Chapter 1

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My lips tingled as I gazed up into those illustrious eyes.

It hurt to be so near. His chiseled jaw, solid like stone on screen, but slightly softened in reality, flexed in irritation. Don't even get me started on his lips. That smirk, like a punch to the gut I can barely breathe.

I hold my breath and close my eyes, willing Grant Trenton to dissolve.

"Miss Beaumont? We are waiting," Professor Dunhill is tapping his foot on the stage floor.

My eyes snap open and shift between the professor and Grant, both glaring at me. Well, the professor is scowling, but Grant's emerald eyes appear glazed, I presume bored. It's as if he believes we are all talentless hacks and is doing someone a favor by being here. I once overheard him on his cell after class complaining about the course. Though I couldn't hear his words, his tone was all too clear. Full of hostility as he waved his hands about the class.

I don't really blame him. Why would Hollywood's next big star take acting classes at a small liberal-arts college? Jackstone College may not be an Ivy League school but it does have one of the top rated theater departments in the country, but still. I read a recent Hollywood blog post about young talent, touting him as talent worth watching.

Warily, I stand, and the theater seat slams up with a shriek that echoes in the otherwise deathly silent auditorium. I hear a few murmurs, and a rainbow of emotions in my classmates' faces: shock, envy, fear, amusement, pity. Mostly pity.

As excited as they were to have a movie star in class at the beginning of the semester, it only took a few short weeks for them to change their mind. We all learned too quickly of Grant's famous temper.

My feet are leaden as I edge out of my row and make my way up to the stage. I keep my head down, wanting no more of the parade of human emotion in the audience.

"For this next assignment we will pair up. Each of you will be expected to do an assigned scene from my play, The Red Thorny Rose. It was a finalist for the EPI award five years ago." Dunhill addresses the class as I sidle next to him on stage.

I frown forcing my eyes not to roll back into my head. He's told us about the award so many times. I took Acting for Majors Level One last year with Dunhill and lost count how much he told us about being a finalist for that award.

"Grant and Mirabella will be assigned the scene where the hero, Jason, discovers his wife, Alexa, has cheated on him. It is a heavy scene, but I feel Mirabella and, especially, Grant, can make it work." I raise my head as Dunhill's hand lands on my shoulder.

The glare from the stage lights don't seem bright enough to bleach away Dunhill, Grant, and most of all, this moment. As Dunhill takes my wrist, I feel detached until the moment I touch Grant.

"I bring these two together so they may do me the honor of bringing my characters to life," Dunhill pushes my hand into Grant's and I can't tell if he's just married us in some ritual he invented, or crowning us his champions. Little of both, I fear.

A rush of breath escapes my lungs as electric heat slinks up from where Grant's hand encompasses my own. The sensation so different, unnerving, my eyes instinctively seek his out. When I do, they aren't impatient, but wide, holding me captive.

But in the time it takes me to wonder if he felt it too, he blinks, turns back front and drops my hand.

That intense feeling, the hairs on my arm being pulled toward him, completely imagined. Maybe lack of sleep, or perhaps because I skipped breakfast, my brain feels things that are not there. How could I think that a man who is more likely to scream like a caged beast than give a soft touch would create heat just from his fingers?

"Grant. Mirabella." Dunhill turns to both of us, "You may spend the rest of the class backstage in the costume room to go over your lines and decide when to rehearse over the coming weeks. You will both perform the scene in eight weeks for your final performance. Feel free to ask me questions in regards to the play and final performance, but you two will be on your own to bring my work to life." Then he gave us each a small push, turned back to the class and called another pair of names.

I stumble slightly, but am quickly enveloped by a forest in autumn, and my head thumps into Grant's chest, as if it landed on a mossy stone in that forest. His scent is cool, yet somehow warms my soul, like a campfire by a stream at night. I involuntarily relax and groan ever so slightly.

Grant stiffened and looked down at me puzzled. I smiled apologetically, if not weakly, up at him through the curtain of my thick brown hair. Then I feel the rope of his arm tighten behind my back, as he gently put me on my feet, with the care someone might adjust a chair under a table. I am wordless, so I wait for him to say something.

He didn't.

The next pair of students are nervously coming on stage, ignoring us in the panic of their own assignments. Grant turned and walked off, shoving the photocopied scene into the back pocket of his jeans. I numbly studied the way those jeans hugged his hips flawlessly, as if they were tailor-made. Then I realized as I followed him off, that they probably were.  

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