"I'm really nervous about this."
Topaz swallowed hard, adjusting her skirt for the sixteenth time that
morning, and casting an apprehensive look across at the film set. It was
the first day of filming, and Topaz had soon discovered that the crazy melee
was little like the comforting chaos of a Jewel video shoot. Everyone seemed
to know where they were going, and what they were doing, and Topaz had begun
to feel very lost.
"What if I mess it up?" She demanded now. "Forget my lines or something?"
"We all forget lines here and there." Morgan told her comfortingly. "Even
the Great One himself. Just relax, Rora. Take a deep breath and forget the
cameras are there. You were fine when we were rehearsing through the script
yesterday, and you've nothing to worry about. It'll be fine. And of course,
if you do screw up, they can do the take again. It isn't like performing
"Which I've done more times than I can count." Topaz acknowledged. "Okay,
when you put it like that, it doesn't seem so bad."
"See?" Morgan's eyes twinkled mischievously. "You'll be fine. Go on! They're
waving at you!"
Topaz swallowed hard, obediently heading out onto the set. Travis was
already there, and he cast her a cool, slightly distant smile as she took
her place opposite him. This did nothing to soothe the singer's ruffled
composure, and they had only been filming a matter of minutes when she messed
up a line, causing the director to call "cut!" and a loud groan to go up
from the surrounding crew.
"I'm sorry." Topaz's cheeks flushed red, and she cast Travis an apologetic
look. "I didn't mean to..."
"Don't worry about it." Travis said with a shrug, though there was both
impatience and irritation in his eyes. "We can retake. I wasn't happy with
my hair in that shot, anyway - the camera was at totally the wrong angle."
He gestured at one of the camera operators, who returned his signal with
one of his own, and carefully moved the camera slightly to the left. Topaz
watched with some confusion.
"I didn't realise you could get them to do that." She murmured. Travis
cast her a knowing smile.
"I'm Travis Banning. They do whatever I ask." He told her confidently.
"After all, I'm the name selling this movie. They have to keep me happy,
else their little picture will be a flop."
"Oh. I see." Topaz fell silent, retaking her starting position and waiting
for the director to call 'action'. His arrogance and self-assurance startled
her, but, mindful of all Morgan had said, she realised that the star really
believed himself that important to the success of the film.
"And, knowing how many girls would happily fall at his feet, I expect
he's right." She mused. "After all, the draw in this film is hardly going
to be me. I can't even say my lines in the right order!"
"Aurora, are you with the rest of us?" One of the production assistants
called out, and a ripple of laughter flitted around the assembled cast.
Topaz started, looking sheepish, realising she had missed another cue.
"I'm sorry, I was concentrating so hard on remembering my line that I
forgot to say it." She admitted.
"Well, third time lucky, my dear." Milton cast her a reassuring smile.
"Take five, everybody - I have to make a call. And Aurora - don't be frightened!
You're doing fine - everyone gets nervous the first time they shoot a scene."
"Particularly airheads who belong in the music industry." Topaz heard
a murmur from behind her, and she turned, a frown crossing her face.
"That wasn't called for." She said quietly. "I'm trying my best."
"I dare say you are, my dear." The speaker, a tall, red haired actress
named Marina Ricard cast her an infuriatingly condescending smile. "Only
is it quite good enough?"
Topaz narrowed her eyes.
"We'll see, won't we." She hissed. "And I was under the impression that
professionals didn't bitch behind the scenes."
"Well, then you've a lot to learn." Marina sent her a frosty look. "And
besides, you're not exactly what I would call a professional, fudging your
lines every few minutes. We're all fond of Milton and we like to see his
work a success - don't blow it for him, huh?"
"Marina, shut your yap." Travis came up behind Topaz so quietly that he
made her jump, putting a reassuring arm across her shoulders and sending
the redhead a disapproving look. "Milton has faith in Aurora's acting skill
and so do I. She's just nervous of the cameras, that's all. When she's done
a few scenes, she'll be fine."
"Travis, are you sticking up for her?" Marina stared. Travis shrugged.
"I shouldn't have to stick up for anyone. We're all parts in Milton's
project, after all." He said, casting Topaz a companionable smile. "Isn't
that right, Aurora?"
"I suppose it is." Topaz nodded, inwardly confused by the star's sudden
generosity. "I am sorry I've screwed up the scene twice, though. It's a
little more daunting than I expected."
"Well, I'm not one who likes to say I told you so, but you've spent far
too long listening to advice from a half-baked professional."
Travis sent a scornful look across the set to where Morgan was leaning
up against one of the pillars, a dark look on her face as she surveyed the
scene. "Morgan might be well thought of as an actress in some circles, but
she's hopelessly unprofessional in other ways. You saw how disgracefully
she reacted to me the other day - sadly she hasn't quite learnt professionalism
yet. I think you'd do a lot better to use me as a role model - I can teach
you far more than she can."
"Morgan has been sweet to me." Topaz cast a glance across to the dark
haired girl, confusion marring her features. "I like her."
"Well, it's up to you." Travis shrugged, though Topaz was aware once more
of that strange, irritated look in his eye. "If you want to let Milton and
the film down..."
"Of course I don't." Topaz frowned. "I want to do my best."
"Well, Travis is right, you know." Marina, seeing which way things were
going suddenly seemed disposed to be a lot more friendly. "Morgan is prone
to silly outbursts of temper when she doesn't get her own way. Why, only
a few months ago she was all over the tabloids for having launched a perfectly
unprovoked attack on..."
"Enough of that, Marina." Travis held up his hand, sending her a warning
look. "The point is, Morgan isn't the best person to go to if you want acting
advice. Spend lunch with me, and I'll give you some clear pointers. That
will please Milton."
Topaz bit her lip, casting Morgan one last look. Then she shrugged.
"All right." She agreed. "I'd appreciate your advice, Travis. Thank you."
"What in hell was all that about?"
As the actors collected their belongings at the close of filming, Marina
grabbed Travis by the arm, sending him a quizzical look. "Travis Banning,
you've been one of my closest friends for as long as I can remember, and
I've never heard you play all sweet and nice to some idiot newcomer who can't
even string a line together!"
"Well, it would help if you'd have a little more faith in me than you
seem to." Travis snapped, pulling his arm away. "Listen, Marina, Morgan
and I are still hot press in the gossip columns. Noone seems ready to forget
the little incident in the restaurant, and I intend to make sure that they
do. Topaz is a high profile local celebrity, and she might be a fool, but
she's the perfect target to stamp down any residual press about Morgan and
that unfortunate engagement business. I've left that mess behind me, and
Topaz is an attractive girl, if nothing else. I'll convince her she's in
love with me, then the Los Angeles press will have another hot topic to write
about. You know me by now - few girls resist the Banning charm for long.
A couple of evenings out in public together, a few invites over to my place
- the press will soon be writing us as showbusiness's hottest new item, and
Morgan and her 'issues' will be history. With any luck they'll forget all
about her altogether."
Marina's green eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "And you think that this will
get Morgan to drop her personal hate campaign against you? You did jilt
the girl, Travis."
"I was under the impression that you never approved of my seeing her in
the first place." Travis observed coldly. "Besides, jilting is too strong
a word. She outlived her public usefulness, and now it's time for something
new. According to DeMarco, Jewel are quite the rock heart throbs. It can't
hurt me, surely, to be linked with her for a while? And it certainly won't
hurt her reputation, so why would she complain? She'll be grateful for my
attention, if she knows what's good for her."
"How long are you going to play this mister nice guy with her, though?
I could've thrown up at lunch - it's so unlike you. You'll never keep it
"I won't have to." Travis shrugged his shoulders carelessly. "Like I said,
she's no brainiac. She's a rock singer, and they're all the same -all beauty,
no intelligence. You saw how easily I manipulated her on set earlier today
- she's not going to be any challenge. Once she's in love with me, she'll
do whatever I ask. And filming won't last forever. It's not a long term prospect
- just a bit of fun."
"Well, I wish I didn't have to spend time in her company." Marina shivered.
"I hate people who think they can jump professions. It happens way too often
"Well, Milton must have his whims." Travis shrugged. "We're all good enough
to pull her along, Marina. The important thing for me is that this Jewel
girl gives me some positive press in the Hollywood gossip columns. And if
that means enduring her company for a while, and sweet talking her about her
lack of talent, so be it. With any luck, it might even expose Morgan as the
jealous, immature bitch that she is."
"Anything to help the great Travis Banning, huh?" Marina looked amused.
"All right, I suppose you know what you're doing. And I've no love for Morgan
O'Sullivan either - you know full well that she took the part in that horror
flick right out from under my nose!"
"Sometimes even sleeping with the producer doesn't make it a sure thing
that you will get the part, my dear." Travis sent her a knowing smile. "But
Morgan should know better than to mess with me. This idiot Aurora is just
what we need. Trust me."
"You usually know what you're doing." Marina sounded resigned. "All right,
Travis, I'll trust you. But you better be right."
"I always am." Travis winked at her. "Come on. I must find DeMarco, and
I'll have my driver drop you home."
As they moved away, neither one noticed a slim figure in the shadows,
shaking with anger at all she had heard.
"You think you're so slick, Travis Banning." She muttered. "But don't
count on it. I'm going to make Rora see what you're like if it's the last
thing I do. You haven't learnt yet - don't
underestimate Morgan O'Sullivan!"
* * *
* * * *
"You're in high spirits tonight."
Sylva pushed open the door of the main lounge, casting her friend a warm
smile as she dropped down into a chair. Topaz's small daughter was clutched
in the singer's arms, more than half asleep after her evening feed, and Topaz
glanced up, nodding.
"I'll be in better ones if you keep your voice down." She said in muted
tones. "She's sleepy as anything, but I don't want to give her any ideas
of waking up. It's been a long day, and I'm beat."
"How was filming, then?" Sylva obediently lowered her tones, making herself
more comfortable in her seat. "I thought you were all wound up this morning
about facing the cameras."
"Well, to begin with it sucked." Topaz admitted. "But I think I got the
hang of it. Travis gave me a lot of pointers over lunch, and they were very
"Travis?" Sylva raised an eyebrow. "You had lunch with Travis Banning?
What happened to the whole not getting involved with a guy thing?"
"It still stands. It was a business lunch and he offered his help. It
would have been rude to refuse, not to mention suicidal, in the climate
I'm working in." Topaz replied. "Travis is the big name star in the production
and he seems to know it - but I don't think it'll hurt to keep in with him."
"I guess not." Sylva dimpled. "Did you get to kiss him yet?"
"No, we didn't get that far into the scene. Tomorrow." Topaz shook her
head. "I know it isn't the first onscreen kiss I've done, but I am petrified
at the thought of it. Some of the cast are kinda catty and superior, and
I don't want them laughing at me."
"Why would they do that? You're new to all this." Sylva looked surprised.
"It's not all of them. Just this girl called Marina...she's stuck on herself."
She replied. "It's cool, Syl, she's no bother really. Like I said, some of
the cast are nice, like Morgan, and Travis has been quite sweet, considering
everything. I'm having fun."
"I'm glad about that." Sylva admitted. "It's so important that you stay
in the USA, and Kimber's not minded having Hollie during the day, has she?"
"Not at all." Topaz shook her head. "So what have you been up to, anyway?
I know that you've been up at Misfit Music a lot - new single in the works?"
"Very much so." Sylva agreed. "It's still odd not having you in practice,
but we're doing okay anyway. Phyllis hopes we'll have this song out by the
end of the month - if not before. I think it's gonna be a hit, too. I know
Nancy and I have our spats, but she's done us proud on this one."
"Good." Topaz's blue eyes twinkled, but Sylva thought she saw a flash
of sadness somewhere in their depths. "I'm glad everything's cool on the
"Topaz, are you really all right with all this change stuff?" The synth
player asked gently. Topaz started, then nodded.
"Changes always take a while to get used to." She agreed. "But I'm fine,
so don't worry about me, okay?"
"Okay." Sylva nodded. "If you say everything is fine then I will have
to believe you."
"By the way, you'll never guessed who I almost ran over today."
"Ran over? Syl!" Topaz's eyes opened wide. "Who?"
"Jack, of all people." Sylva rolled her eyes. "He stepped out right in
front of my car - I only just got it to stop in time. If I didn't know better
I'd think he did it on purpose to get my attention - except he's totally
not that kind of guy."
"Well, kind of a reckless way to get anyone's attention." Topaz observed.
"I yelled at him that he should look where he was going, then realised
who it was and yelled at him again for almost messing up my front fender."
Sylva looked sheepish. "It was all that came out."
"Oh, Syl." Topaz giggled. "What did he say?"
"He apologised for being a dolt, and asked me how I was, pretty much."
Sylva responded. "I just made some excuse about being late for work, told
him I was fine, and drove off. Not the smoothest encounter I've ever had."
"I thought you were over him now?" Topaz looked startled. "I thought all
that stuff in Morvania with Nat gave you some perspective on it?"
"It has. But I'm not quite sure what to do when I bump into him. Literally,
in this case." Sylva sighed. "I know it was childish to drive off and leave
him standing, especially when I think he wanted to talk to me...but I didn't
know what else to do."
"Maybe you can't ever be friends again." Topaz suggested. "I know he upset
you pretty badly, Syl."
"I know that, too, but I wasn't upset to see him...it was just...awkward."
Sylva reflected. "Maybe you're right. I dunno. Either way I fudged the chance
to talk it out with him, so I guess I'm not quite ready for all of that yet."
"Trust me. Men are way overrated." Topaz rolled her eyes. "It's no loss
to be without one."
Sylva eyed her companion shrewdly. Then,
"You don't really feel like that, do you?" She asked quietly. Topaz sighed,
then shook her head.
"Damn right I don't." She agreed. "But I'm working on it. Nothing else
to be done about it."
She stifled a yawn.
"Guess I'm gonna put Hollie to bed, since she's fast asleep in my arms
here, and then I'm going to take a bath and curl up in bed with my script.
I'm not going to be accused of not knowing my lines, that's for sure."
"You go for it." Sylva grinned. "In fact, do you want me to put Hollie
down for you? You look all in."
"Thanks, Syl. I'd appreciate it." Topaz looked grateful, carefully handing
her precious bundle to her companion. "I'll see you in the morning, huh?"
"Yep." Sylva winked. "Sweet dreams, Topaz!"