I started this book last year, but life got in the way, and I couldn’t work on it again until last summer so here it is! Read on to learn more about this delightful Christmas romance.
Meet Quint and Chrystelle
Everything in his life is planned. How’d she get on his agenda?
Quint Fairchild, head of Fairchild Films, learned long ago that in Hollywood everything’s make believe, including love. So why can’t he resist the small town innocence of struggling scriptwriter Chrystelle Bach? She’s entirely too fascinating, but he can convince himself he doesn’t want her⸻he wants her script.
Chrystelle wishes she could spend Christmas with her beloved grandmother in her Colorado hometown. Then Quint offers her a contract to produce her TV series. She almost believes this is the best Christmas ever⸻until she reads the contract. He doesn’t just want rewrites, he wants her to change everything. The battle begins, but when Chrystelle’s grandmother takes ill, Chrystelle knows where she belongs and hops the next bus home.
What she hadn’t expected was Quint on her front porch, and not to wish her a Merry Christmas. He wants her script⸻on his terms, of course. Their conflict continues, but the more time Chrystelle spends with this stubborn billionaire, the harder it is for her to remember why she can’t change her script. But sprinkle this battle with grandmotherly wisdom and holiday charm, and the season of blessings reveals love in more ways than Chrystelle and Quint ever imagined.
The Billionaire’s Christmas Gift
The sun hadn’t risen when Chrystelle Bach drove the limousine down the Beverly Hills street lined with towering palm trees. For the two and a half years she’d lived in Hollywood, she’d never get used to palm trees decorated with Christmas lights.
She’d spent the last two Christmases away from home, away from Gwilliam Park, Colorado. Away from family and friends preparing for the holiday that warmed her heart. She scraped her teeth over her lower lip. Though she called home every week, she was too busy working three jobs to long for the small town she never thought she’d leave.
Except at Christmas.
If she hadn’t wanted to be a scriptwriter, she’d still be living in the quaint mountain town, singing Christmas carols, drinking cocoa and meeting friends at the local shops and restaurants.
The cold fingers of disappointment closed around her heart. There wasn’t much Christmas spirit in Hollywood.
If she stayed busy, she’d make it through the holidays without getting homesick. She and her roommates had become family and planned to spend Christmas morning exchanging gifts and making French toast, before they rushed off to their waitress or chauffeur jobs.
Raw and exhausted, Chrystelle stifled a yawn. She’d driven for the limousine service for the past ten days. Every night, she tended bar until two o’clock in the morning, including this morning. She had planned to sleep late, but Mr. Lowery, owner of the limousine service, had called when her head hit the pillow. He was desperate to find a driver for Quinton Fairchild, chief executive of Fairchild Films.
Quint Fairchild would have his own private chauffeur, but for whatever reason he needed a driver and she wouldn’t say no. He headed the most powerful studio in the industry, and she had the perfect script to pitch him. All she needed was a chance.
She turned the steering wheel and stopped at the end of the driveway leading to Quint Fairchild’s mansion. Her mouth fell open. Before her stood a gate that looked like the entrance to Middle-earth. The ten cameras anchored to the top of the burnished metal locked onto her every move.
She’d seen Quint once at a screenwriting conference. He seemed like a nice guy—a nice guy who lived in a fortressed Beverly Hills mansion.
A prickle of fear crept along her spine. Like the other drivers at the limousine service, she knew this job would give her access to Hollywood bigwigs. Maybe one would recognize her writing talent.
Dream on, her friends in Gwilliam Park, Colorado, had told her. Everyone in Hollywood has dreams of success.
She’d ignored the naysayers and hopped a bus to Hollywood. Some people made it. She could be one of those.
Her desire to be a screenwriter burned within her and motivated her even on the toughest of days, but today she was a chauffeur and here to drive Mr. Fairchild to his studio. If she had the chance, she’d pitch her best script. During the screenwriting conference, he’d said he was always looking for scripts, even from unknowns. He never knew when he’d strike gold.
Hope rippled through her. That gold could be the script sitting in the portfolio on the seat next to her.
Lifting her head to see past the brim of her chauffeur cap, she pressed the intercom button. “Lowery Limousine Service here for Mr. Fairchild,” she said and recited the security code.
At least her voice sounded normal. She hadn’t been this edgy since she’d pitched her latest screenplay to Steven Spielberg in an elevator at The Palacio Hotel. Of course, he called security. They threw her out.
Wherever she went, she took at least one of her screenplays with her, and showed them to every studio executive she met. So far, no one had been interested in her scripts, but this was Hollywood, and she believed in happy endings. All her scripts had happy endings.
The gate floated open. Her chest swelled. This could be her moment. When the right time came, she’d hand Mr. Fairchild her script … and hope he’d be happy to read it as he’d stated at the screenwriting conference.
Wrapping her fingers around the steering wheel, Chrystelle drove through the gate and along the tree-lined drive to the porte cochère. Her heart pounded like the drumline in a marching band.
She took a calming breath. Her hands trembled slightly, and she winced. If she was nervous, he’d notice immediately and wonder why the service sent an inexperienced driver, or worse, complain to Mr. Lowery. She’d be calm. She’d be cool. Stepping from the vehicle, she repeated the sentiments to herself like a mantra and smoothed a hand over the black suit that fit her like a rented wedding tuxedo. She opened the rear door.
Quint Fairchild burst through the studded entrance doors. His powerful build was covered in a button-down shirt and tailored slacks, and his square jaw was chiseled enough to cut glass. He fastened his cuffs as he drummed down the granite steps. Racing after him was a thin man in a gray suit juggling portfolios, a briefcase and a laptop sleeve.
Chrystelle froze and stared at the man charging toward her. The one time she saw Quint Fairchild had been at a distance. She wasn’t prepared for this Apollo-like creature whose sandy hair curled over his collar and whose blue eyes blazed. At thirty, he was the youngest chief executive officer of a major Hollywood studio. And one of the most eligible bachelors on the planet, not that he’d be interested in her.
Her heart gave one hard thud.
The man in the gray suit slowed his pace and a furrow deepened between his brows when he stared at the limo. He shifted a narrow gaze to Chrystelle.
Her blood went cold. Had she done something wrong? With a slight shake of his head, he opened the front passenger door and placed the portfolios, laptop and briefcase on the seat. The portfolio cases were similar to hers except hers had a bent corner and was much less expensive than the ones the man had carried. She couldn’t afford pricier cases, but the advisors at the screenwriters’ conference said all serious writers used them. She was a serious writer, so she purchased several, though it had required creative budgeting that month.
“What’s your name?” Quint Fairchild’s deep voice dragged her gaze away from the man in the gray suit. Quint’s eyes flashed with an intensity that sent a tumble of confusing emotions through her chest.
“Chrystelle Bach, sir.” She looked into brilliant blue eyes that rested on her in a particularly disconcerting way. She felt sick to her stomach. No fare had ever asked Chrystelle her name. This couldn’t be a good sign.
“Well, Miss Chrystelle Bach, perhaps you’d care to explain why you’re not driving the SUV I requested.” His voice was pleasant as if he were discussing the weather, but his gaze could freeze fire.
The death grip of fear sank its claws into her chest. Mr. Lowery had insisted she drive this sedan. Had he forgotten Mr. Fairchild ordered an SUV? She could understand why Quint would want an SUV. He was well over six feet tall. For someone his height, it was easier to climb in and out of an SUV.
“I’m sorry, sir.” She swallowed a yelp and stepped back to give him room to enter the limousine. She wouldn’t offer an excuse, but she couldn’t hide the disappointment dropping over her. Would driving the wrong car cost her the chance to give him her script? Even though the opportunity seemed to diminish, she had to try.
“There’s no need for you to apologize. I don’t blame you.” One side of Quint’s mouth tipped upward, but there was no humor in his eyes.
“Thank you, sir.” Maybe she wouldn’t show him her writing. This golden opportunity was off to a bad start.
He climbed inside. When she shut the door, she saw the man in the gray suit was still standing by the limousine.
“Ms. Bach.” The man’s smile was friendly though tight. “My name is Miles. I’m Mr. Fairchild’s personal assistant for his home. I’ve placed portfolios, his laptop and his briefcase on the front seat. Mr. Fairchild may request that you hand him a portfolio for him to study during the drive. They’re all in a specific order. If he requests a portfolio, hand him the one on top.” He lifted a brow.
“The one on top. Thank you, Miles. I’ll be sure to hand him the correct portfolio.” She glanced at the neatly arranged stack on the bench seat.
Miles stared at her a moment longer, his brow lifting higher as if unsure she understood his instructions.
“The one on top,” she repeated.
She hurried around the car to the driver’s side. Her hands gripping the steering wheel, she guided the limo down the drive lane. The privacy partition was closed but Quint’s deep, smooth voice carried through the glass. His tone rose. The phrases a period piece and hook the viewers with a series, followed by we’ll audition unknowns floated through the divider.
Period piece. What did he mean by that? In her portfolio was a pilot script for a series set during the turn of the last century. She’d based the character on her great-great-grandmother who’d left her privileged life in New York to teach in Gwilliam Park. Chrystelle had already filmed the first episode starring her cousin, who was definitely an unknown. She squeezed the steering wheel. This could be the script he had in mind.
Quint Fairchild was known for his wholesome television series and movies. She couldn’t squander this opportunity. Her heart beat a little faster. She may never have another chance.
As she drove around the fountain, Quint’s belongings slid across the seat and her portfolio tumbled over his. She glanced at the mess, and a bubble of panic popped in her throat. She took a deep breath.
Though the cases were similar, hers would be instantly recognizable with its bent corner. The clutter wasn’t life-threatening. She could fix this. If Quint didn’t ask for one of his cases, he’d never know. Once they arrived at the studio, she’d sort through the stack and make sure she gave him his portfolios. Not that he would be the one carrying them. Clearly he had assistants for that kind of thing.
“Miss Bach?” Quint’s voice sounded through the intercom.
Waves of heat washed through her. He remembered her name, and he didn’t sound angry. Maybe she still had a chance to give him her script.
“Yes, sir?” Her voice squeaked. She winced and waited.
“Hand me the top portfolio Miles gave you.”
She glanced at the chaotic mess scrunched against the passenger door. Some items had tumbled to the floor and slid halfway beneath the seat. From this angle, it was impossible to identify her portfolio case.
“You want it now?” Her voice climbed an octave.
Impatience pulsed through the hesitant beat. “That would be preferable. I have a few moments before my next conference call.” There was steel in his voice. No doubt he didn’t like being questioned.
She had to stall, but what she was about to say might send him through the limousine’s roof.
“I have to apologize, sir, but I overheard parts of your phone conversation.” Now she’d done it. Her stomach twisted into a hard knot. Never had she been this bold, but how else could she get someone to read her scripts?
Stony silence rang through the limousine. “You do realize I could have you fired for eavesdropping.” He spoke in a glacial tone.
A sharp pang shot through her. She needed this job, but she couldn’t stop now. “I understand, sir, but I attended your speech at the most recent Hollywood Screenwriters Conference, and you did say you were open to scripts from unknowns.”
“So I did.” He gave a humorless laugh. Was that a line he said at all conferences and never expected anyone to take seriously? “When your script’s ready, contact my assistant, Bernice. She’ll tell you how to submit it.”
“It’s ready now, sir. I have it here.” Who was this brash person talking? Never had Chrystelle been so insistent, but she knew this script would be perfect based on the phone conversation she’d overheard. She glanced at the muddle of portfolios teetering on the edge of the seat and spotted a bent corner peeking out from the stack. “It’s a period piece, the pilot to a series, and I’ve taped the first episode with my cousin, who is an unknown, as the main character.” She separated her portfolio from the rest before merging onto the interstate.
Chrystelle wove in and out of traffic on the Hollywood Freeway. Keeping her eyes on the road, she lowered the divide and passed the portfolio through the opening.
“You expect me—”
“I don’t mean to interrupt, sir.” She could barely hear her own voice through the blood rushing through her eardrums. “I’m not expecting anything, but you did say you had a few moments before your next call. You’ll know before you’ve finished reading the first page if it’s worthy of Fairchild Films.” If he didn’t, she’d prove it was.
“You are persistent.” Quint laughed low.
“Not normally, sir, but I’ve seen every film and series your studio’s produced. My script fits with the theme.”
As he accepted the portfolio, his hand grazed hers. It wasn’t smooth and soft, as she would expect for a Hollywood executive. Strength emanated through his hardened skin. Strength she wanted to wrap herself in.
The portfolio lifted from her grasp. The partition slid back into place. Would he read her script or throw it aside? He’d accepted it. At least, he was curious.
His now familiar deep voice cut through the silence that pressed against her. The tension in her chest eased, but only a fraction. He’d taken another call.
Chrystelle wished he’d get off the phone and tell her what he thought of her script. She might get lucky. This could be the idea he wanted. He’d hire her to write the series. Her name would appear in the opening credits. She’d walk the red carpet with Hollywood A-listers. She’d be photographed and interviewed. Producers would call day and night begging her to write for them.
Reality swooped in as a truck’s horn sounded in the lane next to her. Quint Fairchild, hire her as a writer for his company? She’d be lucky to keep this chauffeuring job.
She exited the freeway and traveled down Sunset Boulevard to Fairchild Films. At the main gate, she gave her name to the guard and pulled out her ID for review. His gaze wavered between her and a list of names appearing on his tablet. Finally convinced she had authorization to be there, he waved her through. The map on her console’s GPS guided her to the studio’s executive offices.
Quint’s voice quieted from behind the partition as she slowed to a stop and parked the limo. She gritted her teeth and waited for the tinted glass divider to open.
One minute passed.
Please lower the window and tell me what you think.
The partition opened, but Mr. Fairchild remained quiet.
Chrystelle glanced in the rearview mirror. Quint was looking out the window. His straight nose, coupled with the rigid line of his square jaw, made him seem more like a movie star than a behind-the-scenes Hollywood executive. He was the embodiment of authority and masculine grace, and she wondered how many women were lining up to be Mrs. Quinton Fairchild. He must be a private person because she’d never heard anything about the women in his life.
She hopped out and opened the rear door, then waited for the two words that would turn her bones to water—you’re fired!
“Please accept my sincerest apologies, sir.” She looked at the ground. She didn’t want to see how angry she’d made him.
“Apologies for what?” He sounded confused.
She lifted her gaze to his. A frown slashed between his smooth brows.
“For being bold enough to give you my script.” She felt the blood drain from her face. “It was never my intention to eavesdrop, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I moved to Los Angeles, it’s to be prepared for anything. I wanted to be prepared for an opportunity to show my script to someone.” She was talking too fast and saying too much, but she couldn’t stop. This was her chance. If it ruined her shot in Hollywood, she’d leave, but at least she could say she tried. “You produce TV series and movies that are heartwarming, and I believe this script is something that you’d produce. I understand my impropriety will ban me from this studio and Hollywood forever.”
“Banned from Hollywood forever?” He chuckled. “That’s a little extreme.”
His laugh was low and inviting in that Hollywood silver-screen way.
She swallowed hard and filled her lungs before she could speak and sound half normal. “If you could forgive my boldness, I promise you’ll never see me again.”
“We’re not talking the Middle Ages.” His eyes shadowed. “We still live in a country where we’re free to go wherever we please whether you’re a Hollywood producer or a writer trying to break into the industry. I won’t ban you from the studio. I didn’t have to accept your script.”
“But you did and for that I’m eternally grateful.” Her knees weakened and she locked them to keep from collapsing in front of him. “I can help you carry your things to your office.”
“My staff will see to everything.”
At that moment, the doors to the office building opened and a team of gray-suited young men and women exited the building and streamed down the steps like dancers in a musical. Their smiles bright, they greeted Quint before forming a semicircle around the limousine. A man who looked barely old enough to shave opened the front passenger door and scooped the portfolios from the floor, along with Quint’s briefcase and laptop. The young man handed them to the team members and shut the door. With precision choreography, the group turned and filed into the building.
“If there’s nothing else, sir, I thank you for your time.” Chrystelle grimaced at the tremble in her voice. “I wish you a pleasant day. If you’d be so kind as to return my script to me, I’ll leave the premises.”
“Do you have another fare?” he asked.
Another fare! Why would he care about that?
“I’m not sure, sir. I have to check with dispatch.” She spoke hesitantly. Senseless fear seized her.
“Do that now. I’ll wait.”
He would stand here in this cool December breeze and wait while she checked for another fare? She wasn’t about to ask why. She’d already caused enough problems.
“I’ll just be a moment, sir,” she said.
Pulling her phone from her pocket, she glanced at the screen. The limousine service app glowed, indicating that if she called in the next two minutes, they’d schedule her to drive another Hollywood executive to another studio.
“I have another fare, sir. I’ll be on my way.” She closed her hand over her phone. It didn’t seem like a bad thing that Quint wanted to know if she had another fare. It just made absolutely no sense.
“Call dispatch,” he said.
Her insides melted. This was it. He was going to demand the limousine service fire her, and they would. Mr. Lowery believed in keeping the customer happy. “Could you spare me the humiliation and just let me quit?”
“You think I want to humiliate you?” Confusion clouded his eyes. His mouth, sensuous and strong, quirked as if he expected a punch line.
“Granted, it’s justified. I know I messed up and should be fired.” She looked at the concrete sidewalk emblazoned with the Fairchild Films logo. She couldn’t look at him, mainly because of the perplexing emotions that rushed through her when she did, but also from the shame filling her due to her boldness.
“You think you deserve to be fired?” He shook his head as if trying to understand what she’d said. “Get dispatch on the phone.” He looked ready to do battle. “I’ll take it from there.”
Of course, he would. Why stop at firing her?
Stupidly, she dialed the limousine service. She could’ve refused but someone as powerful as Quinton Fairchild could make sure no one on the planet hired her.
“Hello, Elsa? This is Chrystelle. Yes, I’m fine but that isn’t why I called. Can you get Mr. Lowery on the line, please? It’s kind of important.” Her gaze flicked to Quint. “It’s Quinton Fairchild important.” The background noise of the reception desk went dead as she was put on hold. Fear spread like ice water through Chrystelle’s veins.
“Yeah?” Mr. Lowery’s voice boomed through the earpiece. “What do you want? You better not be ruining my reputation with the Hollywood elite. I worked hard to be the limousine service to the stars.”
She went cold. She wanted to ask him why he’d assigned her a sedan rather than the SUV Quint had ordered, but that could wait. “But—”
“And that’s another thing,” Mr. Lowery’s voice barked through the phone. “I should’ve known better than to hire some greenhorn from a Podunk town in Kansas.”
“Colorado.” Chrystelle’s voice was a whisper. “And it isn’t Podunk. It’s beautiful.”
“May I?” Quint said and extended his hand to her.
“He’s in a bad mood,” she said. Thanks to her. Her jaw tight, she laid the phone in Quint’s hand. This time, she avoided making physical contact. She didn’t trust her emotions if she and Quint touched again. And she cared why? This man was about to destroy her life.
“Bad moods are my specialty.” Quint winked at her.
That gave her a start. Was this a game he was playing with her life?
Turning away, he pressed the phone to his ear. “Mr. Lowery, Quinton Fairchild here. I’m fine, thank you. I hope you are as well, but I’ll get to the point. I want to commend you on the excellent hire of your employee Chrystelle Bach.”
Chrystelle’s pulse rocketed. What joke was this? Were cameras floating in the sky and filming this insane scene? She’d just given a top Hollywood executive the worst ride in limousine history, and now he praised her to a boss who would pitch her into the ocean if he saw her again.
Quint and Mr. Lowery spoke less than a minute, but the pounding in Chrystelle’s head blocked their conversation.
“It’s finished.” Quint handed her the phone. His broad smile revealed perfectly even, white teeth.
“My life?” Everything she ever wanted, to be a Hollywood scriptwriter, had been shredded and tossed into the wind for taking a chance.
“Your life?” He narrowed his eyes. Clearly, he doubted her sanity. “Your job.”
“Mr. Lowery agreed to hold your fares …”
She didn’t hear the rest, because now she understood. Mr. Fairchild was going to ruin her career. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to face whatever consequences Mr. Lowery has prepared for me.” Maybe he didn’t wield the same power as Quint, but he could still destroy her life. “If you’ll give me my script—”
“First, we’ll have a meeting, then you can have your script.”
Fear rose inside her. “Why are we having a meeting?” Her toneless voice seemed to float somewhere outside her body.
“Come now, Miss Bach. This is what you’ve been working toward. How many producers and agents have you pitched this script to?”
“Dozens.” More like hundreds, but who was counting … besides her? And how many offices and hotels had she been thrown out of? Too many to count.
“That’s probably on the low side.” The corners of his mouth softened.
In that moment, he didn’t look like an influential producer capable of ruining people’s lives. Disturbing heat at that thought pumped through her. He looked human … and nice, almost like he could be someone’s friend.
She hiccupped. He couldn’t be her friend. He was too powerful.
“Your goal since coming to Hollywood has been to get this script into the hands of someone who could produce it,” Quint said. “You’ve done that. You put the script into my hands.”
“Only because I thought …” Her voice trailed off.
“Let’s go to my office.” His fingers skimmed her elbow.
“Why?” The surge of heat storming through her scooped air from her lungs, and she froze. Her mind dug through what Quint had said and searched for understanding but found none.
“To discuss your script.” He looked at her, surprised. “Do you have an agent?”
“Not yet.” She twisted the corner of her mouth. That seemed almost harder than selling a script.
“Let’s talk. If we reach an agreement, I’ll contact a friend who’ll represent you. We can discuss this indoors, where it’s warmer.” He tipped his head toward the front steps, indicating she should precede him.
“What about the limo? I can’t leave it here. Mr. Lowery already thinks I’ve done something bad.” Her gaze shifted from the limo to Quint.
“I’ll make sure someone takes good care of your car.”
“But I’m supposed to be driving people around. Mr. Lowery is going to wonder where I am and what I’m doing.”
“He and I already agreed that I’d pay him more than if you chauffeured ten people today. Trust me, he’s very happy. Shall we?” He inclined his head toward the entrance.
She’d run out of arguments, though she was certain Mr. Lowery would have a few comments. Quint seemed reassured that he’d appeased her boss, but he didn’t know Mr. Lowery. If he fired her, she’d look for another job. If there was one thing she was good at, it was looking for jobs.
She moved past Quint into a delicately lit lobby. A smiling woman wearing a headset appeared, holding a tray of bottled mineral water.
“Nothing for me just yet, Nina, but thanks.” Quint’s smile was pleasant. “Would you care for something?” He lifted a brow at Chrystelle.
Her throat felt thick and hot. If she swallowed anything, she’d choke. “No, but thanks.”
Nina gave a slight nod. Chrystelle never saw her leave. She stood next to Quint nodding and smiling and then the space where she stood was empty.
“My office is on the sixth floor.” His smile made her blood roar. He extended his hand, indicating she should accompany him to the mirror-plated elevator bank located past a waterfall spilling down a wall into a rimless pool.
She winced at her reflection—short and plain in a black uniform with stalks of blond hair poking from her chauffeur’s cap. If she worked here, she’d hate seeing her reflection every time she moved through the building but catching glimpses of herself all day long would make her cut out her requisite Saturday night double fudge sundae with her roommates.
The lift was a fast ride. The doors opened to a lobby where six assistants sat at glass desks and talked into headsets or worked on computers. All were blond, slender, and looked as if they’d stepped out of a Rodeo Drive boutique. One rushed to Quint. She tapped her tablet and recited phone numbers, messages and appointments. He only nodded. When she finished, she rushed to her desk and spoke into her headset. All the talking, all the noise, all the activity—Chrystelle didn’t know how anyone got any work done, but everyone typed and spoke very fast.
On the other side of the lobby, ceiling-high double doors drifted open. Quint strode toward the entrance. Chrystelle followed but turned in circles trying to take in the massive administrative chamber, the assistants, and the artwork that looked like museum pieces. When she stepped into an office the size of a football stadium, the doors drifted closed. Silence pulsed inside the room—a stark contrast to the clamor outside the doors.
Chrystelle took in the framed posters of Quint’s movies and photos of Quint standing with movie stars, directors and politicians. He looked casual and relaxed, as if socializing with friends. Of course, they’d be his friends. He was a Hollywood bigwig. On one wall was a mural of iconic stars from Hollywood’s golden days.
“Wow!” Her voice was a raw whisper. Heat radiated through her chest, her gaze flicking from one photo to the next. Never had she been around someone who knew so many famous people. Never mind that she was staring at photographs. Aside from her elevator pitch to Steven Spielberg, the most famous person she’d met was her screenwriting teacher, and only because fifteen years ago he’d written the script for her favorite movie.
“Wow, what?” Quint gave her a curious look.
“You know so many famous people.” Chrystelle’s jaw hung so low she could barely speak.
“That impresses you?” Surprise flickered over his chiseled features.
“How could I not be?” Sheesh! She sounded like a starstruck hayseed, which she was, but he didn’t have to know that. Though, it had to be obvious. “But since you and all these people live in the same town, I’m sure it’s hard not to know them. Like my hometown. I know almost everyone there.”
“Where is your hometown?” Quint’s business demeanor turned warm and friendly.
“Gwilliam Park in Colorado. You’ve probably never heard of it.”
“True.” He spoke softly, his eyes gentle. “But now I have, and now I can say that I’ve met someone from Gwilliam Park. Are you ready to discuss your script?”
“Right. That’s why I’m here.” She offered him a wan smile. He hadn’t invited her into his office to make idle chitchat.
“Have a seat.” Quint gestured to a driftwood conference table surrounded by tufted chairs. “Are you sure you don’t want something to drink?”
“I’m sure.” She tried to smile her thanks. She was too nervous to consume anything. She couldn’t believe she was standing in Quinton Fairchild’s office and about to discuss her script with him, but this could be a mirage that would fade away, only to find herself gawking at a red-faced Mr. Lowery.
On the table sat Chrystelle’s portfolio. She didn’t see Quint’s belongings from earlier but in this massive office, they could easily be missed.
She took a seat and almost gasped at the buttery soft upholstery that folded around her like pillows. She scooted to the edge of her chair. She had to be alert while they discussed her script. If she were too comfortable, she’d miss something important.
Quint flipped open the cover of the bound manuscript. His intense gaze scanned the page. “You’ve got a good opening. The characters are strong, especially Eleanor. She’s quite adventurous.”
Chrystelle’s heart beat wildly. Did Quint truly like what she’d written? She swallowed the hope building in her chest. One thing she’d learned since coming to Hollywood was to never make assumptions.
Of course, Quint seemed interested in her script. He had squeezed this meeting with her in between what had to be a busy schedule, but she had to treat this opportunity like an elevator pitch—talk fast and be convincing.
She inhaled deeply. She could do this.
Chyrstelle watched Quint flip through her script, her heart pounding hard and fast.
“You said you produced the pilot.” Quint lifted his gaze to Chrystelle.
“I filmed it in my hometown.” She couldn’t believe he remembered she’d told him that. “Most of the old buildings are still standing. The video file is rather large, but I can email you a link to download the pilot. What’s your email address?” Chrystelle pulled out her phone.
He recited his email address then said, “Now here’s what I’d like to do—”
The intercom in the center of the table sounded. “Mr. Fairchild?” A clear and melodious voice floated into the room.
“Miss Yothers is here to see you.”
“Florence Yothers? The star of Hope Ever After?” Chrystelle whispered. She felt the blood drain from her face as she stared at the closed double doors leading into Quint’s office.
“I’m in a meeting,” Quint said. “Tell her—”
The doors burst open. “Tell me what?” The statuesque blonde who Chrystelle had watched on television for years swept into the room. Her normally porcelain skin darkening, her eyes glittered. She was almost breathing fire.
“Florence, nice of you to drop in.” Quint smiled as if truly happy to see her.
Chrystelle inhaled sharply. Florence looked ready to explode and nothing like the sweet and demure character she portrayed in the television series.
“I’m just finishing up. Can you give me a few moments? Then I’ll clear my calendar for the next hour,” Quint said and arched a brow at Florence.
“We’re. Meeting. Now.” She glared at Quint. “Alistair!”
A breathless little man wearing black-rimmed glasses and dragging a rolling catalog case behind him rushed into the room. “Florence, I told you to wait until we had a chance to review the contract.” He panted. His eyes twitched behind the thick lenses of his glasses.
“Why?” Florence’s beautiful blue gaze glared at Quint with cold wrath. “We already know it doesn’t meet my demands.”
Quint’s mouth tipped, and he looked at Chrystelle. “I’m sorry to interrupt our meeting, but I’m sure this won’t take long.”
“You don’t know what I have to say.” Florence’s voice rose with each word.
“I have an idea,” he said and pressed a button on the intercom. How could he be so calm?
“Yes, Mr. Fairchild?” Bernice’s voice rose from the phone.
“It appears my meeting with Miss Bach needs to be postponed for an hour. Would you please ask security to send one of the guards to give her a tour of the lot?”
“Yes, Mr. Fairchild.”
Florence turned her frigid and elegant gaze to Chrystelle. She looked stunning in the garment that clung to her well-toned figure even if her mouth did curl with anger. “You may want to tour the entire lot. This will take a while.”
“Because you’re here to discuss the contract, let’s leave that detail of Miss Bach’s studio tour to security.” Quint’s tone had softened, but his eyes flashed.
“I’ll just wait outside.” Chrystelle flushed and pointed toward the doors. Walking backward, she moved out of the office and into the reception area where Quint’s six assistants typed and talked and dashed about.
The office doors drifted closed, but not before Florence’s raised voice shot through the narrowing gap. “You should’ve known better than to offer me this pathetic contract.”
“Which made you the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.” Quint sounded so cool.
How could he be? Florence Yothers was the star of his most popular series. What would he do if she walked off the set?
Chrystelle turned and stared at the assistants. No one seemed to notice her. Quint had asked Bernice to arrange a studio tour for her, but Chrystelle didn’t know which assistant was Bernice.
“Miss Bach.” The assistant Quint had earlier identified as Nina leapt to her feet and rushed toward her. “Your tour is ready to start. If you’ll come with me.” Her smile was sincere, her teeth startlingly white. Pivoting on her high heels, she strode to the elevator. Chrystelle raced after her.
On the lower level, a handsome man who was probably waiting for his big break in front of the camera stood in the foyer. His guard’s uniform was neatly pressed, his hair recently clipped.
“Bob,” Nina said, “this is Miss Chrystelle Bach. Mr. Fairchild requests you take her on a tour of the lot. He should be ready to resume his meeting with her in one hour.”
“Will do, Nina.” He offered her a practiced smile that reminded Chrystelle of a young Adam Demos. “Come with me, Miss Bach. You’re about to be dazed and amazed by the inner workings of Fairchild Films.”
Chrystelle followed Bob to the elevators. Outside, he helped her into a golf cart, which was a welcome change for her since she usually helped people into her limousine.
Bob rushed to the driver’s side. Climbing in, his face spread into a Hollywood smile. “We’ll start with the main soundstage in Studio B. They’re filming the summer episodes for Sunset Beach.”
As he took off, she clapped her hand to the chauffeur’s cap she hadn’t thought to remove. Wonder and excitement filled her. She couldn’t wait to see behind the scenes of Fairchild Films.
By the end of the tour, she’d visited three studios, watched a taping of her favorite television show and chatted with the actors and directors, all before Bob returned her to the corporate office building. Nina was waiting for her when she stepped off the elevator and whisked her to Quint’s office.
When she entered, Quint was standing by his desk looking as handsome and as serious as when she’d met him this morning. There was no sign of Florence and Chrystelle wondered if they’d resolved her contract issue.
He stared at a script on his desk and thumbed through the pages.
Not just any script. Her script.
An odd sensation rolled through her chest. Yellow and orange and green tabs stuck out from several pages. Had he gone through her script and made notes? How long had she been gone? And was it good or bad that he’d analyzed her script?
He looked up. When his gaze met hers he smiled, softening the lines etched around his eyes. Chrystelle’s heart fluttered. What would it be like to see that smile every day? She shook her head. What was she thinking? She wouldn’t see that smile again, but she envied the woman who would.
“You read my script.” She stared at the tabs.
“Some of it. I’m quite impressed. You’ve written a good story. Editing will make this story shine.”
“What sort of editing?” Her stomach dropped. When her screenwriting teacher discussed editing, it meant drastic changes. Changing the plot or the main character would change the heart of her story.
“Let’s talk about it.” He gestured toward the conference table.
She’d talk but that didn’t mean she’d agree to make changes.
He held out a chair for her, then took the seat next to her. “I like how the townspeople react to Eleanor.”
Chrystelle was familiar with this tactic. She held her breath. Her screenwriting teacher had always started with what he liked about a script, usually incidental or inconsequential points, right before he ripped into the characterization and the plot.
“This character is an anomaly.” Quint thumbed through the script. “Someone the townsfolk have never seen before even though several of the residents are wealthy because of the silver mine.”
“That was typical of the old mining towns,” Chrystelle said. “They were isolated because of the terrain, limited transportation and harsh weather. Some were wealthy even though their quality of life wasn’t much better than the miners’.”
“That is an interesting point and something I want to work with.” Excitement flashed in Quint’s eyes and filled his voice.
Uncertainty was like a whirlpool sucking Chrystelle into the unknown. What ideas did he have about her script?
The intercom sounded. “Mr. Fairchild?” Bernice’s voice once again floated from the speaker.
“Yes?” He browsed through the script and opened it at a yellow tab.
“Your mother just called. She didn’t want to interrupt your meeting but called to confirm you had a date for tonight’s awards ceremony.”
Chrystelle’s heart stilled. Quint’s mother, Frances Brooke Fairchild, had once been known as America’s Sweetheart. His father was the famous producer Malcolm Fairchild.
“Do I have a date?” Quint’s mouth flattened, and he lifted his gaze to Chrystelle. A slight smile curved his lips. “Tell her she can be surprised.”
“I’ll let her know,” Bernice said.
Quint thanked her and leaned away from the speaker.
“Does this mean our meeting is over?” Disappointment dropped through Chrystelle like a jagged rock. It was just as well. Mr. Fairchild was a busy and important man. His awards ceremony was much more significant than discussing a neophyte’s script.
“Not over. To be continued. Don’t look disappointed.” His mouth curved with amusement.
“I’m not disappointed. I’m grateful. Thank you for your time.” She was disappointed, but she shouldn’t have been. This was the closest she’d come to discussing her script with an important Hollywood producer.
He smiled, and the kindness in his eyes made her heart flip over. “Your writing is a good first attempt. That’s why I’d like to continue our meeting.”
“I’m all for that. Tell me when and where.” A good first attempt. The words echoed in her head. Did that mean he liked it?
“We can continue our meeting tonight,” he said.
“You have an awards ceremony.” Chrystelle’s breath caught. How could they have a meeting when he’d be at his awards ceremony and she’d be holed up in her tiny apartment with three roommates eating double fudge sundaes even if it wasn’t Saturday?
“True.” He spoke slowly. “But our meeting won’t interfere.”
“It might. Your mother seemed concerned that you wouldn’t have a date for the ceremony. You told her you did.” How would his date feel if he spent the evening discussing Chrystelle’s script, and how would they discuss it? Maybe they could talk over the phone, but with his date there? Not likely.
“That’s where you’re wrong.” He tapped the end of her nose, a touch that didn’t take her by surprise. It felt natural. “I said I’d surprise her.”
“If you were a good son, you’d make sure you had a date.” Who was she to reprimand this Hollywood big shot, but she thought it was sweet that his mother had called.
“Are you in cahoots with my mother?” Before she could answer, he rushed on. “Every man wants to be a good son for his mother. I intend to honor my mother’s wishes.”
“Then you’d better get on the phone. The ceremony’s tonight. I have to think most movie stars have plans for the evening. You may have to call a few hundred people to find someone who’s free tonight.” Everyone knew movie stars had busy social lives. The photos of them in the grocery store tabloids displayed their glamorous lifestyles, not that she read those rags.
“You think I only date movie stars?” He looked baffled.
“Naturally, you couldn’t date anyone else.” Was he playing dumb?
“And why is that?” he asked with an amused laugh.
“Because you’re a famous producer.” She wasn’t sure how to gauge the way he looked at her. The intensity in his eyes made her shift. “You live in Hollywood. You’re incredibly handsome. Personally, I can’t see you dating anyone unless she’s a movie star.” Did she have to draw him a picture?
“Since I did wait until the last minute to find a date, and as you said, movie stars plan their social calendars months in advance, what are your plans for the evening?” He gave her a full look that made her pulse leap.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Heat burned her cheeks. Granted, she liked the look in his eyes, but she hated the way her body reacted.
“Like what?” Frowning, he gave a slight shake of his head.
“Like you’re about to ask me something I may not want to answer,” she spoke hesitantly.
“I hope you’ll answer. Would you allow me to escort you to tonight’s banquet?”
“Me?” She felt the blood drain from her face. She touched fingers to her throat. “You’re asking me to the awards ceremony?”
“If you’re available.”
“Are you kidding?” She stuttered a laugh. “I don’t date. I can’t. I work three jobs.”
“Are you working tonight?” The amusement in his eyes brightened. Because she had to work and couldn’t date?
She shook her head. “Business is slow at the restaurant where I waitress, so the manager said she wouldn’t need me tonight, but I need to stay by the phone in case another restaurant calls me. I completed applications for every restaurant along the Boulevard. People come and go so quickly in this town. You never know when a job will open up. I have to be ready in case someone calls. I can’t pass up a chance to earn money.”
“You’re a hardworking young woman.” His deep voice was like a soothing stroke across her cheek.
“Like a lot of other people. Los Angeles is an expensive place to live. The competition is fierce. People everywhere want to become famous movie stars or famous something in the movie industry.”
“True.” His eyes softened in a way that showed a gentle side of him but also reflected sadness. “Los Angeles isn’t an easy town to live in. Why do you stay?”
“I believe I write scripts that can be made into movies and television shows people will watch.”
Quint’s gaze grew intense. “Why is that? Granted, I haven’t finished reading this script, but there’s no sex, no violence, no car chases.”
“Are you sure you read my script?” She’d talked to enough people in the entertainment business to know they didn’t always say what they meant. Some had ulterior motives. Quint hadn’t struck her as that type, but people in Hollywood weren’t always as they appeared. “The series is set in the late nineteenth century.”
“I know it is. I was trying to make a joke. I guess that’s a sign I shouldn’t try to resurrect my stand-up comedy career.” His mouth curved.
“You were a stand-up comedian?”
He shook his head. “I see I need to be careful with what I say around you. You take everything literally.”
“Why shouldn’t I? Why would you say something you didn’t mean?” Maybe he wasn’t so different from the others.
He leaned back into his chair. “You’re right. I should say what I mean and I’m about to.”
Her stomach churned. Why had she been so direct? If she’d kept her mouth shut, she might have received some positive feedback on her script.
“It’s okay. Whatever you have to say, I can take it.” Her chest tightened, and she held her breath.
“Good. Now back to my question. Would you like to attend the awards ceremony with me tonight?”
“You want me to drive you?” He couldn’t mean as his date. Chauffeuring him and whichever movie star he chose to squire made more sense.
“No, not as my driver. I want you to accompany me, be my companion for the evening.”
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