Hollywood heartthrob Jaxon Moncrieff and Liam Lassiter are finally on the same page: committed and in it for the long haul. Now they just have to prepare for the inevitable fallout when they reveal their relationship. Between Jaxon’s career and Liam’s need to prepare for a life in the limelight, they decide to wait until filming of Jaxon’s latest project has wrapped.
Unbeknownst to them, the relentless paparazzi photographer Rafael Cacciatore, aka the Hunter, notices a change in Jaxon and is determined to be the first to break the story of who has captured Jaxon Moncrieff’s heart. In the meantime, Liam and Jaxon have enough on their plate working out the not-so-little issue of how and when Jaxon will come out to his family. The paparazzi aren’t even on their radar. The race to out Jaxon is on, and Liam and Jaxon don’t even know it.
EXCERPT SCENE 01
As I exited the Menzies Hotel to a cacophony of camera shutters being depressed and microphones being shoved in my direction, I intentionally blinked rapidly, as if deeply surprised. Coming to a halt under the hotel’s awning, I looked over my shoulder, appearing to confirm I was the only person currently leaving the premises. “Y’all throwing this party for me?” I asked loudly, letting my Southern drawl take center stage, and showing my bemusement. “What on earth for?”
Outwardly, I appeared calm, casual, and friendly. Inwardly, however, adrenaline was coursing through my veins, making me feel jumpy. I needed them to believe my performance. For all his brave words of the morning, I knew Liam wasn’t ready for the spotlight to be trained on him, on us, and so I needed to give the performance of my life to buy us some more time.
The flight or fight response, I decided, was a load of trash. All I could feel was the nonexistent contents of my stomach trying to work their way back up my throat. In my mind, Charles Darwin, armed with his theory of evolution, was pointing the finger at me and belly laughing—perhaps I was meant to be the victim rather than the survivor. It certainly felt that way as I scanned the pack of hyenas before me. Fuck, Moncrieff, enough of the philosophizing. Woo your audience!
The bombardment of questions sounded like a marauding army’s battle cry, each one being called over the top of another, as one insistent microphone after another, attached to equally insistent arms, was thrust into my face like jousting spears.
“Who’d you stay with last night, Jaxon?”
“What do you have to say about last night, Mr. Moncrieff?”
“Does Darcy know you didn’t stay in your suite last night?”
“Who’s your mystery friend, Jaxon?”
“What does Darcy have to say about it?”
“Is it true your friend is a man?”
“Who’s the lucky girl, Jaxon?”
“Will your ‘friend’ be in your next movie?”
“Is she Australian?”
Taking a step backward, I held up my hands in a silent request for space and quiet. “Jeez, guys, news must be slow.” I chuckled, shaking my head in wonder.
The constant clicking sound of photos being taken was almost like background music to the second volley of questions barked at me. Clasping my hands behind my back, I rolled on the balls of my feet and cocked an eyebrow, waiting for the horde to quiet.
“Thank you,” I told them, using my stage voice, which was designed to carry over an audience, when they finally got the hint. “Not much to tell here, guys. A buddy of mine had some bad news, so I did what any friend worth his salt would do—I got him drunk!” That got a few laughs from the vultures. “And I might have overindulged a little myself in the process, so if you’ll excuse me, I’d really like to get back to my hotel, so I can sleep it off.”
With those words, I carved a path for myself to the waiting car and driver Alison had organized. Thank you, Tinker Bell! The questions as to who my friend was came like bullets from a firing squad, but I ignored them as I strode confidently through their ranks.
In a move practiced over many years, I opened the rear door, then slid my ass across the seat before closing the door behind myself—all in the merest blink of an eye.
Thankfully, the windows were heavily tinted, disguising my slump against the leather backrest. With closed eyes, I inhaled a few slow, deep breaths, willing my body to relax and release its tension. I mentally replayed the scene in my mind, picturing the faces of my inquisitors, trying to gauge their reaction to my little speech. Sighing, I gave up. At the end of the day, the paparazzi would print what they wanted to print. It might have a basis in truth, or it might not. We’ll just have to wait and see now, Moncrieff, how well you delivered your lines.