Pride, Prejudice, Stunts and a Tumor
After you read the first three chapters of THIS KISS (a Swoon Reads novel) you won't be able to stop!
Fr: Wes Spencer
Dude, that’s sick! (as you Americans say). Are you actually planning to stay on the boat for the entire shoot?! On MY boat, I may add. Sure, it has your name on it as well, but I’m the one who has to bring her. As far as I’m concerned, she’ll only be there for a swim or two, I’m not staying the entire month on a stinking boat, even if it is the L&H, not while working at least… But it’s your call, man. I know you hate living in a trailer since that unpleasant incident with that stalker chick, but anyway I hear that Tim’s gone nuts on this one.
Low budget, have you ever heard anything more vile?
Who DOES low budget films anymore and in a stupid Greek island on top of that?
I’m telling you I’m almost backing out of this one, only I really need this project for the
next year. They think it’s
going be one of those really funky, indie, deep ones. Damn Tim, he seems to be
their darling, although I don’t see how he could be anyone’s darling.
Self-important prick. Academy of Dramatic Art
Okay, enough with the venting.
I plan on arriving with the L&H at the
Corfu main port no later
than 5 pm on Tuesday next. Be there, or else.
Give my sincerest disgust to your lovely
bitch of a mum,
Christina. I’ll crash now. Tomorrow I’ll regret writing to you after a drinking
spree, but tonight I’m the king of the world! Not to mention king of the dystopian
pirates. And Mr. Darcy.
Sweet dreams my dear Bingley
To: Wes Spencer
Re: Re: L&H
If you say “my dear Bingley” one more time you’re dead dude. Just because we’re filming a modern version of some godforsaken English lit book by Austen, you don’t need to out yourself in front of girls and everybody. I’ll support your inner bookworm as long as it remains where it belongs, in the closet. If word gets around you’re a nerd, I’m done. I’m so done.
Get over yourself and get over here. The L&H had better be waiting for me in dock as soon as my plane touches down, ‘cause I’m not staying in that damn island for a second more than I have to. Best stay on international waters while we’re not shooting.
Has Tim finally snapped?
Low budget?! Dude, you don’t need this for RADA! You’re freaking Tristan from THE WATER WARS. Although I do see why a
Hollywood teen tv series
wouldn’t impress them so much, them being a bunch of stuck-up English theater
weirdos like you were before you met me.
It’s gonna be one month, tops.
You, me, Laurel and Hardy. And after that the world is ours.
Promise me that you’ll be sober when I see you next. I’m asking you as Bingley. Srsly, dude.
I faithfully remain Mr Darcy’s sidekick LMAO.
From: Wes Spencer
Re: Re: Re: L&H
Eff off Binge
Today is not the day I’m going to die.
I’m not even breaking a sweat as the road curves steeply upwards, and I continue to jog, my trainers slapping the cobbled stones in an even rhythm.
At the very top of the road I take a right, my mind at peace as I focus on my breathing and the flexing and unflexing of my leg muscles.
I repeat the phrase over and over to myself, like a mantra. I say it in every language I know, which is three, and turn it over in my head, until the words mean nothing, until their repeated rhythm soothes me.
Until I believe it.
At least I think I do.
It’s stupid really. Stupid and silly and totally useless. As though by merely thinking it I could keep disaster at bay -if it’s about to happen, that is. Normally it’s not about to happen. Not when I’m the one doing the stunt. I’m good and I know it.
Coach taught me the mantra, back when it had no meaning for me, at least it didn’t mean what it does now. It was just a few words strung together, nothing more. He said I should repeat it during especially dangerous and complicated stunts to calm and motivate myself. I told him that was bull and he drew his eyebrows together. So I said ok and started repeating it after him like he wanted.
The man has me wrapped around his little finger.
I reach the school in two minutes, just as the bell is ringing for recess. I don’t have to stand for more than a couple of seconds outside the huge, brass doors on the cobblestone street of the little town of Corfu before kids start flooding out of the school gates and dad jogs towards me, his hair a sweaty mess.
“Am I late?” he asks me, squinting against the midday sun.
“You’re filthy,” I answer as we take off towards the car.
He runs a hand through dark wavy hair that still make every woman in his vicinity swoon like a schoolgirl -not to mention the actual schoolgirls that imagine themselves madly in love with him every day. “I had class until…” he looks at his watch “about three seconds ago.”
“Why can’t you let them do their warm-ups alone?” I say, not for the first time. We’ve had this conversation before. “Two PE teachers passed me as I waited, and not one of them had a hair out of place. Why can’t you just yell orders and watch from afar like a normal person?”
Dad takes his serious face, but his eyes are laughing. “Cause I enjoy it,” he answers switching in English, as we cross Leoforos Alexandras. “’Sides, I need to be warmed up, the other PE’s don’t. All they’re gonna do is go home and sit in front of the tv.” He lifts his arms and cracks his elbows in a smooth, elastic movement, bringing them in front of his face. He sighs in satisfaction. “Are you ready, Ari?”
I look down at my tattered cut-offs matched with a simple dark blue tank top. To look at me, anyone would think that I was one of the leftover tourists from summer. Only my blue New Balance running shoes, worn-out and sturdy on my feet, hint at the athletic nature of my job.
“My swimming suit’s in the car,” I answer and bend my head back to look at the clear sky. No hint of any clouds yet. “You’ll tell me the truth, ok?” I ask my dad, as I slidebehind the steering wheel in my dad’s old Ford Fiesta, which he gave me as a questionable birthday present two months ago when I turned eighteen.
He immediately starts messing with the buttons, turning the air-conditioning on full blast and wiping his sweaty brow. I slap his hand away.
“My car, my rules,” I say, adjusting the seat to fit my height. I am not what you would call short, not by any chance, but still I am a bit shorter than my six-foot-one dad -although not by much.
“Oh, who are we kidding, Ari?” he says, his voice tired but playful. “We’re gonna wear this thing down if we keep passing this car between us. We can’t share a bathroom, much less a car! I think I’ll call your mum,” he mumbles, mostly to himself, after a small pause. “You’re a grownup now and a professional to boot, you need a car. That would be the adult thing to do.”
Although I had just pulled into the trickling, midday traffic, I slam on the breaks.
Dad turns surprised eyes to mine and my heart squeezes at his anxious expression. He quickly bends his head down, but he can’t conceal how he feels from me. I have lived with this struggle against his personal guilt for all my life.
“No,” I say simply.
He swallows and turns away.
And that’s that.
At least I hope it is.
We arrive at the beach about a half-hour later. That’s the beauty of living in an island. I love the feeling of being surrounded by water, even during the winter months, when the streets are mostly deserted and most of the shops in the great tourist markets close down. I don’t mind, however. This is my home.
Most years I am glad to see the noisy Italians, the huge families of Serbs, the rude Athenians and the drunk Russians get in their ridiculously overpriced SUV’s and board the ferry that leaves every half hour from the
. I love the quiet, the routine,
the space. I feel safe in my daily routine, which I’ve kept since I was little
with very small variations: school, then going to the gym, practicing my stunts
with dad and, in the last two years, with Coach as well. Working at grandpa’s
shop in the weekend and going out with girlfriends on Sunday evenings. port of Corfu
That’s all I need out of life, at least all I needed until a few months ago.
At the beginning of the summer my academic career at the Greek primary educational system ended when I graduated from high school and suddenly I had to face the very real dilemma of what I would do with her.
It always boils down to that, doesn’t it?
Well, not this time.
I snap my hair out of the tight scrunchie that kept it securely on a bun at the top of my head, and having already changed into my adidas swimming suit and flip flops in a little white changing cabin at the farthest corner of the tourist parking plot, I toss the car keys to my dad and run on the burning sand towards the water.
“Hey!” he calls, amused, behind me, “your car, your responsibility!”
As I dive in one swift movement into the clear water, behind me I hear the beep of the car doors being locked. Dad runs after me, calling my name in frustration, and I dip underneath the surface, blotting out all sound except the water in my ears.
I resurface just as the sea becomes really deep, its color darkening slightly under the sparkling rays of the September sun, and take a few deep breaths, only to discover that my dad, blast him, has almost overtaken me.
“Will you stop doing that?” I yell, frustrated.
He seems to hear me even though he was underwater, because he lifts a wet head next to mine. “What?” I splash him and we race each other towards the huge rock rising from the water far into the distance. He visibly holds back, and we arrive at the same time. “Ars, are you ok?”
“Just fine,” I gasp in return.
“You did warm-up, didn’t you?” his eyebrows meet and he lifts a hand to grasp the lower part of the rock that sticks out and hoist himself up. “You would have told me if you didn’t, and we’d do it now.”
To listen to him talk anyone would think that I was an irresponsible teenager, out for a cruise with her daddy, instead of a professional getting ready for her first gig on a low-budget film featuring the famous dystopian pirate Wes Spencer.
Which I totally am. Not a famous dystopian pirate. The other.
“We can’t all be like you,” I say through clenched teeth.
I’m not struggling to catch my breath, I say to myself.
Yeah, like that would work.
Dad waits until I’m ready for the climb, and turns around to stare at the impressive villa perched high atop the cliff that drops straight into the sea, right ahead of us.
Rumor has it that the illustrious film director, Tim Something, is planning to evict the family that owned the place, in order to use it in his new film, First Sentences. I see some kind of movement through the dark green windows, but it is too far high above me to see if it is indeed the film crew already at work or if its occupants have refused to leave it.
And suddenly it hits me.
I am so incredibly lucky to have this opportunity.
I mean, it’s like this film practically fell into my lap. Of course, I know that she arranged it all, but still, it is the greatest opportunity in the world. People like me don’t get breaks like this. And even with the coach she hired for me two years ago straight from Hollywood, and with all the interminable hours of practice -torture- that I put in, I know that there have to be hundreds of better-trained and well-connected stunt persons out there, far more eligible for this role.
You can’t blow this, Ari, I say sternly to myself.
Dad watches me from his perch with something like amusement in his eyes, as though he can sense the struggle within me.
“Shut your face,” I tell him and start climbing. For once, I beat him. I reach the top first, quick as a cat, and dive headfirst into the water. When I surface, he is still watching me from above.
“How was it?” I shout.
The rock is more than twenty meters high, and although the sea is absolutely calm right now, still he has to bend down to hear me.
“A bit slanted,” he shouts back. “I think your concentration was off.”
I am already climbing back up, my tangled hair dripping down my back, cooling my skin.
I take a deep breath and concentrate. I close my eyes and focus on listening to my heartbeat. At the last moment, I open my eyes and dive, my body a straight line, arms outstretched before my head, toes curled tightly so that there will be minimum splash.
“Perfect,” my dad whoops. “Again.”
The sun is in the middle of the sky.
It’s going to be a long day.
There was just my dad when I was a baby, and there has been ever since. He gave me his mother’s name, Ariadne, which I quickly abbreviated to Ari, especially when he tried to start teaching me to speak English before I had a chance to master my mother tongue, Greek. He later explained to me that English was my mother tongue as well, or at least my mother’s mother tongue, and that he felt I should be brought up with the choice of speaking it as well as Greek, should I want to.
Turns out I do want to.
As for her, well, I know little about her and care to learn even less. Not that it’s easy to forget about her, with her face showing up in every gossip magazine almost once a week. But anyway, that’s all I know about the woman. I’ve never met her, if we don’t count the one time I came out of her womb. If I met her even then, which I very much doubt.
I’ve lived on the island all my life, and not regretted one moment of it.
There is not a more precious place on earth than
with its fragrant olive branches and its brown cliffs that drop into sparkling
blue waters, with its narrow winding roads and its salmon-colored houses at the
The first time I see him he is climbing down from his obnoxious yacht.
I know yachts don’t have personalities, but this one certainly does. I mean, who names their boat ‘Laurel&Hardy’, for crying out loud?
Or L&H, as People magazine’s column calls it:
Kept very much under wraps, Tim Hall’s new project is said to be shooting as we speak in some unnamed island in the
Mediterranean, where one or two
of the stars will be arriving on Weston Spencer’s yacht, the L&H, named after celebrated
The working title has been announced as First Sentences, a play with words on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice’s original title, First Impressions, is a modern-day remake of the famous literary work.
Elle Burkes, the actress who is set to portray the modern-day Elizabeth Bennett next to Spencer’s Mr. Darcy, has been romantically linked with him in the past, mostly during the years of their costarring as Tristan and Kat in the TV series that made them both famous, THE WATER WARS, where Burke was playing Spencer’s love-interest in seasons 6 and 7. Though rumors as to whether these two lovebirds are still together differ, we did hear from a source that an engagement (?!) isn’t far off in the future for these two.
Yep, I read it.
I had to, Coach -smirking- said it was part of my training. How I kept from gagging I’ll never know, but now I am more than sufficiently up-to-date with who my fellow-actors will be. Although I’m pretty sure I won’t be acting in fellowship with any of them, because I’m not a real actress. I’m just the stunt girl.
My part is anything that is too dangerous, unpleasant or unnecessary for the real actors to do. Exciting, isn’t it? If it weren’t for the kickboxing and the climbing and snorkeling and diving and driving around in fast cars I would be the saddest person on earth.
But, instead I am the luckiest.
So let Wes Spencer climb out of his yacht with his white college sweater wrapped around his manly shoulders and his Ray-Banns balanced on top of his golden curls all he wants. Give me my rock any day over having to talk to him in front of a camera with a crowd of curious fans around.
I met the director and producer, too.
The famous Tim Something. He didn’t look as intimidating in person as he does on TV, but still, my knees were wobbly the whole time. He is just an eccentric, incredibly rich man, who loves his job, so he has all this energy emanating from him, like a live wire. He’s short and twitchy, a bit ordinary really, or he would be if it wasn’t for his clear-blue stare that can stop your heart if you’ve done something to annoy him.
He said we will try to fit in the stunt scenes along with the actual filming of the actors, because he doesn’t want the lighting of the water or the sky to change, which would make the scene appear unrealistic. He wants me there every day at six.
In the morning.
Now I get why he is so successful. The guy is a complete control freak. I suppose he has to be, if he wants his film to be ‘perfect’.
Then he took me aside and told me that his star, Elle Burke, doesn’t do water.
“I beg your pardon?” I said.
“I know,” he said. Then he shrugged. His thin, suntanned face, gleaming in the sunshine (he has no hair, like not even one) took on a what-can-you-do expression. “You’ll have to film all the water scenes for her. But don’t worry, Wes always does his own stunts. You’ll be with him, he’ll show you the ropes.”
Today will not be the day I die, I repeated silently to myself.
But it was too late.
I was doomed.
The next morning I find myself again at the Rock.
Officially, like on the map of
that the tourists buy, this beach is called Glyfada, and the tiny village
perched on top of the mountain that overlooks the bay with the beach in it is
Pelekas. But we just call it Rubble.
So the Rubble and I have been having a lot of alone time this past summer, and something tells me that we’ re going to have to get to know each other even more intimately.
The beach is empty as far as the eye can see, because it is still early in the morning and the few tourist stragglers of the season will not yet have woken up from last night’s parties. No yacht on the horizon either, which is also a plus, since I would prefer to do my training without an audience, drunk and indifferent though it may be.
I met them too, along with Tim Halls, yesterday -he was kind enough to try to introduce me. Wes Spencer looked right through me as if I wasn’t there and asked Tim in a bored voice where the nearest bar was. Elle Bourke, who is indeed stunning as far as looks go, smirked -and believe me, that is as far as her looks go, because immediately she looked like a weasel. And Oliver Sikks, Wes Spencer’s best friend, apparently, who will be playing Charlie Bingley in the film, gave me his hand and asked me to call him “Ollie” with a sunny smile.
I looked into his dreamy blue eyes and I was lost. He had a fop of dark hair hanging tantalizingly over one eye, and as he ran his hand through it to clear his vision, a muscle bulged on his arm and I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
He sent another heart-stopping smile in my direction and asked me to ‘join them’. I must have mumbled something intelligible, and then Tim brought over his stunt director and left us alone to chat.
I must have been beet-root red, my cheeks flaming, my hands trembling. The director looked less than impressed. Much less. Not that I blame him.
His name is Lee, and he has these slanted Asian eyes that make him look extremely hot, especially since he is also impossibly tall, towering a head and a half above me. His lips were pursed but he was calm, observing me silently. He must not have been very happy with what he saw, because he stood patiently next to me for a few seconds, and then, with an abrupt flick of his glossy black ponytail, he was gone.
How very Chinese action-film of him. He’s Korean, they told me afterwards. He’s brilliant, that what he is.
I googled him as soon as I got home, and my eyes almost bulged out of their sockets at what I found. Tim Something certainly didn’t skimp on the stunt director, let’s put it that way. He’s won everything but and Oscar, since they don’t nominate stunt people for them. He’s now in his early thirties, but he’s been working since his pre-teens, having performed some of the most famous stunts of all time.
That action movie with the blond guy who jumped on and off trains to rescue trafficked children? Yep, that was him. And the other with the water Olympics where an outbreak of some disease breaks out and they have to be isolated in the stadium? He’s in like every stunt in that movie, doing just about everything that can -and can’t- be done. Somersaulting, diving, swimming, holding his breath for ages below water to support the actors who didn’t know how to swim. The film practically shows more of him than of the star. And it won about a billion Oscars.
And now he’s a director.
No, he’s my director. The girl who’s lost her tongue after meeting the co-star- that’s who he met last night. And a few days from now we’ll have to start filming.
Anyway, thankfully none of them is here today -that can only be a good thing until I’m confident enough on my dive from the Rumble.
Bored with the warm-up, I turn on the volume of my iPod, because I know I have to finish it no matter what. Today’s not one of my best days. My muscles feel stiff and there is an annoying headache humming in my left temple -I wonder if it’s going to build into one of the blinding migraines I have been getting lately.
Not today, I yell at myself, get it together!
I climb up and plop myslef on the top of the sharp rocks to catch my breath. I lower my aching head in my hands. In the horizon the villa is almost at eye-level, and I notice for the first time the intricate hedge that conceals its huge terrace from the beach below. The doors and windows are all done in Grecian style, with little elegant columns, and the walls are painted a very light yellow, which gives to the whole place the appearance of perpetual sunshine.
Below me the sea is calm and blue, almost effusing peace. I lift my arms and fall, feet-first, the cold water burning my calves and thighs almost soothingly. Then I begin to crawl towards the open horizon with no intention of coming back until the coolness of the bluegreen waters has calmed me.
I am tired even before half an hour has passed.
I try to keep my strokes contained to preserve energy, and turn back towards the beach. A slight hint of panic starts at the pit of my stomach as I see that I can barely discern the outline of the shore.
Maybe that’s why I’m so tired? Did I go too fast, trying to outswim my frustration? I check my watch again and yes, that’s right, no more than thirty five minutes have passed.
OK, don’t panic, start treading water slowly and calmly, and you’ll get there. You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re doing good.
I try to conjure up Coach’s voice in my head, but my breath is coming short, and it’s all I can do to just float and try to catch my breath.
And then I see it.
I can’t believe I missed it, but apparently I was concentrating so hard on my movements that I did, and now it’s only a dozen strokes or so away.
It’s the boat. The stupid m&m or whatever it’scalled yacht. Great.
Man, it looks huge close up.
And it’s silver, not white like normal yachts. It seems endless, gleaming in the dull light as though it just came out of a box. I flop on my back and take a few strokes backwards, keeping it in my sight, and then I can see a few heads popping above the railings and that decides me for good.
“Mate, you’re gonna introduce me to every gaffer in this place?”
Wes Spencer’s words from our ‘introduction’ yesterday rings in my ears. Because looking through me and asking for the nearest ‘pub’ wasn’t enough for him. No, he had to humiliate me with his
accent in front of Tim and everyone. Oxford
Tim just laughed and told him not to be a word that I’m not sure what it means, but it can’t be good, and then Wes cursed him even more heavily and asked again about the pub. Which, if anything, proves he’s an idiot because he couldn’t even say the word ‘bar’, even though he’s been living in
ever since he
was eight years old. Hollywood
So, with his stupid, condescending, mocking voice in my head I turn around and swim as fast and hard as I can towards the shore.
You just need them for this, you just want to catch your break. Then you’ll never have to see them again.
I am concentrating so hard on giving myself a pep talk, that when my head ducks beneath the surface, I am taken by surprise. So much so that before I realized it, I’ve swallowed some water.
I try to lift my head above and take a deep breath, but another mouthful of water chokes me. A sharp pain shoots up from my leg and I double in two. My whole body stiffens in response to the cramp, and dark spots dance in front of my eyes.
In one huge effort, I push myself to the surface, gagging and gulping air at once. My heart beats crazily and I can’t catch my breath, and before I know it I’m sinking again. I fight with all my strength, but my brain is fuzzy with pain.
I surface again, and I force myself to move past the pain, past the cramp, to stay afloat. And then something sharp pierces my head, my headache reaching its peak, and I must blackout for a second, because the next minute I am choking on water and sinking in darkness with the surface nowhere to be seen.
Today is not the day I die, I think, dazed, as my lungs scream painfully for oxygen. Well, if it wasn’t today, it would have been tomorrow.
So I let myself sink.
Suddenly the water around me is filled with bubbles and a dark shape swims powerfully towards me. My lids have almost drifted closed, but I try to peer at the silhouette with one last effort.
Brilliant shining eyes, filled with panic, meet mine and a hand grasps my chin, lifting my face towards the surface. Hands encircle me, and I shoot upwards,while all the time I’m being shaken as though someone’s trying to wake me up. I would like to tell them, whoever it is, that it’s too late.
I can’t, of course. That’s what too late means.
Everything turns to black, and I feel myself slipping away from the hold of these strong arms that had grasped me, sinking downwards.
My dad will die when they tell him, is my last thought. Today is not the day… oh, never mind.
*end of free sample*
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