Chapter Six

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BANG!

RING!

BANG!

Those were the first sounds Tristan heard as he struggled to wake up. A hellish commotion of someone trying to break his front door down. It was a combination of battering-ram thuds and an intense doorbell assault. As he groggily came to his senses, Tristan wondered who had gotten past the security gate and thought they could pull such a loud B & E on him. It was at times like these Tristan wished he owned a gun. Unfortunately, he did not. The best he could do was open the door and curse out whoever was ballsy enough to do this at 7 AM.

Tristan's anger turned to confusion when he looked through the front door's peephole and saw the culprit. His agent, Doug, stood outside. Whatever his purpose in being here, his attack proved it wasn't a friendly visit. Bracing himself, Tristan opened up but didn't get the chance to invite Doug in. The agent barged past him into the house and promptly started screaming at Tristan.

"What is the matter with you, Tristan? Have you completely lost it? Not that I need to ask, based on what I've seen. What EVERYONE has seen."

"What are you talking about? And could you lower it about ten decibels?" Tristan said.

After his fall out with Angela and Ren's chastising, Tristan was officially done with temper tantrums and arguments. He refused to engage with Doug's bad mood. Deflecting, he went into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. Doug trailed after him, still steaming.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about. The catastrophe you caused on set yesterday."

"God, don't get started on me about that. I've had enough guilt trips to last a lifetime." Tristan began to drink his water, then paused. "Wait. How do you know about that? Did Ren call you?"

"Oh, I talked to Ren, but that's not how I found out."

At Tristan's blank stare, Doug ran his fingers through his thinning hair with exasperation.

"You honestly don't know?"

When Tristan shrugged, Doug started rambling in his pockets for his phone. He muttered to himself the whole time, surlily denouncing arrogant, nitwit movie stars. At last, he found his phone, pressed a few buttons, and held the device dangerously close to Tristan's face.

"I'm talking about THIS, you idiot!"

Before Tristan could say anything else, Doug pressed the play button on a video...and Tristan's worst nightmare became vividly real. There he was on camera yelling at Jada. She appeared like the poor victim as she shrunk away from him while he gesticulated wildly. And of course, the audio had to be crisp and clear. The viewer could hear every mean, nasty word he'd said to the girl.

"Oh god..." Tristan said, falling back into a kitchen chair. His stomach sunk. Watching the incident replay made him realize what a bastard he'd been. Everyone who used the world wide web would probably agree.

"I'm screwed, aren't I?" Tristan tried to say lightly, but he winced when Doug glared at him.

"Very much, I'm afraid." Doug sat down across from him. Now that he'd delivered the bad news, some of his angry mojo had subsided. He rested his head in his hands, winded from his dramatic entrance.

"Why, Tristan? Why did you scream at that poor girl like that?"

"I had my reasons. She's not as innocent as she looks, and—and..." Tristan deflated at his unquestionable defeat. He was the jerk and loser in this situation, no matter how he tried to swing it.

"I messed up. I get it."

"Do you, though? Between Angela and now this! Tristan, you keep this up and you'll be tanking fast with your fans—and with the execs. No one wants to deal with or support a divo."

"Can't I just apologize?"

Doug's responding "are you effing serious?" eyebrow raise proved that no, he could not. Tristan did an ashamed facepalm while trying to come up with a way out of what was sure to be a media debacle. The smear campaign would be epic. No doubt there were a dozen disparaging headlines out there this instant.

"You really didn't think this through," Doug went on. "You have your action film coming out in a few weeks. And if this damn rom-com doesn't go down in flames, you'll have that too. How are we going to market you as a hero if you come off as a bad guy in the press? How are we going to sell to fans that you can be a romantic lead when they see you treating women like this?"

"We could lie," Tristan blurted out. "We could lie and say I was rehearsing a scene. I think if I beg, Jada might—"

"If we made out like this was you rehearsing a scene, I've got to tell you: it looks like you went way off script," Doug said. "Besides, for all we know, Jada could have been the one that sent the video out."

Tristan frowned. He hadn't considered that possibility. Would Jada do something like that? She didn't seem the type. She was sweet and unassuming—or so Tristan had presumed before she'd ratted on him.

"Fine. What's your solution?" Tristan asked.

"We have to find a way for you to redeem yourself. Based on what Angela is bound to say and this incriminating video, you need to find a way to prove that you respect women. That you can be with one and treat her well."

"Are you saying I should pretend to be in a relationship with someone to clean up my image? To masquerade as a happily committed man? I'm sorry, but I don't see how that's going to fix the way things look between me and Jada."

"I know. Which is why I've realized you were on the right track earlier. If we beg with a big, old pretty please, Jada might help us. We just have to sweeten the deal for her somehow."

Tristan's eyes widened as he put the pieces together. The resulting image was horrifying.

"You want Jada to be my lucky, new girlfriend? How the hell are you going to swing that?!"

Doug proceeded to explain exactly how he planned to swing it, his big, master plan, and slowly...Tristan actually started to buy into it. He only hoped Jada would too.



**** You know we had to have a 90s rom com bet for things to come!


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