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Falling for America’s hottest hunk was unexpected.
Why am I the one being summoned to find Will Barnes?
Come on, just one of his many successful movies flopped so cry me a freaking river.
When I find him, I’m surprised he is a lot more interested in my theatre problems than his movie flop.
His big Hollywood people have other plans and I’m just in their way.
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Stick a fork in my career, cause it’s surely done.
The roar of the crowd outside of my limo sounded like an ocean ready to drown my ass.
Didn’t matter how many times I walked the red carpet—this shit was intense.
I had to psych myself up. Had to get in the zone.
Normally, walking the carpet wasn’t a big deal, but when your director decides to “try something new,” just run away. Give the money back. Tell them you quit.
“You ready, Mr. Barnes? I can’t stay parked here all day.”
“Don’t call me Mr. Barnes. You know I hate that. Fine, don’t stay parked. Let’s get the hell out of here. While we’re at it, let’s hit In-N-Out Burger. Milkshakes on me.”
“Sounds nice,” he said, matching my tone. “You and I haven’t had a date like that in a long time.”
Silence passed, and I could tell Carter knew why I was stalling.
“I wouldn’t be worried about it, Will, the movie got some bad reviews. What the hell do they know?”
“You read the same reviews I read? Bad is an understatement. Punching an old lady in the face would have been better for my career than making this film.”
He knew I was right.
“But the reviews weren’t talking about you.”
He cleared his throat as he reached over to the passenger seat, picking up a newspaper that had been lying there.
“‘Will Barnes brings his usual killer charisma, in all its square-jawed, Viking-muscled glory, to the role Quiksilver in this fourth iteration of the smash-hit superhero series,’” Carter said, reading from the paper.
“Keep reading. It gets better.”
Carter shot me an eat-shit-and-die look before continuing on.
“‘But problems arise with newcomer director Storm Thompson and his desire to treat the well-worn formula of the superhero film as a canvas for experimentation and expectation-subversion. The experiment, I regret to report, was stillborn in the lab.’”
“That’s it. I could feel my career actually dying as you were reading.”
“Listen, Mr. Negative, they’re not talking about you. They’re talking about this Storm guy.”
“But I’m part of the project,” I said, still trying to ignore the crowd outside the limo. “If it gets received as badly as these reviews, then your boy’s going down with the ship.”
Carter’s silence told me all I needed to know. He knew I was right.
“Listen,” he said. “I’m sure it’ll be fi—”
He didn’t get a chance to finish. A tap-tap-tap at the limo window sounded out, cutting him off mid-word. I turned in the direction of the noise and was met with the last face I wanted to see at that moment—my agent, Marla May.
She was done up in her usual glamorous style, a grande-dame look that always seemed at odds with her thirty-some-odd years. Her dark eyes were wide in frustrated eagerness, blue eyeshadow flared out around them. Her lips were ruby-red, her coal-black hair in her usual Wintour-esque bob. And even from the small bit of her dress visible through the window, I could tell it was expensive, likely custom-made.
Marla didn’t say anything, instead throwing her hands up in an “are you kidding me?” gesture.
“All right,” I said. “Looks like putting-it-off time’s over.”
“Good luck,” said Carter. “And I’m gonna hold you to those milkshakes.”
He flashed me a grin as I grabbed the door handle and gave it a pull. Here goes nothing.
The roar of the press hit me as I opened my door. They were packed in on both sides of the red carpet at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, with their digital camera lights flashing and their volume picking up as they realized I was finally getting out of the limo. And Marla didn’t waste any time laying into me.
“What the hell were you doing in there?” she asked, plastering a smile on her face that was totally at odds with her tone. “Playing fucking Candy Crush?”
“What is this, 2013?” I asked. “Who still plays Candy Crush?”
“You know what I mean,” she said as the two of us turned toward the entrance of the theater. “Sitting in the limo like that and backing up traffic.”
“Just had to gather my thoughts,” I said. “Big night, you know?”
“‘Right,” she said. “And it’s already got enough bad press. Last thing we need is buzz about the star acting like a weirdo. I’m already not a fan of this—” She gestured vaguely to the air next to me, and I knew right away what she meant. “Showing up to a premiere like this with no date. It’s weird.”
“Just didn’t feel like going through the hassle.” I stepped casually down the red carpet. “Wanted to make this a low-key kind of thing.”
“You want low-key, then take a sabbatical and hole up in your mansion,” she said. “The mansion that the parts I’ve gotten for you have paid for, by the way. This is a freaking blockbuster premiere—I want everything nice and normal so the crowds know that this is a nice and normal smash-hit, billion-plus flick.”