Published by Montlake Romance
Exclusive Excerpt from “New York”, International Guy, Volume 1 by Audrey Carlan
“Tracey tells me you’re here to help me get my muse back. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve lost it, just that I’m not feeling right.”
She lifts the sandwich and stops at her mouth. “No.”
“You sufferin’ from the loss of someone or something?” I continue.
Surprisingly Skyler takes a monster bite of her sandwich, chews, and shakes her head.
“Then what do you think is wrong with you?” I ask, and bite into my own PB&J. The grape hits my tongue, mingling with the peanut butter in a superb way. It reminds me of home, listening to my mother read back my vocabulary words while I studied for a test back in elementary school. Good times. Simpler times.
Skyler shrugs. “Don’t know.”
“What do you know?” I throw out the question quickly so she can’t really think of her answer before responding automatically.
“I can’t act anymore. I’m twenty-five, and I’m going to become a has-been. I don’t know what I want out of life anymore. I just know it isn’t this.” She gestures to her body and around the room, but I get the feeling she isn’t talking about her house or her body. No, there’s something bigger happening.
“And what is this?” My nerves are prickling as my spidey sense picks up that this very well could be the crux of her problem. Body image, career strain—it has to be hard to be an actress, especially one at the top of her game.
The woman before me is not Skyler Paige, A-list actress, the sultry bombshell on the silver screen, the one who woos men with a glance, breaks hearts left and right across the tabloids, wears only the latest and greatest designers, and tosses money around like it grows on trees.
This woman is Skyler Lumpkin. A twenty-five-year-old, yoga pants– and hoodie-wearing, self-doubting, depressed woman. A lovely woman who is not only trapped in her lifestyle but inside her own persona. She looks scared, afraid, and utterly lost.
I’ve never met a woman who needed my help more.
“My life,” she says, as if she’s living a nightmare.
“Most would say you’re living a dream. The life of luxury. Men at your fingertips. Hollywood on your heels.”
“But it’s not me.” She runs her fingers through her beautiful blonde hair, tugs at the roots, and lets it fall. Of course, it falls perfectly into place.
“This life you live, the job you have, it’s part of you. I think it’s going to be my job to show you that you are so much more than a beautiful liar.”
“You think I’m a liar?” Her nose scrunches up in the cutest little cringe. It’s like watching a playful kitten get angry. Adorable.
“Aren’t all actresses? Maybe the problem is you’re tired of lying.” Her breath catches, and her eyes snap to mine. I know I’m on the right track. “That’s part of it. You’re tired of being Skyler Paige. Tell me, Skyler, how often do you get to be simple ol’ Skyler Lumpkin?”
Her eyes widen. “Did Tracey tell you my real name?”
“No, actually my assistant did. She’s kind of a hacking savant. Be that as it may, how many people know the real you, Skyler?”
She picks at her sandwich. “I don’t even think I know me anymore. How could anybody else?”
“I think it’s high time we find her.” The mic is dropped and waiting for her to pick it up.
She laughs dryly. “Oh yeah? And how do you think you’re going to be able to manage that?”
“For now, I think we need to get to know one another. Build trust. In order to do that, I’m prepared to share and answer any question you ask honestly, as long as I get to ask one in return.” I purse my lips and cock an eyebrow in challenge.
Her lips twitch, the first sign of happiness I’ve seen. Silently I consider this a small win. By the end of this experience, I hope to see a lot more than a tiny smile.
“Deal.” She takes a big bite of her sandwich and holds out her hand. I sample a bite of my own and grab her hand. Once again, the heat builds between us, and I squeeze her palm once and smile before letting her go.
“First question: Who’s the best kisser in the business?”