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Hollywood 2: Acting Out

Tibby Armstrong

Jeremy Ash, aspiring actor, is single, gorgeous...and openly, quietly gay. When he lands a starring role opposite America's favorite former child star, 21-year old Kit Harris, he's ecstatic and more than a little attracted to the ...
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Jeremy Ash, aspiring actor, is single, gorgeous...and openly, quietly gay. When he lands a starring role opposite America's favorite former child star, 21-year old Kit Harris, he's ecstatic and more than a little attracted to the enigmatic star.

Kit Harris's career has been flagging and his agent promises this new film, an edgy coming out story with a famed director, is just the thing to get it back on track. The problem is that the film is relatively intimate in nature, and Kit's definitely not gay. He's not even slightly bent.

When the two men collide in a crushing first test kiss, Kit's left reeling and Jeremy's left wanting, and both are left gasping for air. And that was just the screen test. When filming starts and the two men are brought into close proximity every day, passions ignite and souls collide--both on screen and off. The two men find that the only way to assuage their mutual lust is to give in to it. Kit's sure this strange new attraction will run its course; Jeremy's hoping it never has to end.

But when a manipulative model obtains salacious film footage of the two men in bed, Kit's prepared to do whatever it takes to save his career. But how far is too far to push the boundaries of love and how long can one man hide from himself?

  • Note:This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices.

First movie premiere. First love. First heartbreak. Of those firsts, Jeremy Ash could do without the last, but the blonde babe on actor Kit Harris’s arm made denial impossible. Jeremy’s sight narrowed. Excluded the gawkers, photographers, and guests. Memories of months of intimacy--taut muscles and tangled limbs, harsh breathing and demanding mouths--faded against the backdrop of disappointed love.

As if choreographed, Kit turned with exaggerated slowness, took in Jeremy’s tux with a hasty toe-to-head glance, and then pasted on his Hollywood smile.

Jeremy blinked stupidly. “You said you were coming alone.”

Fear skittered, wraithlike, here then gone, in Kit’s blue eyes, and Jeremy almost felt sorry for him. To be ruled by that fear--to be so afraid of what others thought of you that you couldn’t own who you were? That had to suck, but being jilted for Amber Winslow, a lingerie model with nothing to offer but perky implants and an obvious dye job, sucked worse.

“Dude, we’re in public.” Kit barely moved his lips. “Chill.”

Fists balled at his sides, Jeremy jutted his chin and struggled for breath around the crackling tightness in his chest. He searched for words--something biting and eloquent. Without a script to prompt his creativity, he only managed, “Coward.”

Kit’s jaw hardened, and ice glittered in his eyes. From lovers to enemies in ten seconds. Likely a world record. Jeremy snorted his derision and walked away.

“What was that about?” Amber asked.

“Nothing. Just Ash being a dick,” Kit replied.

Jeremy overheard Kit’s lie. Where love once bloomed, hatred took hold, creating a black stain on his sense of wonder and beauty in the world. Being gay wasn’t a sin. Creating this feeling of anger and worthlessness in another human being, however? That went down in his book as a biggie. If fairness and justice existed at all, you couldn’t destroy a piece of someone’s soul and not suffer major consequences. Or at least the green monster on his shoulder said so. Hoped so.

“Whoa! Hold up!” Vance Stone, the picture’s casting director and an associate producer, grabbed Jeremy’s sleeve.

“What?” Jeremy jerked his arm away.

“You’re forgetting the photo call.” Vance eyed his scowl. “C’mon. I’ll go with you.”

“No.” He started to walk away again.

Vance blocked the theater entrance.

“Don’t blow your big break throwing a public tantrum,” he muttered. “That’d only be letting Harris win.”

Stunned, Jeremy blinked at the man. “You expect me to stand against the sponsor backdrop and promote a gay film with that closeted motherfucker? Pretend he didn’t just tear me into little bits?”

“You’re an actor.” A wry smile twisted Vance’s mouth. “Act.”

“And condone his behavior?”

“No...and do your job. Promote this film. Behave like the professional we took you to be.”

Jeremy winced at the critique. Anger diffused, he took in the milling crowd for the first time since he’d spotted Kit. “Where do I go?”

Vance gave him an atta boy pat and propped an arm around his shoulder to guide him to the opposite side of the building where photographers and journalists lay in wait. Jeremy spotted Greg Falkner--the screenwriter and executive producer of the film--along with his partner, Aaron Blake.

Greg stood in front of a reporter who held his microphone like a weapon. From several feet away, Jeremy heard him confess, “Yes, I’m gay.”

A lump formed in Jeremy’s throat and dissolved with painful slowness at the screenwriter’s bravery. To write this film--No Apologies--put his money behind it, and then risk so much personally tonight by finally coming out? That took balls--balls Jeremy’s costar apparently lacked.

Flashes popped, obscuring his vision as Vance deftly herded him into the limelight. Shoving his hands in his pockets, Jeremy posed for the photographers like the PR people had taught him. His grin felt tight, and he knew he looked wooden.

“Let’s get Kit Harris over here!” one of the paparazzi called. “Add some sparkle to the scene.”

The actor loped assuredly onto the strip of red carpet in front of the sponsor banner, prompting Jeremy to look at his feet. Mouth turning dry, palms slick with sweat, he adjusted his footing and tried to find a stance that didn’t conflict with Kit’s confident slouch.

Thumbs hooked in his belt loops, Kit exhibited panache and swagger even standing still. He didn’t have to stage his appearance to make it interesting or engaging. Everything about him electrified and entranced.Strong-boned features, at once exotic and masculine, graced a face of breathtaking beauty. And Kit’s smile--his real smile, on the rare occasions it surfaced--captivated.

Blond, tanned, and easygoing, he represented Jeremy’s polar opposite and his true north. The beacon by which he’d navigated Hollywood over the past year. Finding himself cast adrift, Jeremy forced no little bravado into his smile and anchored one arm around Kit’s shoulders.

Sea salt and sunshine...the taste of cinnamon...Sunday morning light playing over golden lashes...

Kit’s spine stiffened.

“Chill, dude,” Jeremy said through clenched teeth. “You’re just hangin’ with the homo.”

Kit slung his arm around Jeremy’s back, and they played the part of two friends mugging for millions.

“Hey, Harris!” one of the photographers yelled, invading the moment. “Give us a preview!”

Kit laughed uncomfortably.

Jeremy grinned, almost maniacal. “A preview of what?”

“Kiss!” yelled another photographer.

“Afraid your girlfriend’ll have your balls?” Jeremy spoke out the side of his mouth, then cocked his head at Kit. “Sorry. I forgot. You don’t have any b--”

Kit met the dare, cutting him off. Warm lips perfunctorily pressed against Jeremy’s own. Sensual nerve endings flickered weakly to life, then extinguished when Kit pulled away.

“That’s not acting!” one journalist taunted. “Unless you’re playing a dead fish!”

Taking command of the scene, Jeremy grabbed Kit’s lapels and jerked him close. With measured slowness, Jeremy canted his head sideways to meet Kit’s open mouth and delved deep. Heaven’s gates unlocked. The world dropped away. Tongues and teeth and bruising pressure remained. A lifetime later, the need for oxygen seared Jeremy’s lungs. Reluctantly, he pulled back and took in Kit’s stunned gaze and pink cheeks.

Wishing he could find a quiet corner and cry, Jeremy forced a know-it-all grin. “How’s that for acting?”

Kit stumbled out of Jeremy’s grasp and--straightening the sweeping cut of his lapels with a jerk of his hands--pasted the Hollywood smile back on his face.

“Amazing for a newcomer, isn’t he?” Kit gave Jeremy’s shoulder a rough squeeze. “With so much experience to call on for the part, he couldn’t help being a natural.”

“Done here!” Vance swept onto the carpet. “Gotta get these fellas inside.”

Jeremy waved at the photographers, lingering a moment longer than Kit and stealing the limelight for himself. The fucker deserved to be shut out of a few of the shots, he justified, though the saner voice in the back of his head nagged at him for his childish behavior.

“I’m going to kick both your asses,” Vance whispered, furious, as he yanked the actors into a darkened anteroom off the theater lobby.

Guests, producers, Greg, and Aaron mingled in the high-ceilinged, art deco entryway. The hum of conversation and clink of champagne glasses belied the tension seething between him and Kit. Jeremy glared. Kit crossed his arms and glared back. They faced off. Only Vance’s presence kept the barely leashed violence from erupting into a fistfight.

“What the fuck, Kit?” Jeremy asked. “Why are you doing this? Denying us? Denying who you are?”

“Whatever you thought we had? It’s over,” Kit shot back. “Consider our little fling my experimental phase. Or research. Just don’t consider me interested.”

Jeremy’s nostrils flared on a stinging inhale.

“Fuck you, you prick.” He choked on the words. “You think just because life handed you a golden ticket you have the right to screw with people’s emotions?”

“Calm down.” Vance sounded the low warning as heads turned toward the anteroom.

But they didn’t calm down. Nose to nose, toe to toe, they faced off next to a rack of usher’s outfits. Brass buttons and gold braid glittered in Jeremy’s peripheral vision as he tried to think of something hurtful to say--something to wound Kit’s heart and make it ache as awfully as his own. Except what came out only made Jeremy’s pain worse. “I love you, you...you complete...shithead.”

Kit stepped back. Jeremy took in his stunned expression--parted lips, high color along the blades of his cheekbones--and thought for one shining moment he might have gotten through to the idiot with his confession. Jaw snapping shut, Kit cloaked his shock in a mantle of arrogant bravado, and Jeremy’s hope fractured.

“Get in line,” Kit said with infuriating insouciance and stepped around Vance.

“Oh my God,” Jeremy whispered, attention riveted to Kit’s retreating back. “It’s really over.”



Kit clenched his jaw and shouldered his way through the throng. His date long forgotten, he almost didn’t notice as Amber fell into step with him.

She tossed her hair over her shoulder and smiled slyly up at him.

“Save it,” he said, preempting her poisonous strike.

Walking past countless rows of Hollywood insiders who called their congratulations, Kit looked straight ahead until he came to his seat. The red velvet cushion next to his own sported a placard with the name Ash. Kit positioned Amber next to Jeremy’s empty seat. Sadness, thick and foreign, impeded the flow of oxygen to his lungs as he sat on Amber’s opposite side. The emotion surprised him, and he resented its intrusion into his perfectly choreographed world. Or at least it had been perfect until Jeremy entered it. Now? Up looked like down. Left like right.

Touching his fingertips to his mouth, he recalled the insistent pressure of Jeremy’s lips--relived dominant kisses laced with the musky, sweet taste of desire. To go from that devastatingly violent lip lock to “I love you”? The juxtaposition of action and emotion made Kit’s head swim with the contradiction. Something about it held him captive, forcing him deeper into thoughts of his sexuality than he’d ever wanted to go.

The house lights went down, and Jeremy still hadn’t taken his seat. On the screen, sweeping views of the New England countryside grew progressively narrow. Tightened. Until the camera swept in on the pillared austerity of a brick-and-ivy institution. Focused on a single pane of glass and cut into the scene beyond. Boys in military dress clustered at tables in a mess hall. One kid sat alone... Dark. Dangerous. Brooding. And the object of his classmates’ animosity.

Jeremy.

“Why do all y’all hate him so much?” Kit’s character asked his classmates.

Though Kit knew the script for No Apologies by heart--had helped breathe life into its most intimate scenes--it claimed his attention as violently as Jeremy had claimed that kiss. Life and art comingled over the next hour and a half, informing Kit’s knowledge of himself and his predicament. Watching himself and Jeremy on the screen, Kit saw the undeniable truth in their glances and touches. No actor, no matter how good, infused the merest glance with such a vivid depth of connection and understanding unless he’d lived it. Really felt it.

Staring across Amber at Jeremy’s empty seat, Kit dug his nails into his palms and forced himself to stay put. Why did it take the emotional distance of the medium for him to see the message in Greg’s script? A message he’d lived every day for almost six months? How had he missed the love between these two characters--or between himself and Jeremy--during filming? At the time, he’d chalked up the whole thing to two guys with a hard-on for one another. How had he not seen the film had more to say? So much more.

If only he’d taken the time before now to really think, then maybe Jeremy’s seat wouldn’t still be empty when the lights came up and the house roared its approval. Craning his neck, Kit swept the theater with his gaze. No Jeremy. He stood.

Amber clutched his arm. “Where are you going?”

“As far away from you as possible,” he answered. “Do what you want, Amber. I really don’t care anymore.”

Catching Vance’s eye on his way out, he mouthed, Where’s Jeremy?

After-party, Vance mouthed back.

Kit kept walking, found the valet, and grabbed his helmet from under the counter. To annoy Amber--and make a splashy entrance--he’d taken his Ducati Monster to the premiere. He scanned the lobby and relaxed a notch when the evil witch didn’t appear out of the woodwork just to spite him.

The valet rode the Monster to the side entrance. “Nice bike, man.”

Too distracted to answer, Kit jammed his helmet on his head and sped his motorcycle past the lingering crowd. He had to find Jeremy--had to tell him all the things he should have said. Taking a corner too fast, Kit saw only Jeremy’s face when he’d said, “I love you.” At the memory of his response, Kit’s guilt screamed at him louder than the engine beneath him.

Self-respect shredded, he sped up, trying to outrun his feelings. Once he found Jeremy, he’d make it better. He’d tell him what he’d figured out--what he’d known all along and been too blind to see. So many things he needed to say. Would Jeremy let him? Was it too late? A blaring horn startled him into a reflexive swerve. He went right and so did the truck. Bright lights. Brakes squealing. The rush of pavement. He was flying and falling, and his last thoughts before impact were of love and how it felt exactly like this.

Copyright © Tibby Armstrong

Customer Reviews

Very enjoyable Review by Slick Reads
Quality
Originally published on GuiltyPleasuresBookReviews.com


Once again Tibby Armstrong has blown me away with another emotionally charged book about a former child star coming to terms with his sexuality while filming the movie of his career with a Hollywood newcomer. This book is the filming of the movie, No Apologies, from the first book in her Hollywood series. So yes, you will want to read No Apologies first…trust me. If you are like me all the names you have to remember will get confusing. So, to help you out here’s a guide:
Kit Harris—former child actor—playing Alan in the film who is Aaron Blake in real life (Kit=Alan=Aaron)
Jeremy Ash-----Hollywood newcomer—playing Grant in the film who is Greg Faulkner, screenwriter, in real life (Jeremy=Grant=Greg)

This book opens at the premier of No Apologies where we see Kit and Jeremy have a pretty big argument. It obvious from the argument that during filming these two shared more than screen time but Kit seems to be done with their “research”. We then “flash back” several months to the day Jeremy auditions for his part. I’m not a big fan of flashing back and forth in books, TV shows, or movies BUT Tibby did this in both of these books and it was necessary to give us that look into the future. So even if it bugs you (like it does me) bear with it, you won’t be sorry.

While Kit and Jeremy are slightly older than Aaron and Greg were in the first book, this really is a coming of age story. Kit is somewhat jaded and very reckless; he’s grown up in Hollywood with a famous father and an alcoholic/drug dependent mother. He’s pretty much been the golden boy and people fall over themselves trying to get close to him. Jeremy ran away from home at 17 and wound up in Hollywood. He’s done a lot of jobs including street performing and bussing tables. Even before leaving home he had a hard life but he’s a survivor. When these two meet and read their scene for the first time, the sparks fly. We learn early on that Jeremy is gay which is kind of funny since he’s playing Greg who was closeted for a very long time. Kit’s been around the block with more than his share of women so it takes him by complete surprise when he finds himself attracted to Jeremy.

Throughout this book the relationship between Kit and Jeremy really changes. I love the way Kit helps Jeremy navigate through his new found stardom. I’m also floored by how Kit takes care of Jeremy after some very heavy scenes they are filming. This seems so out of character for the Kit the world sees but it shows us the real Kit. I like how Jeremy challenges Kit in so many ways. Jeremy is forever asking questions of Kit that make him think and understand what is happening between the two of them. Together they are remarkable and their love scenes are explosive. While you can feel the love growing between these two, a former girlfriend of Kit’s is determined to keep them apart.

In addition to the burgeoning relationship between Kit and Jeremy, we are treated to the friendship that grows between Greg and Jeremy. These two have so very much in common and because of that they bond on a very special level. Although they are only about 5-6 years apart in age, they seem to form a more father/son relationship. Greg truly understands where Jeremy came from and what he’s had to endure and this makes their friendship very extraordinary. I love, love the scenes between them when they talk about how they aren’t attracted to each other, they are quite humorous.

We also get to see more of the grown up relationship between Greg and Aaron, not a lot but little glimpses. These scenes were especially satisfying to me because even though they were on their way to a happily ever after in No Apologies, we see how that is working.

Tibby Armstrong has written yet another book that is beyond a doubt, special. I absolutely fell in love with Jeremy and Kit as much as I did Greg and Aaron in the first book. This book is an emotional read just like No Apologies, but in a different way. While Kit and Jeremy’s relationship was tumultuous, I always felt they could get through anything together. I’m very pleased to recommend this book and I have no doubt it will be one I revisit often. Tibby hints at the end of Acting Out that there will be another book called Out Takes; I truly hope it’s in the works because I would love to see these four characters again!

(Posted on 8/13/12)

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