered if they still had finishing schools. If so, surely Quinn had been, you know, finished at one. She noticed that a blush was working its way up Quinn’s chest, probably due to the awkward silence that was, if Lacey had to guess, going on forty-five seconds now. It looked as though Quinn was trying to come up with a good way to say what was really on her mind. Lacey didn’t have time for that. “Maybe we could talk about why I’m here?”

Almost seeming relieved by the suggestion, Quinn’s shoulders relaxed slightly. “I have a proposition for you.”

“Are you going to save my career?”

“Maybe,” Quinn said. “Quite possibly. Most likely.” She gave a firm nod. “Yes.”

Lacey didn’t hesitate. “All of those work for me.”

“I can guarantee you’ll get a lot of publicity. What you do with it is completely up to you.”

“Guess I didn’t need all that college to figure out Quinn Kincaid introducing herself at Starbucks probably wasn’t a random encounter.” Lacey tried to hide her smile by taking a sip of wine. Whatever this was, it was starting to get interesting.

Their eyes met for a few seconds and then Quinn said, “Look, you were right. I don’t frequent West Hollywood or even Starbucks. I guess it’s just easier to make coffee with my”—she gestured toward the kitchen—“Robospresso 3000 or whatever the hell it is.”

Lacey looked over her shoulder, and sure enough, there was a rather large stainless-steel espresso machine sitting on the kitchen counter. She tried not to let her envy show. “And it’s easier to pretend you’re straight when you’re not hanging out in West Hollywood?”

“Nah, I just can’t deal with the traffic on La Cienega.” Quinn averted her eyes, killing her chances of selling the joke.

Lacey stared intently until Quinn finally met her gaze. Oh. Good. God. She kept herself from squealing with pride at being right.

“Are you willing to sign a nondisclosure before I make you an offer?” Quinn asked.

And there it was. Lacey chuckled. “I’m not going to out you, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Quinn slid the nondisclosure contract across the coffee table, along with a pen. Lacey took a look at it and rolled her eyes. With a big sigh, she leaned forward and quickly signed on the dotted line. Quinn looked at the signature and scowled. “Is that really how you sign your name? It looks like Larry…May…nerd.”

“I never learned to spell,” Lacey quipped. “So, you’re gay?”

Lacey immediately regretted asking the question. She could still hear her producers asking her the same thing with a look of horror on their faces. They blamed her firing on wanting to take the storyline in a different direction, but she knew better. She’d been fired for one reason and one reason only.

“In about four months, I’m going to make a big announcement,” Quinn said.

Lacey set her glass on the table. She eyed Quinn for a moment, trying to decide how much personal information she should divulge. “Can I give you some advice?” she asked, in a serious tone.

“Only if it’s constructive.”

“Stay in the closet.”

Quinn stiffened at the suggestion. “I can’t. I want a life.”

“That’s what I thought too, and then my producers decided I was no longer believable playing a straight woman. I’d been Sarah Fucking Covington since I was ten, and now all of a sudden I’m no longer believable in that role?”

“I know,” Quinn said. “Look…like I said before, this is a shitty business. But if you take this offer, maybe the jerks who fired you will regret it.”

“The producers of that show were like my parents,” Lacey snapped back. “I grew up with them, and they turned their backs on me.” She took a deep breath, trying to fight back her emotions.

Quinn gave her a sympathetic smile. “I know the feeling. It’s amazing how many people are brilliant at pretending they care about you.”

“Right? And we’re supposed to be the actors.”

Quinn leaned forward. “But one way or another, you’re going to need to move on.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do. It’s the whole reason I’m in L.A.” Lacey was losing her patience, and the last thing she wanted to do was talk about all the hurt and anger she felt about losing her job. And she still didn’t know why she was there, for God’s sake. So Quinn Kincaid was gay. What the hell did that have to do with her? “What’s your offer?”

“I’m not going to do this coming out thing willy-nilly. It’s going to be a finely tuned show that I control.”

“Smart. Unlike me, who went into work one day and said ‘hey, this is my girlfriend. Aren’t you fucking delighted for me?’” Lacey dropped her gaze as she relived that awful moment, the fake smiles and the quick change of subject. One of the producers refused to even look her in the eye the rest of the day. It was the beginning of the end of everything. Her career, her relationship—all gone now.

The last thing Lacey wanted to do was cry in front of Quinn Kincaid in her damn mansion. She might ruin the very soft rug under her feet that looked like it was made of cotton candy. It was pretty. Azure blue. Since when am I such an expert on shades of blue? And cornflower? Where the hell did that come from? Get a grip, Lace. Get a fucking grip.

“My publicist thinks I have a believability issue,” Quinn said. “It’s his somewhat expert opinion that the media, and more importantly, the public, will be more sympathetic toward me if I have a girlfriend when I come out.”

Lacey raised her head, a look of confusion written all over her face. “Wait. What?”

“My publicist—”

Lacey put up her hand. “No, I heard you.” She paused for approximately 400 years. Quinn couldn’t possibly be suggesting what Lacey thought she was suggesting. “You want me to pretend to be your…girlfriend?”

“Yes,” Quinn said with a firm nod. “I would pay you, of course. We’d start with some photos of us out in public, not canoodling, just together having dinner or whatever. They’ll be of no interest until I come out. And then, according to Jack at least, they’ll be fascinating proof that we’ve been dating.”

Lacey let a small laugh slip out of her gaping mouth. Was this woman insane? And did she seriously just use the word canoodle? “Well,” Lacey cleared her throat and put up a finger. “There’s just one problem. You see, I don’t know if I could handle being out in public with the Quinn Kincaid and not canoodle.”

Quinn blushed. “Come on. You know what I mean.”

“Yes, I know what you mean,” Lacey said. “And I’m flattered, but I don’t think I can do what you’re suggesting.”

Quinn’s shoulders straightened, looking surprised by the response. “I’m not asking for romance, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“And I’m not a prostitute, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Lacey threw her hands in the air. “Why don’t you just find the real thing? Start dating. Canoodle all you want.”

“I can’t control that,” Quinn calmly stated. “Women are crazy, and a woman in love is even crazier. I don’t want any emotion from you. This is a job and I would expect you to treat it as such.”

“Women are crazy? You must have met my ex!” Lacey couldn’t believe she was having this conversation. If anyone seemed crazy, it was Quinn Kincaid. She put her face in her hands and rubbed her forehead. Desperate for a paying gig, she tried to ignore how ludicrous the idea seemed to be. “What are the terms?”

“Steady pay for a year,” Quinn said. “You be where I ask, when I ask. There’ll be some wardrobe considerations, of course. And anything you say publicly will be tightly controlled. Most importantly, you act. I hear you’re not half bad.”

“You HEAR?” Feeling completely insulted, Lacey’s voice raised a couple of octaves. “You’ve never even seen my work and you’re offering me a job?”

“I trust Jack’s opinion on that.”

“Sure. Publicist. Casting director. What’s the difference, really?” Lacey had imagined any number of scenarios on the drive to the Palisades. This craziness wasn’t one of them.

“Do you want the job or not?”

This was insane. Did people really do this? Lacey grabbed her purse and stood up. “No, I don’t.”

Quinn also stood up. “But…you need the work.”

“Not this kind of work!” Lacey said, almost shouting.

Quinn’s expression changed from confusion to anger. “You’re above this, is that it? Because being a soap star is so admirable?”

“I’m an actor,” Lacey said, pointing at herself. “And on top of that, I’m well educated.” She put her hand on her hip, furious she’d braved L.A. traffic for this nonsense. “This is just…bullshit!” she said, throwing that same hand in the air.

Quinn remained calm, even though Lacey was practically yelling at her. “Bullshit? So, tell me, Lacey, what was your last storyline before you got fired? No, let me guess. You were playing Sarah Fucking Covington and her long-lost evil twin?”

Lacey held Quinn’s stare, her eyes full of anger. She was fuming and damn near burning Quinn with her glare. At least that’s how it felt until she burst out laughing. “Oh God. My TV husband couldn’t tell us apart. They had me doing so many love scenes with him, who knows? Maybe I really wasn’t that believable anymore. As if believability is what the writers were ever going for on that show.” She dropped her purse, sat back down, and grabbed the bottle of wine, pouring the last of it into her glass. She took a sip, her hand shaking slightly.

Quinn also sat down and picked up her glass. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, my mother would probably be thrilled if I brought you home. As my friend, of course.”

Lacey looked up in surprise. “Your mom doesn’t know you’re gay?”

“No, not yet.”

God, what a mess! Lacey groaned at herself. She should’ve left the second Quinn revealed her intentions. So why the hell was she still sitting here? Sure, she needed the money, but not that badly. As for the fame, Lacey was no Quinn, but she still had her fans. Plenty of them. And yet, she was still here, actually considering this absurdity. “I take it I’ll be playing the part of the dumped girlfriend eventually?”

“Yes. We’ll break up and we’ll both move on. Everyone will know your name and I’ll start dating. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll even find the real thing one day. It’s win-win.”

“And what do we tell the people close to us?” Lacey asked.

“You start now. You tell them you met me and I was super nice,” Quinn said with a smile.

“So, I’d be acting right off the bat?”

Quinn’s eyes widened in surprise. “Damn, you’re sassy!”

Lacey set the wine glass back down. If she kept drinking, she wouldn’t be able to drive back down the steep, hairpin-curved road that brought her here. “Sorry. You caught me on a bad week and this whole thing just reeks of everything I hate about this business.”

“They don’t call it show business for nothing,” Quinn gently quipped.

Lacey looked at the ceiling and shook her head, unable to believe she was actually considering this. “If I take this job, as you call it, where will I live?”

“There’s a guesthouse out back. I’d prefer it if you stayed there, so we can control the paparazzi. My home is very secure. The backyard is private. There’s a side gate, so you can come and go as you please. I think you’d be quite comfortable here. The only thing I ask is that you don’t bring any guests here.”

Lacey stood up and walked over to the world’s largest window. It was getting dark, but she could easily see a long, lighted pool that looked like it poured over a cliff and into the ocean. A sleek, modern-looking guesthouse sat off to one side, and a fire pit sat in the opposite corner. As for the neighbors—if there were any, you’d never know it. The property was lined with tall, narrow evergreens that created an impressive privacy hedge on each side. The whole scene called to mind exactly two words. Skinny. Dipping.

Compared to her tiny hotel room in West Hollywood, this would feel like paradise. And Quinn hadn’t said Lacey couldn’t keep looking for real acting jobs. It wouldn’t be so bad, would it? She could swallow her damn pride for once, couldn’t she?

Lacey turned back around and folded her arms. “I want everything in writing. I want an early termination bonus in case you decide you don’t like me and change your mind. And I want to be able to keep auditioning.”

Quinn stood up. “I already don’t like you, Lacey. You have that New York bullshit attitude that rubs me the wrong way, but my publicist tells me you’re a hell of an actress and that’s what I need on my arm. The fact that I would never consider dating you is probably a good thing.”

Lacey went back over to the sofa and grabbed her purse. “Fuck you too. And tell your publicist I want an advance,” she said, walking to the door. “And a car! A nice one!” she shouted over her shoulder.

Quinn followed Lacey to the front door. “Do you think I’d let my girlfriend drive a…” Quinn looked out at the driveway. “What is that? A Hyundai?”

“It’s a Sonata, thank you very much. The fancy kind of Hyundai.”

Quinn laughed. “Uh-huh.”

Lacey gave her a sarcastic scowl. She stepped out of the house and glanced at the white Maserati sitting in the driveway. “I prefer black,” she said as she sauntered over to her rental car.

“Of course you do,” Quinn muttered under her breath.

“And watch my fucking show!” Lacey yelled as she climbed into her car and slammed the door. Quinn gave her a little wave, smiling like she hadn’t even heard that last request. Lacey put the key in the ignition and whispered, “What have I gotten myself into?”

Chapter Three

The following afternoon, everyone seemed on edge. Quinn kept finding excuses to leave the room and Lacey…well, Jack hadn’t figured Lacey out yet. She was nervous. He was sure about that much, since she kept bouncing her leg. He glanced under the table again. Yep. Still bouncing.

“Shall we cover the rules?” Jack opened the folder and put his glasses on. “No nightclubs, unless you’re with Quinn. And definitely no gay clubs. No dating anyone else, obviously.” Jack paused, waiting for confirmation.

Lacey shrugged. “No dating. Got it.”

“In the beginning, Quinn will introduce you as her friend. You won’t show any affection in public.”

“Or at all,” Lacey interrupted.

“Until she comes out,” Jack clarified.

“And then what will be required of me?”

“Nothing you can’t handle,” Jack said with a smirk. “You’ve kissed a woman before, correct?”

Lacey sighed in frustration. “Look. I don’t think I’ll throw up in my mouth if I have to kiss Quinn. I’m just asking how far we’ll be taking this little charade.”

“Nothing inappropriate, considering you’re being paid. Just things like walking arm in arm, holding hands, maybe a light kiss, and sweet little looks for the paparazzi.”

Lacey shrugged again. “I can do sweet.”

“Prove it,” Jack mumbled as he eyed her over his reading glasses. After meeting Lacey in person, he had his doubts about her “sweet” factor. “Anyway, we’ll bring in a stylist and Quinn and I will decide on your look.”

“My look?”

“Yes, your look.” Jack took off his glasses. “Quinn’s a tastemaker. When she wears something out in public, the fashion world takes notice, photos are taken, and before you know it, everyone is copying her look. You need to complement that style without overpowering it.”

Lacey looked down at herself. “I have style. I can be…stylish.”

Again, Jack had his doubts. He glanced at her cropped jeans and V-neck T-shirt. There was no shortage of hotness, but she looked like a “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” magazine spread featuring Jennifer Aniston’s Sunday morning trip to the Coffee Bean. And then there were the leather sandals. Or more accurately, the leather flip-flops. Sure, they were Tory Burch flip-flops, but flats? Really? At least her toenails were painted a pretty shade of pink.

Jack chuckled to himself as he realized, not for the first time, why so many people assumed he was gay. “If you’re going to complain about a new wardrobe that you get to keep when the job is done, then maybe I was a bit hasty.”

“Fine. I’ll take the clothes. But I want the Range Rover too. And why is it a Range Rover? Why not a sports car?”

Jack huffed. “The last thing we need is you killing someone on PCH.”

“But it’s okay if I kill someone on Sunset?” Jack narrowed his eyes at her. “All right. Fine,” Lacey acquiesced. “No sports cars or vehicular homicide. You drive a hard bargain.”

Jack ignored her sarcasm, even though the slight curve at the corners of his lips said he kind of liked it. “I’ve created a cover story. You’ll memorize it. And it’s your job to get to know Quinn so that when you’re together in public, it’s believable.”

“I’ve got this, Jack,” Lacey said impatiently. “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I can look at a rock and cry because it’s so damn gray, which makes me blue and reminds me of the dolly my druggie daddy never gave me as a kid, and before you know it, I’ve got real tears in my eyes.”

“Druggie daddy?” Jack opened another folder—the one containing the research he’d done on Lacey.

“Me and him, homeless on the streets of New York. Works every time.”

“Wasn’t your father a college professor?”

Lacey shrugged. “Still is.”

It was Jack’s turn to roll his eyes. “Actors…” He closed the folder and tucked it back in his briefcase.

“Make you a wealthy man,” Lacey said.

Jack leaned forward, folding his arms on the table. “Do you always have a sarcastic reply?”

Lacey’s leg stopped bouncing. She opened her mouth and quickly closed it. She looked down at her hands and then met Jack’s gaze again. “I’ve had a tough year. People I loved and trusted, they let me down. And I won’t make that mistake again.”

“Loving and trusting?”

“Exactly. And honestly, I’m kind of okay with having a script for my life right now.” Lacey tapped the paperwork with her finger. “You know, as long as you two don’t screw me over.”

“Nobody’s going to screw you over, Lacey. I think you’ll find this to be a very lucrative arrangement, if you sell it right.”

“No problem. Selling love has been my job my whole life,” she said. “You want me to be the excited, giddy, high on life girlfriend? Put me in front of Oprah and I’ll have her wishing she was me.”

“Just don’t do a Tom Cruise and jump up on the furniture,” Quinn said, walking into the room. “Sorry, I had to make a quick phone call. I take it we’re in business?”

Jack looked at Lacey. It was her call. And as far as he was concerned, she’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity. Her attitude could use a little adjusting, but she really was perfect for the role. He believed the two of them would make a beautiful couple and he was pretty sure all of America would agree with him. Quinn Kincaid and Lacey Matthews would soon be the “It” couple and Jack Harris would keep his best client, and possibly gain another. “Ms. Matthews?”

Lacey picked up the pen. “Show me where to sign.”

“The dotted line usually works.” Quinn offered her a fake smile. Lacey gave her a heated look and signed the contract.

“Well, this should be fun,” Jack said, his eyes darting between the two of them.

 

 

Lacey paced in front of the window that looked out on to the pool and guesthouse that would soon be her new home. She knew she should back out of the deal right now, while she still had the chance. Just walk away. But the truth was, she was tired.

The last six months had been hell. She’d gone through almost all of her savings, traveling between the coasts, going to every audition she could manage. She was never “quite right” for the part, they’d tell her. All the career-related rejection would have been enough for anyone. Her girlfriend dumping her on top of it? Yeah, the last six months had taken its toll.

What she really needed was to find a role where all that cooped-up anger and frustration could win her an Oscar. Or at least an Emmy. Hell, a People’s Choice Award would be welcome at this point. But finding that role had been an exercise in futility.

Lacey had started young in the business. Her mother saw a spark in her only child; a kid with a big personality who wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone. Lacey’s very first audition landed her the role of ten-year-old Sarah Covington, illegitimate heir to the Covington fortune on the long-running daytime soap opera, Light of Day.

She’d been playing the same character her entire career, and she’d only recently realized just how lucky she’d been. None of that changed the fact that she was a seasoned, highly trained actor (she went to Yale, for God’s sake!) and this scheme with Quinn made a joke out of everything she’d worked so hard for. A joke that paid extremely well, but still—a goddamned joke.

Quinn walked back into the room after seeing Jack to the door. Lacey turned to her new, albeit fake, girlfriend. Jack was right. Quinn was a full-on style maven. Her blond hair was pulled up, a few loose strands framing her face. Because who doesn’t rock a perfectly coiffed updo on a Saturday afternoon? Her faded, skintight jeans showed off her long legs, and that sheer blouse… Lacey had to work to tear her eyes away.

Okay, so the scenery wouldn’t be so bad, inside the house and out. She finally forced a smile. “Jack said I’m supposed to get to know you.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Quinn said. “And I don’t want you getting cozy with my assistant, either. You’ll meet her soon, but she knows nothing about this. I keep my relationship with her very professional. We don’t go to movies together and she doesn’t run my bath for me.”

Lacey sighed. “Yeah, I never had one of those. Two decades in the business and I’ve never had a fucking assistant.”

Quinn sat on the sofa, motioning for Lacey to do the same. “You like that word.”

“The F-word? Does it offend your fragile sensibilities?” There was that sarcastic tone again. She’d have to work on that.

Quinn chuckled. “No, it doesn’t offend me. And honestly, all this anger makes it really easy for me to not like you, which is probably for the best. Frankly, I’d rather act chummy with you than be chummy with you.”

Lacey wanted to say it again. Fuck you, Quinn Kincaid. Fuck you and this stupid idea and also, fuck you for thinking anyone gives a flying fuck about your fucking sexuality. Except Lacey knew better. Of course people cared. Agents cared, producers cared, casting agents cared, the audience cared. “Sorry,” she said, her eyes on her hands. “I guess I didn’t realize how bitter I really am. Even I don’t like being around me sometimes.”

Quinn’s only reaction was a slight smile. “My inner circle is small, and I’d like to keep it that way. This house is my refuge. I don’t host big parties here. My family lives on the East Coast and they rarely visit. We usually meet in Aspen for the holidays. My assistant meets me on the set, so you being here is kind of a big deal.”

“I’m honored,” Lacey said. Her eyes wandered around the room. After she’d left the day before, she tried to remember if she’d seen any family photos in the living room. Looking around again, she didn’t find any.

“No, you’re not, and that’s okay. The last thing I need is someone worshipping the ground I walk on and then committing suicide when I kick them out.”

Lacey huffed out a laugh. “Good God. That’s a bit…”

“Charming?”

“Predictable.”

“Whatever,” Quinn said with a wave of her hand. “I imagine you’ll take the money and run without so much as a good-bye. Jack knows his stuff.”

Lacey met Quinn’s gaze. “Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, why not just…”

“Just what, Lacey? Keep living a lie? Why did you come out? Surely you knew the risks.”

“Actually, I had no idea it would be as bad as it was,” Lacey admitted. “And if you must know, I did it for my girlfriend. We had a good life. We were out in our private lives, just not at my work. Neither of us knew the toll it would take.”

Quinn leaned forward, softening her tone. “If you’re not up for this, you need to tell me. You’re obviously still healing.”

Healing? Lacey wasn’t healing, she was surviving. Rock bottom didn’t seem that far away. Or, maybe this was rock bottom—being Quinn Kincaid’s fake—oh God, was she really going to do this? Yes. Yes, she was. And if she couldn’t look herself in the mirror for a while, that was okay too. At least she wouldn’t have to see the angry, bitter person she’d become. “I have nothing to lose. I’ve already lost it all. But with this, maybe I can get my life back.” Lacey fought like hell to keep the tears at bay, but she couldn’t keep her voice from quivering. “I just know so much is missing. And I need a good job. I was the breadwinner.”

“Wait. Hold up. Did she leave you because you got fired?”

Lacey couldn’t hold Quinn’s gaze. “It’s way more complicated than that.”

“Is it?” Quinn asked.

Good question. Lacey didn’t have the answer, and she certainly didn’t want to think too hard about it. She just wanted her life back, including her girlfriend. And on top of that, she was angry at herself for divulging so much personal information. She straightened her shoulders and forced a somewhat pleasant smile. “If you don’t mind, Quinn, I’d rather not talk about her.”

“I probably wouldn’t either.”

“Excuse me? Quinn, you literally live in a glass house.” Lacey gestured with her hand toward the massive window. “Maybe you’re not in a position to make judgments about your fake girlfriend’s very real ex-girlfriend.”

“I’m sorry. That was out of line. Let’s keep it professional.” Quinn stood up and walked into the kitchen. Lacey breathed a sigh of relief and followed her. “My assistant will be told that you’re traveling back and forth between coasts at the moment, so I offered you the guesthouse. This is the kitchen.”

Lacey sat at the breakfast bar. She stifled a laugh at Quinn’s introduction to her house and smiled brightly. “Yes, I recognize a kitchen when I see one.”

Quinn put her hand on her hip. “So much for sophisticated New York humor. Are you sure you’re not from New Jersey?”

Lacey waved her hand as she let the laughter go. Laughing was easier than crying. “I’m sorry. I promise I’m not always like this.”

“And I promise I’m not the enemy.”

“Right.” Lacey pointed at Quinn and winked. “Not the enemy. I’ll try to keep that in mind.” She giggled again, relieving some of the pressure in the room. “Sorry. I still can’t believe we’re actually going to do this.”

Smiling, Quinn said, “You have a cute giggle. It makes up for the…” She shook her head. “Never mind. There’s something I wanted to ask you.” She leaned down, resting her elbows on the other side of the breakfast bar so they were eye to eye. “You mentioned a vibe, and I’ve been wondering—”

“Oh, the gay vibe?” Lacey asked, interrupting her. “Yeah, you made the mistake of taking off your ever so stylish sunglasses.”

“So…I looked at you wrong?”

“I wouldn’t say wrong.”

Quinn covered her eyes for a second. “Oh God, what did I do?”

Lacey laughed under her breath. Was Quinn really this clueless? “Well, straight girls admire earrings and hair styles, but that’s not where your eyes went.”

“Where did they go?”

“I’m pretty sure you know.”

“I should’ve been more discreet.” A blush started creeping up Quinn’s neck. She straightened back up and tried to cover it with her hand.

“You like my lips.” Lacey was having fun now. She’d found a weakness and she sure as hell was going to exploit it. “A lot.”

Quinn shot her a glare. “Don’t flirt with me. We’re keeping this professional, remember?”

“Oh, come on, Quinn. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t find me attractive. And besides, I’m not flirting. You asked, and I’m telling you what gave you away. Your eyes lingered where straight girl’s eyes don’t. And not like a man. Men have one focus, but women like it all…and cleavage too…but that’s not the only thing they look at.”

Quinn nodded sheepishly. “You have nice arms.”

“Now who’s flirting?” Lacey teased her.

“I’m just saying that I noticed them that day.” Quinn gestured with her finger at Lacey’s arms. “You were wearing a sleeveless shirt and I noticed.”

Hmm…this was interesting. Quinn was full-on blushing from cheeks to chest. “And you have incredibly distracting eyes,” Lacey said in a low, sexy voice she hadn’t heard herself use in quite some time.

Quinn looked away again. “You wouldn’t know that if I’d kept my sunglasses on. Or anything else about me.”

“I couldn’t stop looking at them. That’s how I know where they went.”

Quinn cleared her throat and put up her hand. “Okay, this conversation…”

“Scares you?”

Quinn folded her arms, standing in a protective stance. “Cards on the table?”

Lacey motioned with her hand as if she were a dealer in Vegas. “Lay ’em out.”

“We’re not going to fuck. Ever. Contract or not. Yes, you’re beautiful, and I will have no problem selling this, but that’s where it ends.”

Lacey chuckled. “So you can say the word. And I told you, I’m in love with someone else, but once again, I find your arrogance amusing.”

“I’m not arrogant.” Quinn took a deep breath. “I’m scared, okay? I don’t want to lose everything I’ve worked so hard for.”

“Then don’t do this coming out thing. Nobody is forcing you to risk everything. For what, Quinn? You’re not even in a relationship. No one’s saying, ‘If you really loved me, you’d tell everyone.’”

“Are you trying to talk yourself out of a job? Because—”

Lacey put up her hands. “You’re right. You know what you’re doing, and like I said, I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Chapter Four

Quinn desperately wanted to back out of the deal. Truth be told, she figured Jack wouldn’t be able to find someone with the right qualities. Known, but not famous. In need of the work, but not desperate for it. Unattached. Gay. Gorgeous. Why was Jack so damn good at his job? As if anything about this was his job.

Quinn knew she needed someone who wouldn’t worship the ground she walked on. Even other actors could sometimes act like rabid fans, and that would get old faster than Lacey’s cynicism. What bothered her was the way this woman looked at her, with eyes that seared into her soul, reading every secret, every vulnerability she had. And then laughing at it. Mocking it with her eyes and that sly little grin. It was unnerving. It was also untrue. Eyes that seared? Quinn realized she was being ridiculous.

On second thought, maybe a fan was exactly what Quinn needed. Someone young in the business who would hang on her every word. Someone who would listen to her and follow instructions without hesitation because they came from the mouth of the very successful, very famous Quinn Kincaid.

Lacey Matthews was the exact opposite of that. God. Had she and Jack made the wrong choice?

Quinn stood there frozen, wondering how to end this deal here and now. She tracked Lacey as she sauntered over to the sliding glass door. A fan wouldn’t saunter. She’d wait for further instruction, eyes wide like a hungry puppy dog.

Not Lacey. She opened the door and let the warm sun hit her face. “I can’t wait to get out of that hotel I’ve been staying in,” she said, leaning against the door frame.

Quinn walked over and stood next to her, her arms protectively folded like they’d been most of the morning. “Don’t you have friends here?”

“I do, but as you can see, I’m a total bitch right now and I didn’t want to have to be the nice houseguest. You can’t just take their bedroom, you have to play with their kids and eat dinner and smile. A hotel was easier.”

“You need to heal,” Quinn said. Lacey looked at her with those big, brown eyes and Quinn quickly looked away. Lacey Matthews was the one for the job, whether Quinn liked it or not. Even though she rubbed Quinn the wrong way, Lacey seemed honest and forthright, not to mention strong. Yes, Lacey had been through a lot this past year, but Quinn could see her underlying strength. In fact, she found it more attractive than she would ever admit. Because that’s not what this was, nor would it ever be. This was a business deal. Period.

Quinn stepped outside. “Just relax for a while. Get your bearings, and in a few months, you can take on the world again.”

Lacey kicked off her sandals. She dipped a toe in the pool and then turned back around. “Cards on the table?” Quinn nodded. Lacey hesitated for a few seconds and then said, “I really need that.”

Quinn could tell that was a hard thing for Lacey to admit. She was trying to hide it well, but the pain of what she’d been through was evident. Taking Lacey by the elbow, she said, “Good. Come with me. I think you’ll like your new digs.” She led Lacey past the pool to a small guesthouse. “You’ll have complete privacy out here, and everything is brand new. You’ll be the first one to stay out here since it was renovated a while back.”

Lacey walked in, her eyes wide with shock. “This is bigger than my apartment in New York. And a full kitchen too? I love to cook.”

“That makes one of us. I’m a terrible cook.” Quinn stood back, feeling proud of the renovation. She’d worked closely with the designer to make the house, including the guesthouse, more her style: clean and modern. She’d purchased the house purely for its privacy and security, not because she loved it. But looking at it now, and seeing it through Lacey’s eyes, she felt a sense of satisfaction that she’d made the right choice.

Lacey ran her fingers across the white marble countertops. “Do you have a workout room too?”

Quinn pointed over her shoulder with her thumb. “Those hills behind us. That’s where I ride my bike.”

“I’m more of a treadmill girl. Too much traffic in New York.”

“I’ll ask Amy to get right on that.” Quinn pulled an index card out of her back pocket and looked at it, hesitating slightly. This was it. Once she handed this card to Lacey, it was pretty much a done deal. She looked Lacey in the eye and offered the card to her. “Here are the security codes for the doors and the gates. They’re all different, so put them in your phone or something.”

Lacey took the card. “Thank you for trusting me.”

Quinn shook her head. “I don’t. I’m scared shitless that you’ll turn on me, but we’re in this now and I need you.” Quinn hoped Lacey could hear the sincerity in her voice and take her seriously. She hoped she’d understand just how serious this was and act accordingly. And she prayed for a good outcome.

 

 

“Are we good?” Quinn asked.

Lacey still wasn’t sure why Quinn felt the need to follow through with this crazy plan, or even that it would achieve her goal. Hollywood was a very fickle town, after all. But that wasn’t her concern. She took another quick glance around the guesthouse. “I need my career back, and if this is what it takes, I’m all in.”


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