The first mention of Abby’s longtime fan (Vincent) in Stalk Me:
Mom laughs. “Even that fan of mine has been encouraging.”
“What’d the creeper say this time?” I ask.
“Nothing really. Just that he’d heard I was probably going to win awards for the role. Wished me good luck.”
Vincent is working late when his friend, Bobby, calls. Bobby doesn’t know how deeply Vincent’s feelings for Abby run. He just knows they both think she is hot.
“Dude, you’re never going to believe what I’ve got in my dirty little hands,” Bobby says. “Come have a beer with me, and I’ll show you.”
Vincent says he is busy. He knows his friend is proud of the fact that he’d recently been hired by one of the hottest directors around, Matthew Moran, to be in charge of casting for his latest blockbuster film—one starring Abby’s husband, Tommy Stevens.
“Come on, dude. I’ve got a bunch of hot, young actresses dying for this role. You’re so good at picking talent. I don’t know why you waste your time on all that financial stuff.”
“Because I earn ten times what you do,” Vincent states as he brushes a piece of lint from his fine Italian suit.
“Yeah, yeah. Rub it in. So are you saying you won’t help me? You can’t come here, have a beer, watch some screen tests, and help me decide which ones look willing to sleep with me to get the role?”
“I really don’t have time.”
“Okay, fine. You know how you always tell me you’re looking for the perfect girl to star in your remake?”
Vincent sits up straighter. “Yes?”
“The script is all top secret, of course, but we’re looking for a girl for a small but pivotal role to play Trinity’s daughter, who is kidnapped in the movie. I have this girl on film who is special. Trust me, you need to see this in person.”
“I’ll be right over,” Vincent says, excitedly.
When he gets to Bobby’s office on a big studio’s lot, Bobby hands him a beer and starts yammering. “I really don’t want to cast a complete unknown for the role, but the director just sent this to me.”
Vincent sits down on the sofa in front of the big screen TV. “You got me here. Just play it.”
Bobby presses play, and a video comes on the screen. There’s a girl out surfing in a bikini. She’s tan, blonde, appears to have a nice figure, but is so far in the distance that it’s impossible to tell what she really looks like.
“What is this? Some stupid home video?” Vincent says, pounding his beer and getting ready to leave.
“Wait for it,” Bobby says.
Vincent grabs the remote, his finger hovering over the pause button when the girl rides a wave into shore and comes out of the water, smiling.
She lights up the screen with innocence and beauty.
Vincent is mesmerized, feeling like a teen again. It’s Lacy, he thinks, but it couldn’t be her. This girl’s eyes are not the same shade as Lacy’s. They are blue, but have an almost violet cast to them. Her hair is blonder and longer. But the smile is the same.
And when she speaks to the camera, it’s like music to his ears.
“So what do you think?” Bobby asks, interrupting his thoughts.
He doesn’t answer.
Finally, Bobby says, “Dude, I feel the same way. She’s totally right for the part. Can you guess who she is?”
Vincent still doesn’t answer.
He is trying to wrap his head around how Lacy could be on the screen in front of him.
“Lacy,” he mutters.
“Keatyn Douglas,” Bobby corrects. “Abby Johnston’s daughter.”
With his interest in Keatyn piqued, Vincent sneaks into Abby’s trailer to leave her a gift. When he sees the photo of Abby and Keatyn on the beach in Hawaii, he takes it with him and his school-boy crush comes back with a vengeance.
He becomes obsessed with learning more about Keatyn. He creates fake profiles on all social medias and friends her. He follows her everywhere, taking photos. It’s just research, he tells himself. He’s got to see how she will look on film. He goes to some of her soccer games and discovers she is surprisingly good at it. He likes that about her.
She seems to have more spirit, more life, than Lacy did. And she is real, not someone he’s watching on the screen.
He knows he has a business to run, but he can’t stop obsessing over her.
He finds out who her friends are. What boys she hangs out with. Knows who she’s dating.
She seems to have two boys in her life. One was a former child star, who has been cast to play the lead in a remake of the movie Grease. She always looks dolled up when she is with him. They go to parties together and appear to be dating, but not once does Keatyn take the boy back to her house.
She is a girl of virtue, just as he suspects.
She also hangs out quite a bit with a young surfer who lives up the beach. They have a closeness that Vincent doesn’t like, but he’s never seen them kiss. One night they go into the surfer’s house, and he can see them on the couch playing video games. He wants to stay and watch longer, but a security guard comes down the private beach and he doesn’t want to get caught.
When Abby realizes her trailer was broken into:
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
James replies, “That fan of your mom’s got into her set trailer early this morning.”
Mom comes out into the hall, hugs me, and whispers, “It is kind of creepy. He always sounds super sweet in his letters, so it’s not like I’m that worried, but we’re pretty sure he stole one of my photos. It pisses me off that security is so lax that anyone could walk in off the street and get into my trailer, but now the studio is blowing it way out of proportion.”
Vincent goes to the beach near Abby’s house, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. And there she is. She’s wearing a skimpy bikini and prancing around in the ocean, flirting with the surfer. He can’t help but stop and discreetly snap a few more photos of her. She’s so gorgeous and full of life.
That was one thing that Abby didn’t have. Even though he fell in love with her in the movie, and he’s crushed on her, once she was done playing the role of Lacy, she never looked like her again.
Keatyn is different. She is literally a real-life version of the Lacy he fell in love with.
He glances down at the preview of a photo he just took of her and knows he will cherish it even more than the one Abby sent to him all those years ago. And when she speaks to him. . .
When I get there, Brooklyn is talking to some guy I’ve never seen before. He looks like he’s in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. He’s quite a bit taller than Brooklyn, has dark, slicked-back hair, and deep mocha-colored eyes. He looks really out of place on the beach, though. Like he got lost on his way to the boardroom. He’s wearing a well-cut navy Armani suit, crisp white shirt, red paisley tie, and shiny black Ferragamo wingtips that have to be totally filled with sand.
I shove my board into the sand and jog over to them. I should be polite and say hi.
When I walk up next to Brooklyn, he grabs my waist and pulls me into his side in a surprisingly affectionate and possessive way.
“And this is Abby Johnston’s daughter, Keatyn,” he says, introducing me. “Keatyn, this is Vincent Sharpe.”
“Nice to meet you,” I say, and extend my hand.
I notice a scrolly tattoo peeking out from underneath Vincent’s French cuff when he holds out his hand.
He lets go of my hand and lets his eyes slowly wander down my body. Then he looks closely at my eyes. Like he knows me.
But he couldn’t know me. This guy is hot. I would definitely remember meeting someone that looks like him.
“Nice to meet you too,” he finally says to me. “Sorry if I was staring.” He lowers his voice and smiles a very charming smile at me. “You look just like your mom did in A Day at the Lake. I kinda had a big crush on her when I was fourteen. You bring back some memories.”
I roll my eyes.
He was only checking me out because of my mom. A Day at the Lake was her very first movie. It didn’t do that well at the box office, but the poster of her blowing a kiss in a bikini sold millions of copies and made her a household name. Now the movie is sort of a cult classic.
“It’s okay,” I say without hiding my disappointment. Seriously, someday men are going to notice me and say, Damn, that’s Keatyn Douglas, not, Oh, it’s Abby Johnston’s daughter. “You seem a little overdressed.”
He smiles and points his thumb up the beach. “I was just touring a property up the way. It looks like I’ll be in good company when I buy.”
“Yeah, I guess. There are some famous people that live around here, but you might want to rethink your wardrobe,” I tease.
He looks down at his suit. “I am a little overdressed. So, your boyfriend looks like he knows his way around a surfboard.”
I start to say, He’s not my boyfriend, but he says to Brooklyn, “If I’m going to embrace the beach life, I need to learn how to surf. You ever give lessons?”
“I’ve taught a few people,” Brooklyn says, nodding toward me. “She was my first student.”
Vincent smiles at me. “You looked great out there too,” he says, but the way his eyes slide down my bikini, I’m not sure he’s referring to my surfing skills.
Meeting her, speaking to her hasn’t quenched his desires, but rather strengthened them. He needs to see her again and comes up with a plan when he discovers her other best friend, Damian Moran, the son of the famous director, is playing with his band tonight. He will give her the story that works with so many other women, only this time, he believes it. He will play to her ego, offer to make her a star. Get her to come to him.
I work my way through the crowd and say hey to a few people I know. I’m almost to the long bathroom line when someone pushes me from behind and knocks me straight into a pair of strong arms.
I see a lime green polo, pleated khaki shorts, and an upscale version of a topsider. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I manage not to spill a drop of beer. As the guy pulls me up, I’m surprised to find myself face to face with the hot Armani guy from the beach.
He recognizes me and gives me the kind of smile that has probably bedded many a woman.
“Thanks. Vincent, right? From the beach?”
“In the flesh,” he says.
I get pushed closer into his broad chest when someone else bumps into us.
“I’m sorry,” I say. The poor guy. I’m practically in his arms!
He looks straight into my eyes, like he did at the beach. Like he’s searching them for answers to a question he’s yet to ask.
He puts his mouth by my ear and yells over the music. “I saw you standing next to your mom.”
I can’t help but roll my eyes. “Look, I know you’re a fan. But if you want an autograph or something, you’ll have to be a big boy and go ask her yourself.”
“Already have her autograph,” he says, in a smart-ass way. “I don’t really know her, but we kinda run in the same circle.”
“And what circle is that?”
“The movie industry.”
“Oh, really? You a movie star?” He certainly is good looking enough. If I were to typecast him, I’d make him the guy you know you’re not supposed to fall in love with, but you can’t help yourself.
He laughs. “No, I finance movies.”
He blinks slowly. “Something like that.”
“Cool. Well, it was nice to see you again.” I make a move toward the bathroom.
He stops me. I look down at his muscular arm and read the now fully exposed scrolly tattoo.
It makes me laugh.
“Abby? Are you that big of a fan?”
He shrugs. “Not really. I dated a girl named Abby in high school. She left me for a guy with a Harley and unfortunately couldn’t take the tattoo with her.”
“Sorry,” I say, sort of awkwardly. I could picture myself getting a Brooklyn tattoo.
Once he finally tells me he loves me and all.
“You know, you’re stunning. Prettier than your mom. I’m sorry I keep staring at your eyes, but they really are remarkable.”
I can’t help but smile. “I have my dad’s eyes.”
Vincent lowers his voice. “He died a few years ago in a plane crash, didn’t he? I’m sorry.”
I nod my head. “Thanks.”
“You ever thought of acting? I could cast you in my next movie.”
I roll my eyes and smirk at him. “That line usually work for you in a bar?”
He touches my nose with the tip of his finger, cocks his head at me, and curls his lips into a smile. “You are a spunky one.” He clinks his beer bottle gently into mine. “Just how old are you anyway?”
“Is that a trick question?”
He replies with a hearty laugh. “Well, you look old enough here, but on the beach I would’ve guessed you to be too young.”
I put my finger up to his lips. “Shh, don’t tell.”
Then I work my way to the restroom.
When I come back out, he’s waiting for me by the door. He looks me over again.
I look at him like, What?
“Forgot to give you my card.” He pushes a business card into my hand.
I take it to be polite.
“Uh, thanks, but if I want a part, I could get one through my family.”
“That’s too bad. This isn’t just any part.”
“Let me guess: I’m gonna win an Oscar? Have my name in lights?”
“I own the rights to remake A Day at the Lake. I’ve been hoping to do it for a few years now, but I haven’t been able to find the right actress. You would be perfect.”
“And, oh, what a perfect role it is!” I say in mock happiness, clasping my hands up by my cheek, and giving him a huge, fake smile. “I’d get to wear a bikini and scream! Please, sign me up!”
He laughs at me. “You’re very funny, and you have a very expressive face. If you could harness that, call it up on cue, you’d probably be a better actress than your mom. Have you acted much?”
“I grew up on movie sets, but no, I haven’t. And I’m not sure if I want to, but if I did—no offense—I’d probably want a more challenging role.”
He nods his head. “I can respect that, but I’ll give you a piece of advice. Don’t turn anything down until you have all the facts. The remake I want to do will have the spirit of the original, but not the script. I want this to be a blockbluster. We’re adding special effects and doing a total rewrite. There will be full marketing. Posters, Barbie dolls, lunch boxes. The lead role needs to be more like Lara Croft or Buffy the Vampire Slayer than the helpless victim your mom was. We want a kick-ass heroine. I saw you out surfing, and you seem pretty athletic. Still, I’d be taking a big chance casting an unknown like you.”
“You might be right. I should’ve listened. Something like that I might be interested in. I just thought—you know—we’re in a bar; you hear stories about that kind of stuff. So, is there a script I could see?”
“Not yet. I’m still working on the financing.”
“I see.” Hmm. Now I’m not sure there ever will be a script, and Mom has warned me about men that make promises to young girls that they can’t keep. I’m firm, but polite. “I’ll call you,” I say.
But I’m not going to call him. You can’t read for a part that has no script. Even if the producer is hot.
Well, not unless you want to sleep with him. And, to be honest, if I was a little older and not in love with someone else, I might consider it. Not for the part, of course. For his hotness. For his dark eyes. For his surprisingly strong arms. For his great taste in clothes.
He gives her his business card and waits for her to call him. Then tragedy strikes Vincent’s life. His grandmother—the woman he believed to be a saint—dies. Vincent doesn’t really get emotionally involved with people.
But she was different.
She saved him from his mother. He idolized her and takes her death very hard.
When I get home, I don’t even bother to go in the house. I’m too pissed to be nice to anyone. I walk through the side gate, slam it shut, throw my shoes onto the sidewalk, and kick my way across the sand. I’m just past Brooklyn’s house when I notice Vincent sitting on the beach up ahead. His head is down, and he’s slumped forward.
I gently touch his shoulder. “Are you okay? Did you not get the house?” I quietly ask.
“We’re still negotiating,” he says.
I sit down in the sand next to him. “What’s wrong?”
His eyes are brimming with tears. He shakes his head and barely gets out the words. “My grandmother passed away.”
I give his forearm a gentle squeeze. “Oh, Vincent, I’m so sorry! Were you really close?”
He nods his head. “I didn’t have the best childhood. My mother, well, she was slutty.” He frowns. “Slutty is a nice word compared to what she was. She was wild. Had me at sixteen. I never knew my father. Honestly, I don’t think she knew who my father was. She married five times between my being born and my turning twelve. Guys one through five were low-life scumbags. One beat her. And sometimes me. I hated her for it. The sixth husband was a major upgrade. She saw dollar signs, so even though he didn’t want a kid, she married him. Then she dropped me on Grandmother’s doorstep and left.”
“But that was good for you, right?”
He smiles a little, but then he looks teary again. “It was very good for me. Grandmother was amazing, beautiful, a lady, and nothing at all like my mother. She was a film star in the early sixties. Back when stars were real stars. She was classy, glamorous, and always in full makeup. No running around in yoga pants and Ugg boots, you know?”
“She sounds amazing. What was her name?”
“Oh my gosh. I know her! I mean, I know who she is, and I met her at the Academy awards when I was fourteen. She was in that timeless love story, From Here to Forever. It’s one of my mom’s favorites. She’ll be so sad to hear she passed away.”
“She respected your mom.”
“There are a lot of women in Hollywood that will do anything to get a role. Sleep with anyone. Take off their clothes for a few seconds of fame. She admired the fact that your mom has never done that. She requested your mom be the presenter when she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.”
“Had she been sick?”
“No, not at all. She had a massive heart attack and died in her sleep.”
I start to get tears in my eyes. I feel really bad for Vincent.
“She’s why I wanted to buy a house here.” He fills his hand with sand and watches it slowly trickle back onto the beach. “She and my grandfather met on this very beach. They had a whirlwind courtship, and he bought her a beach house as a wedding present. She said it was the happiest time of her life. She’s been a widow for more than twenty years, but he’s all she ever talked about. The house I’m trying to buy sits where they used to live.” He tears up and chokes out, “Her birthday is next month. I wanted to surprise her with the house.”
I pull Vincent into a hug. “I’m so sorry. She would have loved it. When is the funeral?”
He takes in a deep breath and composes himself. “She didn’t want a funeral. She left very specific instructions for me. He reaches down on the other side of him and pulls an urn I hadn’t noticed before out of the sand. “She wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread here. Where she was the happiest in her life. That’s why I’m here. The lawyer told me it’s illegal to spread ashes on the beach now, but what am I supposed to do? It’s what she wanted, and I know I need to do it, but I’m not really ready to say goodbye to her yet.”
“I know losing her sucks, but she’s happy now. She’s in heaven with him,” I say, mimicking what my mom told me when Dad died. He’s in heaven, watching over you.
He rakes his hands through his hair. “Yeah, I know. Still, I just wasn’t ready for this. She was only seventy-one. And she seemed so healthy. She could walk further on the treadmill than I can.”
“I know I keep saying it, but I’m sorry. I’ll help you if you want. Or I can go. Like, if you want to be alone.”
He grabs my arm like it’s a life raft, and he’s drowning. “No. Stay. Please.” He smiles. “I think she’d like it. She was always trying to marry me off. She’d love to know that I did this with a girl. Especially you, being Abby’s daughter and all.”
He gets up off the sand and looks around. “I’ve never done anything like this before. When my mom died, I didn’t really care. Grandmother had a funeral for her, but I refused to go.”
“What happened to your mom?”
“She and husband six were killed in a mugging, they think. No one knows for sure what happened.”
He smiles a cold little smile. I think he’s glad about his mother’s fate. And who could blame him? Sounds like she didn’t treat him very well.
I stand up next to him. “Should we say something?”
“Um, sure,” I say, but I have no idea what to say, so I think about her classic movie. It was a movie about great love. The kind of love I dream about. The kind of love she wanted Vincent to find.
He opens the urn and slowly shakes the ashes out.
He doesn’t look at the ashes falling into the sand; instead he looks into my eyes.
I grab one of his hands, squeeze it tightly, and quietly pray. “Today we bring Viviane back to where she met the love of her life. Where she was the happiest she had ever been. We pray that she has been reunited with her great love in heaven, and they are now on their own version of this perfect stretch of beach. And we pray that her grandson, Vincent, is able to find that same kind of love someday. Amen.”
I can’t help it. I cry more. For Viviane. For Vincent. For myself.
Selfishly, mostly for myself, because the guy I thought was my great love, who I met on this very same beach, hasn’t spoken to me in days.
Vincent throws the urn way out into the ocean, then he turns, wraps his arms around me in a big hug, and lays his head on my shoulder.
He’s crying. Like, sobbing.
I’m not sure what to do, so I put my hand on his back and pat it, like I do to the girls when they wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. “Shhhh. It’ll be okay. I promise.”
He pulls his head up, wipes tears from his face, and says, “Thank you. I didn’t want to do this alone, but I didn’t really have anyone that I wanted to come with me.”
“I’m glad I could help. I hope you still buy the house. She would love knowing you live here. Now we just need to find you a woman.” I laugh. “For a guy that looks like you that should be easy. Why aren’t you married yet, anyway?”
He laughs too. “Geez, now you sound just like her. I’ll tell you what I told her: I have high standards.” He pauses. “You looked pissed when you were walking down here earlier. Did you have a bad day? Did I just make it worse?”
“It doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s just high school drama.”
“Yeah, but it’s your drama. Tell me about it. It’ll distract me, and I went to high school; maybe I can help.”
I sigh big and spill my guts. “I recently broke up with the guy I’ve dated for over a year. We were the perfect couple. Like everyone thought we were perfect, but the truth is we weren’t. I don’t think he was attracted to me. Or maybe he really does want to wait until he gets married, I’m not sure.”
“You’re a virgin? Really?”
I hang my head. “Yeah.”
He pushes my chin up so I’m forced to look at him. “Keatyn, that’s a good thing.”
“My friends think it’s lame. It’s like I’m flawed or not sexy enough.”
“Sounds like your friends have some fucked up values. Sex is not what makes you sexy. I’m very serious about you being in my movie. Every guy in America is going to fall in love with you.”
“I highly doubt that. I can’t even seem to get the one guy I like to fall in love with me. And if that isn’t bad enough, my supposed best friend is threatening to tell everyone at school that I’ve never done it. Everyone thinks I did it all the time with my ex. If they find out, they’ll look at me like I’m a fake Prada bag.”
“Grandmother said that you shouldn’t care what people say about you. The people who say bad things are insecure about themselves. When I was young, kids at school used to tease me about my mom. I learned to fight. Got tough. When I lived with Grandmother, she told me that if I had confidence, everyone else would have confidence in me. So I got good at faking it. Now, I don’t even have to fake it anymore. Don’t let them get to you.”
“Okay, I’ll try.”
“I better get going.”
“I’m sorry again about your grandmother.”
“I really appreciate you being here, helping me. Will you give me your phone number, so I can get in touch with you?”
I recite my cell number while he puts it in his phone.
As he walks away, he says, “She’d love the fact that I met the girl I’m going to make into a star on her beach.”
Vincent is in a production studio working on a special project, a Lacy montage, when someone comes in with clips of a scene that Abby filmed. It is supposed to be a secret—raw footage that wouldn’t all make it into the movie because it was too hot. He shuts his project down and watches the footage.
Vincent had heard that when Abby agreed to do the film, she wouldn’t allow the sexually explicit scenes that were originally scripted. He applauded her for her decision. He knew it wasn’t easy for actresses to do these days.
But then, he watches and is appalled at what he sees.
There is his beloved Abby. On the screen in front of him. Basically naked. With an actor. In a bed. Doing things his grandmother never would have done.
He reels with shock, and immediately leaves. He goes back to his grandmother’s house. On the grounds is an abandoned gardener’s shack. When he moved to his grandmother’s house, all those years ago, it had become his private space. The first thing he hung on the wall was the autographed photo of Abby. Since then, he has covered the walls with photos and movie posters of her. Of magazine articles. Copies of the fan letters he had sent her. Tickets from every Abby Johnston movie he had seen. Script ideas and diagrams of the film he wanted to someday make with her.
In a fury, he rips everything off the walls, throws it to the floor, and stomps on it.
Then he takes out a piece of paper and writes:
For years, I have idolized and loved you, but not anymore.
You are nothing more than a common whore.
You must pay for what you’ve done, and I already know the price.
—No longer your greatest fan.
And he will make her pay the price. He’s going to take away the things Abby loves most and have them for himself.
Keatyn, as well as her little sisters. A plan starts to take shape in his mind.
Unknown caller: Hey, it’s Vincent.
Me: Hey . . . how are you doing today?
Vincent: Better. I want to attempt to repay you for your kindness yesterday. Would you be available for dinner tonight?
I thought about it before I replied. I don’t really know Vincent very well, but he seems nice. I felt so bad for him yesterday. Last night, when I wasn’t counting up the hours it’s been since I’ve spoken to Brooklyn, I admit that I thought about him a little. About how strong and sexy he seems, but how emotional and deeply sad he was.
I thought about texting him. To check on him. I still have his business card sitting on my desk. I didn’t, though. I was afraid he’d think it was weird. But what he said to me when he left—about his grandmother being happy he met me on her beach—made me happy. Made me feel like maybe this project, if it does end up coming to fruition, would be something I should do.
The way he seemed to idolize his grandmother, and her old Hollywood-style ways, make me trust him. Make me want to do whatever I can to make him happy again.
Me: You don’t have to repay me. I was doing what anyone would do.
Vincent: I disagree. So dinner? And if you’re nervous about it because you don’t know me that well, why don’t you choose the restaurant and meet me there?
Me: I’m not nervous, Vincent. I trust you. As far as dinner goes, how about Moon Beams? We can sit on the patio and enjoy what’s left of this beautiful day.
Vincent: I’m glad you trust me. If we’re going to have a relationship, trust is important. Six o’clock?
Me: Sounds good. See you then.
Now, I’m sitting at our lunch table, thinking about him.
Not really him specifically. I know he’s too old for me, but I was thinking it might be nice to date a guy that didn’t act like such a boy.
Especially the kind of boy that would hook up with you and not call you.
Maybe I should start looking for a man. The kind of man who would tell you that you don’t have to have sex to be sexy. Who would say you have an expressive face. Who would want to risk his dream project on an unknown like you.
I think about what it would be like to kiss a man. A man who looks like Vincent. A man who has more experience than a boy could even imagine. A man who would treat you with respect. A man you could trust to call you.
I imagine being in a scene like the one at the end of his grandmother’s movie. Jumping into a man’s strong arms. Getting twirled around as he confesses his love for me. Then laying me back in the sand and kissing me as the waves curl up around our feet.
Of course, they didn’t show anything beyond that in the movie. Movies from the sixties were quite clean, sexually. But we all know what happened next.
They totally did it right there in the sand.
Unfortunately, when I picture doing that, I see Brooklyn’s face instead of a man like Vincent.
Vincent was thrilled to learn yesterday that she is, in fact, a virgin. His fantasies about her run wild. When she shows up at the restaurant looking sweet and innocent, if he wasn’t completely smitten with her already, he is now. Her bangs are pulled back into a barrette and the rest of her hair is down long and straight. She’s wearing a sheer, lace dress and when she walks onto the deck in the sunlight, he can see the outline of her sexy underwear. He’s going to seduce her, get her to go for a walk on the beach (and away from the valet’s watchful eyes), then—forcefully, if necessary—take her back to his grandmother’s place.
There is no doubt in his mind, though, that she will go willingly, because they are going to be the world’s greatest love story.
I drop my car off with the valet and walk out onto the deck. The deck overlooks the ocean and has great lounge furniture and gorgeous views. I immediately spot Vincent. He’s leaned back on one of the platform lounges that is almost bed-like. There’s a silver wine bucket next to him that’s wrapped in a white napkin so it doesn’t sweat all over. He’s been staring out at the ocean, but he turns, looks at me, and gives me a little wave. Like in case I didn’t see him.
I smile and slowly walk toward him. He looks very handsome in a white cotton shirt, pale yellow shorts, dark yellow driving loafers, and black wayfarers.
He stands up to greet me, gives me a couple air kisses, and then takes my hand and sits down.
I perch daintily on the edge of the lounge, letting my feet dangle off the side.
“I’m really glad you agreed to meet me,” he says.
“I’m glad you asked.”
He holds his index finger up in the air, and the attentive waiter brings us two glasses that he fills with Chardonnay.
When the waiter walks away, Vincent leans close to me, clinks his glass softly against mine, and says, “To the beach.” He takes a drink then puts his head down slightly. Like maybe he’s saying a silent prayer.
“Are you sure you’re up for this?” I ask.
“Yes. Thinking about work helps.”
“Oh, so this is about work?”
He grins, takes a sip of wine, then says, “Now that I’ve found the perfect lead, work is about all I can think about.”
“What are you going to call the movie? Hopefully not something bad like Another Day at the Lake or A Day at the Lake: Part Deux.”
He laughs. “Those do sound bad. How about A Bad Day at the Lake?”
“Or Just Another Day at the Lake.”
“I actually like that one,” he says.
“So I don’t really get what my character will be doing besides screaming in a bikini.”
“She’ll kick ass in a bikini.”
“You mean I won’t get a cape and some tights? That’s it. I’m out.”
He laughs again and says, “You’re funny.”
“I wasn’t joking,” I say with a straight face to tease him.
He studies me, so I remove all trace of emotion from my face. Give him my poker face.
“Remind me not to play poker with you.”
A smile breaks out across my face. “I suck at poker. I always smile when I get a good hand. I can usually do a joke straight faced, but I’ll be honest. I’m not that good of a liar.”
“The key to lying is to convince yourself it’s the truth.”
I tilt my head and think about that. “So you have to lie to yourself first. That’s interesting.”
I drink a little more wine. Neither one of us is talking now. We’re looking at the ocean. Looking at each other. Drinking our wine. It’s a surprisingly comfortable silence. I don’t feel the least bit nervous around Vincent. I look at his expensive clothes, his handsome good looks, and wonder why he chose to be behind the scenes in the movie industry rather than in front of the camera.
“So why aren’t you an actor? You definitely have the face for it.”
“Well, thank you. I guess I’m more fascinated with what goes on behind the scenes. And I’m sort of a Type A personality. Very meticulous, very organized. Grandmother said you need to be very creative to act. I’m much more right brained. Facts, figures, deadlines. I’m good at those. Grandmother taught me a lot about the craft: how to spot talent, about the creation of the story—characters, story arc, plot tension, how special effects should enhance the story line not take the place of it.”
“It sounds like we have a lot in common. I grew up hearing about all those things too.” I take another sip of wine, and he immediately refills my glass. “And I’m pretty creative, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you’re going to add special effects to A Day at the Lake. Are aliens gonna attack? Will I have to fight off a pack of rabid sharks?”
“Aliens. The movie blurb is gonna be, Saving the world, one bikini at a time.”
At first I start to laugh, but he looks serious.
“Ohmigawd, it’s a spoof movie!? No way I’m doing that!”
He puts his wine glass up to his lips, and I notice his mouth break into a little smirk. He’s got one knee bent up on the couch and I slap my hand down on it when I realize he’s lying.
“Oh my gosh! You’re doing it. You’re lying to me.”
He laughs and then covers my hand with his.
It’s at this point I realize that I am touching his naked knee.
And that I probably shouldn’t have done that.
But Vincent doesn’t look offended. Instead he grins and says, “Part of me wants to teach you to lie. The other part of me loves that you can’t. I watched four different emotions cross your face while you figured it out. I know you thought it was just a pickup line, but I was serious when I said you have a very expressive face.”
He’s rubbing his thumb across the top of my hand as he speaks. I don’t think he realizes that it’s making me feel kind of breathless.
He leans toward me. “So, just how old are you?”
I regain my composure and whisper back with a completely straight face. “Twenty-one, of course. Almost twenty-two.” I’m pretty good at this lie, because I tell it often. So often, I almost believe it myself.
He leans back on his elbow and studies my face.
I notice he has a dark eyelash loosely dangling dangerously close to his eye. I automatically reach out to brush it away.
“Close your eye.” I gently grab the eyelash when he complies. “Okay, you can open now. You had a loose eyelash. See? Now you have to make a wish on it.”
He leans into my hand, closes his eyes, and blows warm air across my fingers. “I wish you were twenty-one.”
“Because then this would be okay.” He leans forward and places a little kiss on my cheek. “That’s for being so sweet to me yesterday.”
“What does my age have to do with a kiss on the cheek?”
“Let’s table that discussion for now. So is there anyone special you’d like to work with? Someone to play your boyfriend in the movie?”
“A boyfriend? Do I really need a boyfriend? I’m sort of sick of boys. You’re a man. Do you treat women well? Different than you did when you were a boy?”
He doesn’t answer. Just raises an eyebrow at me and takes a sip of wine.
I look at the appetizers that were brought to our spot a few minutes ago, at the wine chilling in a bucket, and at the platform bed he chose for us to lounge on rather than a booth or the ottomans. I laugh. “Of course you do.” I wave my hand across the spread. “Look at all this. Boys don’t really do dates like this.”
“Are we on a date?” he asks with little smirk.
“Oh no,” I say, embarrassed. “That’s not what I meant. I know this is all business.”
“It’s not all business,” he replies.
My cheeks flame thinking about being on a real date with Vincent. “Okay, then it’s a thanks-for-being nice-to-you thing. Dinner, whatever.”
“Is that what you think?”
“I’m not sure what I think, honestly. I just said that because you’re obviously too old for me.”
“And you’re probably not old enough for me.” As he reaches over to grab the bottle of wine, his hand brushes across my knee. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an accident. “Now, tell me how old you really are, Miss High School Drama,” he says as he refills my glass again.
“You’re serving me alcohol,” I whisper. “Do you really want to know the answer to that? Plus, I can’t tell you here; they think I’m old enough.”
“Then tell me quietly.”
I look around and notice the waiter is giving me a stare down. I decide it’s best not to say it out loud, so I put my index finger on top of the scrolling Abby tattoo on his forearm and draw my finger down it in a straight line.
“The first number is a one?” he asks.
I nod. Then I trace an eight and tell myself it’s the truth.
“Well, that’s a relief,” he sighs. “People are already looking at me like I’m robbing the cradle. At least you’re legal.”
Vincent squints his eyes at me, and I think he’s just figured out I’m lying. Damn, I tried to use my most trustworthy look.
He taps his finger a few beats on one of the pillows. “You’re lying to me. Tell me the truth this time,” he says in a stern voice.
I trace another one down his forearm. Then I trace a six.
“Seriously?” he says, holding my gaze. “You do not look,” and then he takes his finger and slowly traces a sixteen on my forearm.
I close my eyes and let out an involuntary, “Mmhmm,” when his finger glides across my skin.
I should not have done that, because Vincent looks concerned by the fact that he practically made me orgasm just by tracing a number on my arm.
“When will you be?” He traces a one slowly on my wrist.
I swallow hard and try not to act like a horny, sixteen-year-old boy. But I can’t help wondering what that finger could do to the rest of me. What a man could do to the rest of me.
Okay, Keatyn. Stop.
You’re being ridiculous. He wants you for a movie, nothing else. Stop with the silly school-girl crushing and be professional. That’s Mom’s number one rule. Don’t get involved with anyone in your movie.
When he traces the figure eight, I don’t sigh. I pretend like it didn’t affect me.
“Next August,” I say flatly.
He leans back on his elbows across the platform, and I can tell he’s doing some mental calculations.
“So, technically, I have fifteen months until you’re legal.”
“I won’t tell if you don’t,” I flirt.
“Unfortunately, you will when you fill out the paperwork,” he pauses. “Assuming you’ll want to be paid for the role?”
“Uh, well sure.”
“You have to put your social security number down, and we’ll have to follow child labor laws until you graduate from high school or turn eighteen.”
Child labor laws? He’s talking about how many hours I can legally work? Oh, I’m so dumb! He’s not the least bit interested in me. He’s not flirting with me. I deserve dumb boys, not this gorgeous man.
I can’t hide the disappointment from my face.
“What’s the little pout for?” he says.
“Nothing,” I sigh. “Just wishing I was older.”
He cocks his head at me. “Are we talking about the movie?”
I just shrug my shoulders and gulp down some more wine.
He refills my glass again.
I know he’s just being polite and gentlemanly and all, but I’m not completely sure how much I’ve had. He’s never let my glass get empty.
The wind blows a piece of my hair out of my barrette and across my face. Vincent slides his hand gently across my forehead, catching the offending strand, and tucking it behind my ear.
The way he touches me is so tender.
Our gazes are fixed on each other.
The waiter comes by and checks our now empty wine bottle. “Another, sir?” he asks, which breaks our little moment.
Vincent gives the waiter an irritated glare. “Yes, please.”
He turns back toward me and says seductively, “So do you want to make a movie with me?”
I answer with a breathless, “I do.”
Vincent pours wine out of the new bottle and pops a shrimp in his mouth.
“I think we’re gonna need to do this a lot.”
“What? Sit on the deck and get drunk?”
His face sobers. “Shit. Are you getting drunk?”
“No, I’m just teasing. But I should probably have some water before I drink much more.”
“I like getting to know you,” he says softly.
“I like getting to know you too.”
And I do. He has his sunglasses up on his head now, so I’ve been studying his dark, thick eyelashes. His deep mocha eyes. When the sunlight hits them right you can see the blue of the ocean reflected in them.
“I’ve just decided something about the movie.”
“Whoever we cast as your love interest will be ugly, and there will be no kissing scenes.”
“You can’t do that if you want a blockbuster. People are suckers for romance. And happy endings.”
The look that crosses his face makes my cheeks feel warm, and I’m sure I’m blushing. “I mean, uh, they like happily ever after and all that.” OMG, I am such an idiot. I can’t believe I just said that!
“I know. I was just teasing you, since you said you’re done with boys. I used to say that about girls when I was in high school. I always thought I was so mature. I wanted a woman. I’ve always kind of had a thing for older women.” He stares at me for a few beats then says, “So, I know you can surf, which would help if I change the title to something like A Day at the Beach, but what other talents do you have?”
“Well, I’ve had years of dance classes. I play soccer, and I’ve been a Varsity starter since I was a freshman.”
“I also do kickboxing workouts with Tommy’s trainer. He says I have a strong right hook and a good jab.”
“That’s excellent, since you’re gonna kick somebody’s ass in the movie.”
“Tell me more about the script.”
“Would you like to order dinner first?”
“Sure. I’m actually pretty hungry. The little shrimp aren’t quite doing it for me.”
“And would you like to stay here or move inside? Somewhere a little more private.”
“Somewhere more private. We don’t want anyone overhearing your movie details,” I whisper.
“Good. Because people are starting to stare at me.”
“Why would they stare?”
“I suspect it’s because I look like an older man trying to seduce a much younger woman.”
“Well, you are aren’t you?”
He doesn’t reply, just gets up, and gestures for me to do the same. He puts his hand on the small of my back and guides me through the bar.
When we reach the end of the bar, I see someone I know. She hops off a barstool, says, “Keatyn, darling,” and air kisses my cheeks.
Vincent moves past our conversation, but he stops to wait for me.
When I rejoin him, he guides me to a private table in the corner. He pulls out a chair for me that lets me view the ocean, but puts my back to the rest of the room.
“So back to seducing you,” he says sexily.
“So you are, huh?” I raise my eyebrows and smile.
“That wouldn’t be very professional of me.”
“I know. I meant you’re trying to talk me into making your movie. Seducing me to do it.”
Vincent licks his lips.
I realize what I just said. To do it. That might have been the wrong choice of words.
I bite my lip, because I’m pretty sure doing it just crossed Vincent’s mind.
He touches my lip and gently pulls it away from my tooth. “I love when you do that. When you try not to smile, you do that. You bite down on the side of your lip. But when you’re upset or thinking hard, you bite your front teeth down across the middle. And when something makes you happy and you try to hide it, you lick your bottom lip. It’s very sexy.”
“I think you’ve been looking at my mouth an awful lot.”
He runs the pad of his thumb across my bottom lip.
It feels so sensual that I close my eyes, wrap my lips around it, and give his thumb a little kiss.
I slowly open my eyes. Vincent’s expression is indecipherable. He looks both amused and a little offended.
I back away quickly and nervously take a big gulp of water.
“I shouldn’t have touched your lip like that,” he finally says. “I gave you the wrong impression, but you’re right. I have been spending a lot of time looking at your mouth. At your face. I feel like a little kid right before Christmas.”
“Because in you, I can see my dream again.”
We watched the sun sink below the horizon, ate dinner, had dessert, and talked more about the movie. He does have some really cool ideas, and it’s easy to get excited just because he’s so seriously passionate about it. I didn’t drink any more wine with dinner. I realized when we got up earlier that I was a bit tipsy.
He looks at his watch. “Do you need to be home soon? It’s getting late.”
“No, not really. I’m good.”
“Let’s go for a walk on the beach, then.”
My phone buzzes as I pick up my purse. “It’s my mom. I should probably answer.”
As we walk out of the restaurant, I say into the phone, “Hey, Mom.”
“Where are you?”
“Just finishing up with dinner. Why? What’s up?”
“Are you having dinner with a much older, smoking hot man?”
“Um, no. Tommy had a business meeting tonight. Didn’t he tell you?”
Mom starts laughing. “That’s not what I meant. Millie’s friend, Barbara, called her and wanted to know who the hot man that you’re having dinner with is and why she’s never seen him before. She also said she prays he’s your uncle, and you can set them up. Millie said she sounded a little drunk, though.”
“Can we talk about that when I get home?”
“So you are at dinner with a hot older man?”
“He’s not that old, and yes. Bye, Mom.”
“Gossip flying already?” Vincent asks.
“You have an admirer.”
My car is parked up front, so the valet hands me the keys. Vincent follows me to my car. He keeps taking steps closer to me and, pretty soon, I’m leaning with my back up against the side of it. His entire body is about six inches away from mine.
“Is it you?” he asks.
I laugh. “The lady from the bar. You did say you like older women. Want me to set you up?”
“So, when will you have the script done?”
“I’m shooting for August.”
“I can’t wait to read it. So, I think I better skip the walk on the beach and get home.”
He cups his hands on my shoulders and slides them slowly down my arms. “I had a nice time tonight. You have my mind going a million places.”
“Where is it going?” I ask.
“Just all the things we talked about, brainstormed. I need to get home and write them all down. This isn’t a slam to your mom’s talent, okay? She’s one of the best actresses around.”
“I’ll admit we’ve been struggling a bit with the script. I think because I was still picturing her in the movie. And even though we knew we wanted a kick-ass heroine, I was having a hard time imagining your mom doing any of those things. You’re right. She did just stand around and scream. Now that I’m envisioning someone else in the role, I can see it more clearly.”
“That’s good, right?”
“You want this as bad as I do, don’t you?”
I smile. “Yeah, I think I do, so you better get finished.”
He leans in and gives me a kiss on the cheek. It’s the kind of kiss your dad might give you, except he holds his lips there way longer than a dad would. It’s sweet, sexy, and sort of confusing.
He pulls back, studies my face, and shakes his head. “Hmmmm. Well, we can’t have that.”
“Can’t have what?”
“I’ve gotten good at reading your face.” He softly touches my other cheek. “This side is jealous.”
He chuckles at himself then gives my other cheek a matching slow kiss.
“Um, so, thanks for dinner, Vincent.” I get inside my car quickly. Mostly because I almost asked him if my lips looked jealous too. I can’t help it. Part of me wonders what it would be like to kiss a man.
“We’re doing this again soon,” he says as he shuts my car door.
“Yes, we are,” he mutters. “Only next time, you won’t get away.”
The next day, Vincent follows the nanny who takes care of Abby’s younger daughters. While the nanny seems to be proficient, it’s difficult to watch four quickly moving children at the same time. He follows them to a dance studio. He enjoys a slice of pizza at the same restaurant they have lunch. After lunch, the girls beg to go to the park. The park is where the nanny is the most distracted. It is easy to slip the note in one of the backpacks sitting on the park bench. And it would be equally as easy to snatch one of the girls.
But he’s decided he wants Abby to suffer a little first.
Make her worry. She deserves to.
While he’s getting dressed for an evening out, he happily imagines Abby’s adverse reaction to the note. She needs to know it’s only the beginning of what’s to come.
He checks his watch.
He doesn’t have much time now.
Every Thursday night Keatyn goes dancing at a club—usually, by herself. If he can just get her to leave the club with him willingly. . .
Tommy is getting ready to plead his case when Avery rushes in the room screaming, “Look, Daddy! Look at this!!! Prince Eric gave me a note! See, it has an A on it for Avery!”
Tommy tries to read what she’s waving in front of him but appears to lose the battle. He finally shakes his head, gives up, and says, “Well, that’s really exciting, Ave. Did you all get letters from Prince Eric?”
Her eyes get big. “No, Daddy! Just me! I’m special!”
“Well, let me read it to you then,” he says, finally snatching the envelope out of her hand.
Tommy looks at the front of the envelope and turns a shade of green. He puts his forearms on the bar to steady himself and slowly says, “Avery, where did you get this?”
“We went to see the parade yesterday! You know that, silly Daddy! Nanny let us get ice cream.” She sucks in her breath and covers her mouth. “Merde. I wasn’t supposed to tell you about the ice cream.” She whispers to him, “Don’t tell Mommy. You might get Nanny in trouble. But it has to be from Prince Eric!! He waved ‘specially at me in the parade. Read it, Daddy! Read it!!”
Tommy doesn’t seem to be able to move, so I walk over and see why. The envelope does not say Avery. It says Abby.
I swipe the letter out of his hand and examine it. It looks exactly like the letter Mom found in her trailer and like all the ones she’s gotten from the same fan over the years. Mom sort of blew off the fact that he got in her trailer, even though Tommy and James were upset about it. But this is different. This was in Avery’s backpack. That means he got very close to her. Which is why Tommy looks so green.
I bend down next to Avery and say, “Daddy has to go make a very important phone call, sweetie. I’ll read it to you. Prince Eric is my favorite too.”
Tommy swallows and pushes himself up from the bar.
I open the envelope and read.
For years, I have idolized and loved you, but not anymore.
You are nothing more than a common whore.
You must pay for what you’ve done, and I already know the price.
—No longer your greatest fan.
Oh my God.
I feel faint.
Avery is pulling on my shirt. “What’s it say, Kiki? What’s it say?”
I find my voice and lie. “It says, Avery. So glad I got to see you! I waved at you in the parade. Love, Prince Eric.”
She tries to jump up and grab the letter from me. “Give it to me. I wanna go show my sissies!”
“Um, I need to show it to Daddy real quick, and then I’ll bring it to your room, okay! Why don’t you go get some gum for your sisters?”
She tears off, climbs onto the kitchen counter, gets gum out of a canister, and runs it to her room.
I take the letter into Tommy’s office.
“What’s it say?” he asks. “James is on his way. So is Garrett Smith, the president of the security firm we get our bodyguards from when we travel.”
I read the note to him.
“Oh my God. Do you think that’s what he means by the price? Do you think he’s talking about the girls?”
Unfortunately for Vincent, he’s not the only one who follows Keatyn to the club. Abby must have found the note and called in security. No matter, he’s smarter than a rent-a-cop. But Keatyn doesn’t go to the club alone. As he makes his way to the VIP section, he sees her out on the dance floor grinding sexily on a boy from her school. He’s both repulsed and turned on.
Next time, he’ll be the one she dances with.