Chapter Eleven

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Countless photographers and a crowd of onlookers stood behind black velvet ropes and metal guardrails that lined an entire block of Hollywood Boulevard. They waited for the award nominees and celebrity presenters to make their way down the red carpet, and to pose for photos in front of the step-and-repeat. From where she stood with Cory, Emily could see flashbulbs coming from either side of the red carpet. A videographer with a camera on his shoulder followed a svelte, sharply-dressed woman who held a microphone in one of her perfectly manicured hands.

"Welcome to the red carpet," Cory said, squeezing Emily's fingers. "Are you ready for this?"

"Are they going to interview you?" Emily asked, holding his hand a little tighter. While she was growing used to seeing her photo on celebrity gossip sites, she had yet to speak to anyone in the media directly. She was pretty sure that even if she had, nothing would have fully prepared her for the scene that was in front of her.

"Don't worry." Cory laughed. "This is friendly fire. All they want are smiles and sound bytes for the six o'clock news and some of the entertainment shows. At most, you'll have to say 'hello' into a microphone." He looked up and pulled at her hand. "It's go time."

He led her down the red carpet. Cheers erupted from the crowd behind the security gates. Emily felt her heart begin to pound, knowing all eyes were on them.

"They love you," Cory murmured into her ear. He waved at the crowd.

They paused in front of the step-and-repeat. The woman with the microphone Emily had seen just a minute ago walked toward them, followed closely by the videographer. The woman extended her hand to Cory when she reached them.

"Lori Summers from Tinseltown Buzz," she said, shaking his hand.

"Good to meet you," he replied.

Lori raised the microphone to her lips and began speaking in the bright, bubbly voice Emily associated with entertainment shows. "And just arrived is one of tonight's presenters, Cory Sampson from Blistering Twilight. How are you tonight, Cory?" She thrust the microphone in front of him.

"I'm doing well, Lori," he said.

"And this must be Emily?" she asked. Emily wondered if Lori expected a response from her, but saw the microphone was still being held out to Cory.

He gave the camera a charming grin. "This is Emily," he said, leaning over to kiss the top of her head. "I'm excited to introduce her to the world."

"You're presenting for favorite female actor, aren't you?" Lori asked.

"I am. It's a great group of nominees."

"Who do you think will be the kids' favorite?"

"It's a tough call. I guess we'll have to wait and find out."

"Thanks, Cory." Lori brought the microphone back down to her side. She and the videographer moved on to someone behind them.

Cory and Emily took a few more steps before they were stopped by shouts coming from near the security gates. "Cory! Emily! Look this way, please!"

Cory leaned in toward Emily, close enough so no one could hear what he was saying. "We can bail on this in a few minutes and go inside."

He paused for a moment, staring at something farther down on the red carpet. Emily turned her head to see what he was looking at.

"Cady!" she heard somebody shout.

She watched a tall young woman with dark cascades of hair wave to the crowd. That must be Cady Sugarman, she thought.

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