Life imitates art? One can only hope...
Elena is a by-the-script actress whose co-star, Michael, has a gift for improvisation that drives her crazy. Fighting a fiery chemistry, they work to keep their on-stage romance where it belongs--on the stage. But a year-long road tour stretches before them. How long can they keep a lid on their simmering passion?
When his left-behind boyfriend, Tom, seems withdrawn on the phone, Denny questions his lover's faithfulness. Their once-solid relationship faces its biggest test during the long separation.
Inexperienced Gretchen is thrilled to land her first professional role in the musical, Transitions, but the pressures of performing are more than she bargained for. Entranced by her wholesome sweetness, Jake, the pit guitarist, endangers the very qualities he admires by giving her a "little something" to take the edge off her nerves.
Every night for a year, they'll play out a "happily ever after" on the stage. Before the last curtain call, will life imitate art?
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August 25, 2008
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Excerpt from The Final Act by Bonnie Dee
Elena glanced at Michael again to find him looking back at her. His gaze slid away immediately.
Her heart thumped. He'd caught her looking. But then she realized he was watching her, too. Was it possible he was interested in her?
Stop it. Grow up. She'd seen backstage romances flare and just as quickly burn out. It was childish to confuse stage passion with the real thing. They were professionals, for God's sake.
Elena concentrated on putting everything she had into the song. As the company reached that soaring final note, she stared at the empty seats and imagined them filled, only a few weeks from now. Her heart soared along with the music at the thought.
Walking from the stage afterward, she felt a hand on her arm and turned to find Michael beside her. Her stomach jolted at his sudden appearance. Being near him was like being caught in an electromagnetic wave of charisma.
"I'm giving you a heads-up now so you don't yell at me later. In the bedroom scene, I'm going to pick you up and carry you to the bed. We're supposed to be passionate and yet we stroll across the stage. It's awkward and weird. But I wouldn't want to take you by surprise with spontaneity and piss you off."
"Did you check with Pender?" Elena felt her blood pressure rising. "Michael, we're two weeks away from opening, and you're altering the staging. You can't keep changing things on a whim."
"Pender hasn't complained lately."
"He gave up. Since you go right on doing what you want anyway, he quit trying to rein you in. That's why I'm stuck doing it."
"Maybe he likes my instincts." Michael's lazy smile made her temper burn, but also started heat blooming in her belly.
"Fine. But this is it. After tonight, no more changes. And if Pender complains about this, it's all on you."
"This will be a lot better. Trust me."
Surprisingly, she did. His instincts were good. And beneath her protest, on a very fundamental level, she wanted him to scoop her up and carry her in his arms.
"You know I'm all about winging it," Michael continued, "but maybe we should practice a couple of times to make sure I can lift you without throwing my back out."
He took Elena's hand, and his warm flesh sliding against hers gave her another of those ridiculous stomach flutters. He led her to an empty dance rehearsal room backstage. There was a mirrored wall with a bar along it and a well-polished wood floor. The smell of old sweat and new varnish perfumed the air.
Elena watched Michael's reflection in the mirror as he spoke. "Okay, take it from your line, 'We shouldn't do this'."
It felt odd without the apartment set around them. She pulled her eyes away from the mirror and looked up at Michael.
"We shouldn't do this. What about Richard?"
Slipping an arm around her back and one behind her thighs, Michael interrupted her next line, lifting her easily off her feet. Her arms automatically went around his neck, and she gave a little gasp of surprise.
"I don't care." Michael's face was close. His breath puffed against her face and she smelled the sharp scent of breath mint. He bent his head to kiss her then stopped.
"Wait a minute. This is awkward. I can't kiss you after I've picked you up. Do it again." He set her down on her feet.
Elena held onto his shoulders for a second as she got her balance. Her body vibrated with excitement, but she managed to snap, "Don't step on my line this time."
She delivered her speech again, finishing with, "He trusts me!"
"Tomorrow you can tell him it's over, but I've got to have you now."
Michael pulled her into his arms, planted a searing kiss on her lips then scooped her off her feet. He carried her a few yards before setting her down again.
They remained locked in an embrace, both a little breathless as though they'd done an entire dance number instead of a simple lift. Elena glimpsed their reflection in the mirror. They looked really good together; Michael's blond-streaked hair and her dark curls, his sleek, swimmer's body and her petite, compact figure, his pale skin and her tan flesh.