Dare to Act
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by Leigh Ellwood
Category: Gay Fiction/Erotica
Description: When actor Parker Stigwood stuns the world by doing the unthinkable on live television, he's convinced his career is over. Disgusted by Hollywood hypocrisy, he pushes the pause button on his life and retreats to his parents' home in Dareville to contemplate his future. Little does he realize, various forces have plans for him on a personal and professional level. Luke Hall is excited to direct his first play for the local arts center, more so when the handsome movie star volunteers to watch rehearsals and offer pointers. Luke would rather watch Parker, but there are interruptions to his viewing pleasure. When a well-meaning friend seeking benefits places doubts in Luke's head about Parker's intentions, Luke wonders if their relationship will bomb at the box office. On and off-stage, Luke and Parker's passion sizzles. But will Parker dare to act on his feelings for Luke and leave his star behind for good?
eBook Publisher: Ravenous Romance, 2012
eBookwise Release Date: August 2012
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [281 KB]
Reading time: 172-241 min.
Parker Stigwood uncrossed his legs, but corrected himself when he saw how his right foot bounced maniacally in plain view of the roaming cameramen. Tonight of all nights, he world didn't need to see his nerves get the best of him. For nearly three hours he'd sat glued to his front row seat, watching an endless parade of empty platitudes, old tuxedos, and new breasts. In exactly two minutes, film legend Walt Stephenson--six-time nominee and last year's winner--would stroll onstage to announce Parker's category.
Parker desperately wanted to let a hovering teenager in a rented suit warm his seat while he dashed into a men's room to vomit. Before he could rise, a low vibration hummed at his hip. Christ. Who the hell texted him now? Everybody in the world knew where he was, and whoever this was should have appreciated his need for discretion right now.
He glanced down his row to see some of the biggest names in the film industry clandestinely checking their own smart phones, their thumbs stabbing at tiny keyboards, presumably offering fans color commentary via Twitter. That amusing notion helped allay his jitters, and as he checked his own Android phone he wanted to laugh out loud.
Relax. You're a shoo-in, read the text from his agent. Parker glanced over at Regina, sitting next to him, her own phone resting on her lap.
"You are such a stitch," he teased in a low whisper, yet inside he couldn't share Regina's excitement. When Diamond had first released, critics predicted endless nominations and hardware for his mantel. Parker saw the movie as one more line in his filmography, yet as the awards piled up he wondered if he genuinely had a shot at the granddaddy of them all. He found that out one January morning at five AM, watching his flatscreen while wrapped in a blanket.
Would he actually win the little golden guy? He'd know in one minute, fifteen seconds. Fourteen, thirteen...
Regina, elegant with her cascading brown curls and ruby earrings the size of quarters, blew him a quick air kiss before turning her attention back to the presentation. Cues in the form of various cameramen and stage hands rushing for position signaled the end of the commercial break, and shortly the program's announcer bellowed his introduction throughout the venue with a simple, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome last year's Best Actor, Walt Stephenson."
The rugged actor, known for decades of work in now-classic westerns and knuckle-busting crime flicks before settling into a twilight career of tense political dramas, approached the microphone slowly, envelope in hand as he nodded away the thunderous applause. Parker hoped it would last forever--not so much to buy him time to settle the butterflies, but because the man genuinely deserved every accolade given him. Stephenson had been his hero growing up, his inspiration for pursuing an acting career. Somewhere in his parents' attic in their Dareville, Virginia home, a tiny black hat, much like the one Stephenson had worn in The Marauders, rested in a dusty box.
Man, he sure wished he was there watching the show, feeling suffocated. Not that he considered their town of Dareville home--his parents had retired there from Washington, D.C.--but what L.A. lacked in serenity the small Virginia town offered in spades.
No place like home. Parker closed his eyes and summoned a memory of running around the waterfront park in his native Georgetown with his friends, waving plastic guns and shouting immortal film dialogue like mantras. He watched Rick, his eventual partner in drama until Parker's move to California, morph into his adult self and take on Walt's familiar, smoky voice.
Elation erupted all around him. Bodies rose and hands clapped to maximum decibels. Parker awoke from his daydream, confused by the noise. Regina's hands roughly roused him from his seat.
"What?" he shouted to her.
"You won, you dingbat!" Regina's eyes glassed over, and her smile radiated her joy. "Get up there, now!"
Won? No shit. He'd heard his name, yes, but thought Walt was still listing the nominees. As he stood, his gaze drifted toward the stage where his image flashed on the large screens flanking the legendary actor. Stunned, he could barely process the here-and-now. He'd just been awarded the highest accolade a film actor could receive, and here he stood before God, California, and the free world: a dumbstruck fool.
In less than a minute, he knew, everybody would think that of him and much, much worse.
Parker didn't feel his legs move toward the stage, nor did the touch of hands slapping his back and shoulders in congratulation affect him. The cheers and applause numbed in his ears, and the brassy Diamond score, which he'd heard most of the night as winner after winner passed him en route to the stage to collect their awards, faded to an annoying ringing sound in his brain.
He stood next to Walt Stephenson--once his idol, now his contemporary--and wanted desperately to take the man's hand and thank him for his inspiration. Walt, however, had the trophy in hand and tried to give it to Parker, who merely held up a pausing gesture.
"Do you mind?" he asked Walt.
The older man, looking more aged than he'd ever appeared in his movies, shook his head and frowned slightly. "Not at all," he said, sounding careful, and stepped back with the trophy to give Parker berth to speak.
"Thank you, so much," Parker spoke into the slim microphone before him. The crowd murmured into silence. He hoped they'd maintain that calm after he said his piece. Knowing how people in Hollywood leaned in their politics and morals, he'd consider a stone quiet reception a gift.
He kept his hands fisted together, resisting the urge to take the award from Walt's hands and shoot it skyward in a victory pump, and bent toward the microphone. "I look out at all of you now, and this is so surreal. I grew up watching so many of your movies, and all of his," he crooked his neck toward Walt and earned a low, collective chuckle, "and never in a million years did I think I'd up be on this stage tonight, honored as one of you."
The applause crested again, and Parker pushed it back with a wide gesture. "Please," he said. Don't make this any harder. "However, all through this evening, I've sat close to this stage, and watched many of you come up here to defend a man based solely on his body of work, rather than the strength of his moral character..."
That shut everything down. Parker swore he heard crickets, but surely it was only minor mic feedback. He chanced a glance to his left--Walt looked on expectantly, as though anticipating Parker's next words.
"When I see such a display of disregard for justice, and what I perceive as acceptance of despicable acts, I have to ask myself: should I stand here? Should I plaster a smile on my face and accept this award when one might interpret it as my accepting clemency for a man who should be in jail?"
The booing started.
The stage lights kept Parker from seeing beyond the first ten or so rows on the floor, which meant the balcony had decided to chime their disapproval. On either side of him, large television cameras rolled closer to record the obvious suicide of his Hollywood career.
He found Regina in her seat, unsmiling and looking away and flexing her fingers, like she wanted to punch somebody.
He straightened and swallowed, willing back the anxiety. "It is with regret that I cannot accept this honor which you have chosen to bestow on me," he said, trying to keep the words from rushing forward. His voice cracked and his heart pounded in his ears, drowning out the discomfort of the audience. He might have said "I'm sorry," in addition to that. He couldn't be certain--his voice didn't register.
The most important and powerful people in his industry shifted in their seats, no doubt aggravated and formulating their own opinions of Parker, but once he made the pronouncement he felt much lighter, relieved. The glamour of the night had faded for him, and he just wanted to make an uneventful yet graceful exit.
"Goodnight." With that, he turned on his heel and speed-walked stage left, as he'd been instructed during orientation for the awards ceremony, with rising catcalls and whistles fast behind him.