The Actor's Contract
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A San Francisco boy. Famous actor and model. Renowned playboy. Damaged lover. And a heartless robot. He needs to fix his reputation. I need money for my sister's treatment. Everything about us is fake ... but sometimes the line between fake and real can get blurred. Enrique Blackburn turned himself into a robot. Untouchable. Emotionless. The quintessential bachelor of the silver screen. He doesn't do love. He can never say the words. Especially not to me, his contracted phony girlfriend. But despite the consequences I let him take my breath and steal the things I know. Like fire on fire, he burns himself into my heart. And that's the last place I want him to be. We made an arrangement. We agreed to a contract. No sex. No love. No relationship. Can I unfold him? Can I make this real? Can I make him find his heart? But most importantly - can I make him say the words?
1 The beginning of this story
Date = 18 March
Place = San Francisco International Airport
Aria Thompson = 20 years old
Enrique Blackburn = 23 years old
Leyla Thompson = 7 years old
POV - Aria Thompson
I hold a firm grip on the small hand in mine, patiently waiting next to one of the blue cylindrical columns that support the roof of the terminal. I keep my eye on the silver carousel for our bright green suitcase to arrive.
Funny how you can fit a whole 20 years of existence into a single suitcase. For the umpteenth time since we bordered the plane, my morning coffee pushes up in my throat; my nerves are not only raw but bleeding. I swallow down the burning sensation and look down to find a pair of tired teal eyes fixed on me. I fake a smile at the pale elf-like face under the bright pink bandanna sprouting white daisies and receive a goofy toothless one in return.
The colorful garment hides her bald head, her hair loss a side-effect of the chemo treatments, but typical Leyla … she just takes it in her stride. She now proudly wears all these bold-colored fabrics even though I know it was a miserable shock for her when those beautiful locks started falling out. She’s such a brave fighter, so I need to be one too.
I can do this. I can do anything if it means she will get better. Hell, I even jump off the Golden Gate Bridge if that would save my little sister. So, this is nothing, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. I must be over the moon - but instead, it feels as if someone punched me in the gut a few times too many.
Get a grip, Aria Thompson, this is for the best, I pep-talk myself. This is the miracle for which I’ve been fervently hoping. It’s like winning the lotto - everything I need right now handed to me on a platter. The best treatment possible, a home, a new start, and family to help me out … what more can I ask for? Maybe a future … ug, don’t be greedy Aria, I reprimand myself. All I have to do is act a little … stand about and appear in love … how hard can it be?
So why do I feel like a cat stuck in a dryer? But I know what’s revving me up – the thought of being in the public eye, the press. I hate the spotlight. I’m clumsy and someone that will say the dumbest things under pressure, so having others quote me is not the best idea out there.
But what do they say – beggars can’t be choosers, and I guess 99.99% of the female population would gladly trade places with me without batting an eyelash.
And who can blame them – my fake lover has more than appealing dimensions and enough money to get any female drooling, BUT I can’t help but conclude that he’s a massive player and man-whore just judging by the fact that he gets photographed with more than one different girl a week. And the fact that he needs a contract for a fictitious relationship is sufficient proof that he’s definitely not the commitment type at all.
I anxiously grab my purse, containing the secret contract just to make sure it’s still there. I can’t afford to lose it, or even worse, let it end up in the wrong hands.
The confidentiality of this contract is treated with the same secrecy as a spaceship hidden in Area 51, or placidly more – nobody knows except for Enrique and me. We’ll sign the damn paper after both of us are satisfied with the content.
Ug, this thing is hanging over my head like a sword ready to drop and decapitate my soul. I hate lies, and now we’re lying to the whole freaking world, even our closest friends and family.
The real story is that Enrique phoned me out of the blue, to talk to me about helping Leyla with her treatment. He offered me a deal – he would pay for everything we need, give us a home, and in return, I must act like his girlfriend until his new movie premiers. The fact is we’ve only Skyped once and it wasn’t my prettiest moment – my hair wrapped in a towel, my face covered by a therapeutic charcoal face mask. Yeah, I know, first impressions and all, but luckily I don’t care what he thinks.
The fake story we will tell everybody is that we fell in love online during our SKYPE sessions to talk about Leyla’s treatment and that we’ve been secretly dating online for the last three months. And he also, allegedly, came to visit me a few times covertly. (Truth is I have never seen him face to face) Since I need help with Leyla while working, he then asked me to move in with him to make it easier for me. And here we are. Yep, here we are.
I lean my head against the cold hard column, staring at the sea of people that flow like rivers through San Francisco International airport, never even stopping for obstacles, but swirling around them. Every person in the crowd moves as if unseeing hands are dragging them from the check-in desks to the cafés and through the gates, each one heading for a destination of their own, following their own story.
I tap my foot irritably, today I’m just not feeling particularly patient in any part of my system. How will my story end? Will I get out of this thing better or worse?
“Calm down Aria! You’re going to see your boyfriend soon.” Leyla misunderstands my mood, her voice moody, something I got used to since she got sick. It means she’s tired. She wipes her hand over her eyes.
“How long must we wait?” The little voice drains away in the cacophony of sounds and the loud interruption of an announcement over the intercom system.
‘Good afternoon passengers. This is the pre-boarding announcement for flight 89B to Chicago. Please have your boarding pass and identification documents ready. Regular boarding will begin in approximately ten minutes. Thank you.’
I pray for our suitcase to magically appear on the conveyor so we can get the hell out of here. I’m not sure why, but I feel almost claustrophobic as if the inevitable encounter with my fake boyfriend is suffocating me bit by bit with each slow passing second.
Two young guys walk past us, backpacks casually thrown over their broad shoulders, boosting with confidence and swagger – typical frat boys returning from holiday, would be my first guess.
The one turns his head and brazenly checks me out with an unapologetic stylish grin on his tanned mug. He’s handsome alright, and he knows it. Leyla waves innocently at him and he winks at us, his face clearly impressed. I bite my lip to keep myself from smiling, foreseeing the unavoidable jam about to happen, due to him not looking where he’s going.
Inevitably, he bumps into a woman that’s easily just as wide as she is tall, causing him to stumble back and land awkwardly on the floor. The look on his face is surreal and I can’t hide my smile anymore. His friend’s laughter echo’s through the building and instead of helping his buddy up, he holds onto his tummy with one hand, the other pointing at the guy sitting on the floor. Leyla is laughing just as hard as the friend, if not more.
The woman stops the forever ongoing argument she has with her boyfriend; they’ve been at each other’s throats since they boarded the plane – sitting just behind us - I couldn’t help but overhear the whole, long, unfruitful battle. Something about some naked pics on the guy’s phone and judging by her reaction, it wasn’t hers.
I try to do my civic duty and hold out a hand to the young man; he gets up and dusts off his trousers and then playfully punches his friend on the shoulder. It seems the whole ordeal didn’t even put a dent in his overbearing ego. How nice must it be to not worry about anything? He blows me a kiss before getting hammered by the square lady’s handbag. He protects his head with his arms, trying awkwardly to get away from his attacker, and soon he’s sucked into the meandering crowd of chaotic travelers, leaving me in the viewpoint of the meaty lady’s skimpy porn-watcher.
The guy looks like your typical nerd – thick glasses, a simple crew sweater over a button-up shirt, and shoes without socks. To make the look even more official his mouse-brown hair is combed back in a sleek wet-look style that went out in the 60s. He’s not exactly the double-take hunky bloke girls would give a second glance at – not to be rude, just stating a fact. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t an awesome personality, and in my book, it counts much more than looks anyway.
Not that I don’t appreciate a good-looking bloke, I’m just saying that looks are not everything. My new boyfriend’s vision jumps into my mind and I shake my head to get rid of it. I can’t even dare to catch feelings or else I won’t walk away from this freaking contract unscathed. That’s when Mr. Nerdy’s girlfriend returns from her chase, panting for breath, to focus her 250-pound attention directly on me.
“Hey, girl, are you checking out my man?” she suddenly shouts, her flabby cheeks red probably from not taking enough breaths between the slander of words she’s throwing around. She moves closer, now standing an arm’s length away from me.
Leyla quickly puts her hand on my arm, knowing by now that I might do something crazy, stupid, and impulsive. I take one … two … three deep breaths.
I can’t make a scene and get into trouble on my first day on the ‘job’. But it’s not so easy when being hot-tempered is part of your DNA and saying stupid things is part of your anatomy. If I had any good sense I would close my mouth and turn my back to them, I would just ignore the situation, but that’s so not me.
I look over at the little guy again and it looks as if he’s undressing me from behind his bifocals. Is he licking his lips? What the fuck! Scratch the awesome personality – he’s a little perverted gum-sucker and no wonder he has porn on his phone. Feeling uncomfortable under his beady eyes, I try to hide Leyla behind me and turn my gaze back to his girlfriend.
“Eh … technically I was looking at him, but girl, I don’t want your boyfriend … no one wants your boyfriend … that’s why he’s with you,” I try to be polite at least and wipe my hands against my pants, metaphorically wiping away some dirt as if it will keep me calm.
Her eyes bulge dangerously close to popping out, her face is turning dark red … leaning to purple and her hands are clenched in fists along her side. She doesn’t move, except for her jaw which pushes back and forward as if she’s grinding her teeth.
I swear she’s going to pop an artery, so I tap her softly on her nose with my index finger to pull her from her agitated state.
“Lady, take a deep breath, you’re starting to look like a purple cucumber,” I mention carefully, but it seems this girl doesn’t appreciate caring behavior. No, instead she seems more pissed off.
“You mean an eggplant, Aria,” my sister corrects me like usual, and now the boxy lady seems to be a real candidate for a seizure.
Leyla grabs the lady by her arms and shakes her, “Snap out of it, aunty. Statistically, a red face is a sign of rising blood pressure. You could have a heart attack.”
It seems to work cause at least the woman starts breathing again. Enough for her to shout at me and make people notice us … some even start filming us on their phones.
“Leave my man alone, tramp!” Yep, she’s mad and she now really looks like a purple fruit. And to think I worried about her for a moment.
“O boy, here comes the crazy!” Leyla says, slumping down on the nearest chair, and slouching her head in her hands.
“Are you deaf or just plain stupid?” I throw my hair back over my shoulder, not in the nursing mood anymore. The degenerated sicko of a boyfriend doesn’t even try to intervene, but his perverted gazes are starting to make me feel rather nauseated. I pull my cream suit-type jacket close, trying to cover up. Suddenly the short-cropped top showing off my tummy doesn’t feel as sexy as it did this morning.
“Do you think you’re the first girl that tries to steal him away from me?”
I’m not sure if that’s a trick question or not, so I rather leave it unanswered. This lady is not seriously fighting with me over that horny piece of shit, and that in a fully packed airport terminal. We’ve already attracted even more entertained onlookers. Shit. What if this turns into a scandal? I can already see my fake love life going up in flames before it even started. I need to seriously end this – now.
“Look at my lips – I – DON’T – WANT – YOUR – MAN,” I pull out the last words, hoping that she would get it through her thick head, pun intended.
“Is that so?” Nope, the message didn’t pass to her peanut-sized brain. I need to exit the conversation without saying anything more, so I turn my back on her. Don’t get me wrong, I have loads to say to this square, but not with Leyla and a growing crowd around. Geez, don’t these people have planes to catch or places to be? Or at least anything better to do than look at a catfight?
And it’s just at this point that my dear little sister thinks it’s a great idea to join the conversation, and she opens with a fully loaded bomb.
“Yes, it’s so, she has her own boyfriend. His name is Enrique Blackburn. He’s an actor.” She somewhere got up and is now sticking her little finger into the woman’s tummy, her dainty nose pointed into the air.
“You feel like jello … “ Leyla keeps jiggling the rolls protruding over the woman’s pants. I turn my head so my sister can’t see my face and roll my eyes.
“EEEEEHHHH!” the woman shouts with a shrill voice, nearly bursting my poor eardrums and definitely causing my heart to skip a beat. Leyla jolts in the air and crashes into my legs with her back.
I make a strangling gesture with my hand, but quickly retract it into a fist. WTF is wrong with this person that she needs to shout like a fox in heat? Even my sister looks at her with big eyes. And then she answers my question herself, rather loudly.
“Your boyfriend is Enrique … Blackburn … the model and actor … THAT Enrique?”
And it’s at this exact moment that the horse poo hits the fan. Everybody in a 20m radius that was not already looking at us, is suddenly staring at me as if I’m the last peanut in the circus.
First, the nerd seems to get full x-ray vision, and judging by the focus point of his gaze I’m sure he’s trying to count my pubic hair, having a serious porn moment. I swear stupid people were put on this earth to test my anger management skills, cause right now I feel like ripping his scrawny little head off and stuffing it into his girlfriend’s ass.
Breath Aria, just breathe - don’t attract attention to yourself, not today. The freak steps forward as if he’s getting ready to grope me, and I try to shield my sister from him by dragging her behind me again. His girl is preoccupied with digging her nails into my arm while jumping up and down, screaming like a teenager at a rock concert. And with her body shape, it’s something to see. I look around, panicking, hoping for some help, but everybody is either staring at us or taking photos with their phones.
I need to get away from this crazy-ass couple before I do something stupid and lose my boyfriend before I’ve even met him face to face. And then luck throws me a little bone and our apple green suitcase comes traveling around the corner, rocking like a boat on the conveyer, and I let out the breath I was holding. I free my arm hardhandedly from the madwoman’s grip, keeping my lips glued to each other in a forced silence.
Due to the fact that our bag is on the far side of the conveyer, I need to lean unladylike with most of my not-so-tall body onto the carousel, my thick-soled converse barely touching the ground. Suddenly I’m very glad for making jeans part of my outfit this morning. I nearly throw out my back to get the suitcase on the ground but manage eventually, and then I walk away as fast as I can, pulling a complaining Leyla and the green box along.
“Dignity people, just get some dignity,” I mumble under my breath, but the word doesn’t seem to be in that girl’s vocabulary. No, her dictionary lost some other words too, like judgment, finesse, style, and tact – to mention but a few.
As far as we go, people stop to stare and the muffled sound of gossip doesn’t escape my ears.
Some pleasant -
‘She’s pretty … They make a lovely couple … Lucky bastard … I love her outfit‘
other’s not so much –
‘What does he see in her … He’s such a player … She won’t last long … The bitch must be lying … She’s after his money …’
I have never seen so many phones in the air, except maybe at the Taylor Swift concert I went to with some friends. I’m dead … buried, covered by concrete and a tombstone on top – ‘here lies Enrique’s ex-girlfriend, it lasted a few seconds…’
I keep my eyes on the brown floor tiles and try to walk as dignified and quickly as possible to the exit, forcing Leyla to keep up with me. It’s her fault this is happening in the first place so she better move those little legs.
“Is it true?” “How long have you been going out?” “What’s your name?”
Yells come from the crowd, but I just keep my head down, as if the floor is the most interesting thing I’ve seen for a very long time. The brown tiles have a wooden effect and then I start feeling sorry for the poor person whose job it is to keep all this clean.
People are now circling around, even following us, openly taking photos, and asking questions that I don’t even know the answers to. It’s discerning to think that Enrique Blackburn’s unknown girlfriend can cause such disorder in a busy airport.
“Are you after his money?” “Are you looking for fame and attention?” “Where do you come from?” “Is the girl your sister?” “What’s wrong with her?”
It’s at times like this that I’m extremely glad our thoughts don’t appear in bubbles above our heads like in comic books. If these people knew what I was thinking right now, I would be on the first plane to hell.
And just before I’m thrown into a panic attack of some sort, I notice my brother’s tall body sticking out close to the exit and I take in a deep breath to oxygenate my lungs again. I stopped breathing a few minutes ago. I feel the tears flooding my eyes, but I won’t cry … I just won’t.
Then the small hand leaves mine and the little girl runs into her hero’s arms. Yep, to his little sister, Superman got nothing on Noah. No, to her he’s all the superheroes combined into one package. But I must agree, my big brother is pretty special.
He hugs me without letting Leyla out of his arms. Not that he’s got a choice, she’s clinging to him like a nut. The crowd is growing, and the noise increasing. Everybody is shouting and talking at the same time and it’s not letting up.
Noah desperately tries to steer us out while his arm is protectively trying to hide me from the frenzy. I can understand now why Enrique suggested that my brother came to fetch us. Just imagine the chaos if he showed up here. At first, I thought he was just making excuses, that the media could not be as bad as he said. But I stand corrected … they’re much worse. This was not such a great start to my new life, in fact, it officially sucked.
Noah loads our green suitcase onto the back of a black truck, while occasionally nodding to something a chirping Leyla is saying. She hasn’t stopped talking since we walked out of the airport.
“And the doctor said that I’m going to love the new hospital,” she continues her ongoing chatter.
“I think you are,” Noah answers while lowering her onto the backseat, “and you know what?”
“Enrique’s older brother is a doctor there and he’s super nice.”
My sister’s face lights up even more. “Seriously?”
“Yes, his name is Ilkay, and this is his truck. He told me to use it because Enrique’s car is made for only two people.”
“What type of car is it?” I haven’t seen my sister this excited for a very long time. It’s a good thing. She’s been through a lot these last few months.
“A Ferrari! A red one!” Noah smiles warmly at our little sister in the rear-view mirror.
“No way!” she screams.
“Yes, and Enrique’s twin brother, Jackson, drives a green Ferrari. And the youngest brother, Logan, has a blue Porsche.” I know Noah must have noticed her excitement and is trying to keep her happy like this.
“Fudge off! I wonder how fast it can go,” she mumbles with huge eyes, biting her lip. And then she frowns slightly as if something just came to her mind. “Hell, how many brothers does your boyfriend have?” she asks looking marginally shocked.
“Eh, if I’m right, he has three brothers and one sister,” I say looking at Noah for confirmation.
“That’s right. They are four brothers and then there’s Melaena. You’re gonna love her ‘cause she’s an artist.” Noah smiles into the mirror again.
“Wow, do you think she will teach me how to draw even better? I just LOVE painting! I must show her the painting of a Hungarian Horntail dragon I just finished … the one from Harry Potter. Do you think we can watch Harry Potter tonight, Mo?”
I snigger when my brother rolls his eyes upon hearing her pet name for him. Leyla has this tendency to not call people by their real names … she always comes up with some sort of abbreviation or something. And Mo is short for Nemo … apparently our brother’s orange hair is the same color as the little fish. And now you can understand the eye roll. But Noah need not worry … I’m sure she’s gonna find special names for our newest companions asap.
“Well, I think tonight you and Aria need to settle into your new home and rest a bit. And Enrique has a special surprise for you.”
“A surprise? What is it?” Leyla interrupts her brother. He laughs.
“Well, if I tell you it won’t be a surprise, now would it?” Leyla pulls her mouth into a thin line. I know she can’t wait to see what it is.
“Everybody decided to give Enrique and Aria some alone time tonight, but tomorrow everybody plans to come over, dying to meet the most prettiest girls in the world.” Noah tries to cheer her up, but the little vixen is still sulking.
“By everybody, you mean his brothers and sister?” At least her interest is peaked.
“Yes, but the group is much much bigger than just them. You both just wait … from now on we’re not alone anymore … these people are our new family. And Luke is about your age … I think you’re gonna be great friends,” Noah says sincerely and now I’m excited to meet everyone.
“Ug, a stupid boy … I can’t wait!” Leyla comments sarcastically, pulling a sour face while Noah parks the car. She thinks any boy under the age of 18 is stupid and childish. I think I agree with her surmise … but it’s not only under-18 boys … it’s all ages. This sex just never grows up, it seems. Men are just big children. And now it’s time to meet my ‘boy-child’ face to face. Suddenly I feel like fainting again.
2 First meeting
Date = 18 March
Place = San Francisco (Enrique’s home)
POV - Enrique Blackburn
Warning!! There’s a small scene describing his mother’s murder that might be disturbing to sensitive readers!
With an irritated flick of my hand, I close the laptop on the coffee table while simultaneously getting up from the brown leather sofa. The large windows overlook the ocean, but I don’t even take in the scenery, my mind on the freaking girl in my shower – that I wouldn’t mind joining … actually!
The side of my fist collides with the glass, but not hard enough to break it, just a motion to try and calm myself down a little. What the hell did I get myself into?
I’ve just met my so-called girlfriend and she’s already fucking with my mind and my life. That’s why I never date for too long – women are just too complicated and irrational. I would even go as far as saying that they are irritating all t
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