Last night at Audrey’s Books, for the 4th annual Read and Write with Pride event we hold here in Edmonton, I had the distinct pleasure of publicly reading my F/F romance for the first time.
It was a packed house, and I was definitely nervous. I’ve blogged about my struggle writing F/F as a queer woman before, and all those same insecurities linger in me still, although I’m getting better at managing them.
But it went over well! People laughed at the funny bits, made noises of commiseration at the personal bits, and just generally seemed to enjoy the excerpt. And so, I figured I’d share it with you guys too!
FALLEN STARLET is my and James Loke Hale’s (writing as Sam Schooler) entry into the upcoming ROSE & THORNS multiauthor F/F romance series. It’s all about two young actresses, both exploited by the same sleazy director, who rather than competing with one another for his favour, team up to take him down. And then they kiss. 😉
And so, without further ado, onto the excerpt!
Brooke took a seat at the bar at a couple of minutes past two, and reveled in the soft, sunlit ambiance of the place and the fact that no one, literally no one, had looked twice at her. Sure, people had looked up from their conversations, but their eyes hadn’t followed her, and no one had given her that lip curl, the one she knew so well. The one that told her I’m not going to say anything, but I’m thinking it. No one here seemed to care that she was Brooke Lexington, eternal Fake Bi. No one here seemed to care that her entire career was likely tanked, or that she’d had a humiliating messy public breakdown.
This place was a fucking revelation. No wonder Tris had retreated here.
A rustle of noise drew her attention—a short woman, around her age maybe, had emerged from a wooden door behind the bar. “Hey there,” she greeted, setting down the armful of freshly washed glasses she was carrying. “What can I do you for?”
“Hi,” Brooke said, reflexively smiling wider. “Natalie said I should get the… Daria Deral?”
“Natalie knows her shit. I agree. You should definitely get the Dahlia Delair.”
“Oh, um, yes, that one. Heh.”
The bartender stepped away and reached below the bar, emerging with a frosted glass and a pair of small tongs holding a shining steel cocktail chiller. “Did she tell you to put it on her tab?” she asked, glancing at Brooke. When Brooke nodded, she laughed. “I’m not surprised. She’s been singing your praises.”
Brooke raised her eyebrows. “Wish I could say I was used to hearing that.”
“Stick around the Thorns, then. A lot of women here are talking you up. The open secret about Brad Michaels has been festering for a while now, so there were a lot of fistpumps when you said what we were all thinking.”
“I’m going to exercise self care and choose to believe you’re not just saying that to make me tip you more.”
“Honey, if all I wanted was a bigger tip, I’d do this.” She leaned forward on the counter toward Brooke, pointedly positioning her arms so that her breasts squeezed together.
A move Brooke knew intimately, but she’d never been on the receiving end before.
To enjoy the view was one thing, but to bond over the purpose and technique of the play with another woman? Way more gratifying.
Brooke laughed. “Okay, point made. You win this round.”
“House always wins, Brooke.” The bartender froze mid-pour of Brooke’s drink, staring at something over Brooke’s shoulder. “Okay, I’m gonna make myself scarce now. Holler if you need anything.” Pushing Brooke’s glass across the bar, she winked and walked away.
Brooke only had a second to wonder what had spooked her before she heard a voice from behind her: “Sorry I’m late.”
Brook spun in her barstool and was suddenly face to face with Tris Grady.
The Tris Grady.
Her predecessor. Legendary teen actress and industry darling turned scorned throwaway and reclusive giver of no fucks.
Seeing her in person was… an experience, to say the least.
She was shorter than Brooke had imagined her to be, for one. At least six inches shorter than Brooke, even when Brooke wasn’t wearing high heels.
And her voice, dismissed as an uninteresting expressionless mumble by gossip media and “fans” alike, was in fact a low, breathy growl that had Brooke sitting up straighter in her eagerness to be attentive to it.
“N-no problem. I’m just relieved you showed up at all.”
Tris’s brows lifted incrementally.
Fuck. She hadn’t meant to say that! Not only did it imply that Brooke had expected her to be rude or cruel enough not to show–which Brad would have said was absolutely the case–but now she sounded like an insecure idiot too.
Perhaps sensing Brooke’s embarrassment, Tris smiled sympathetically. “I’d say traffic was bad, but I was actually just trying on every identical white t-shirt in my wardrobe looking for the one.”
A self-deprecating comment of her own, an admission of vulnerability that balanced the scales between them.
Brooke was really not expecting Tris to be that socially adept… or empathetic. Brad had always described her as being a spoiled child star, self-involved and intense, unwilling to take direction, an artiste without respect for other people’s feelings.
The kind of person who didn’t mind playing the “other woman” in an otherwise rock-solid, high-profile Hollywood relationship.
“So, um…” Brooke floundered, suddenly unable to remember her planned script for this interaction.
Tris gave her a mild look. “Do you want to find a table?”
“Oh, um, sure! Yeah.”
“I hate bar seating. My legs dangle in these high stools. Makes me feel like a kid. I guess you don’t have that problem.”
Tris Grady has noticed the length of my legs.
They met one another’s eye. Whatever expression Brooke was making, it had obviously given her away, because now Tris was blushing slightly.
Brooke flapped a hand. “Pssht. They’re two-thirds Louboutin.”
Not even remotely true, but the joke snapped the awkward tension.
“I noticed. Can you walk in them, or do I need to take you by the arm and help you to the table?”
“Ha-ha. How do you think I manage red carpets? And the shoes I wear on those don’t even fit half the time, goddamn designers.”
“Ugh, tell me about it. They either squeeze your toes or have so much room you slide around. I haven’t worn heels since…” Tris blinked and paused, then cleared her throat. “Anyway. C’mon then, wow me with your mastery of your footwear on the way to that table I just spotted.”
As she followed Tris–who was wearing flawless white sneakers that didn’t look like much but Brooke sensed were probably as pricey as Prada–to the table, Brooke found herself wishing she wasn’t so practiced in stilettos. The thought of taking Tris Grady by the arm had suddenly become very, very attractive.
They found a suitably secluded table, where Tris pulled out Brooke’s chair for her and then awkwardly shuffled away, as if she felt guilty for doing so.
I’m not one of those girls who gets mad at a guy for being chivalrous. I love having doors opened for me and my chair pulled out. One of her canned fanboy-approved talking points. Not that I’m some spoiled princess, either. I pay my own credit card bills and I pump my own gas.
“What’re you drinking?” Brooke asked. “I’ve got…uh…” She glanced at her own recommended cocktail, but for the life of her couldn’t remember what it was. “D… Something.”
Great, here she was actually being the precious, incapable airhead everyone wanted her to be.
Especially Brad. Ugh. She fired off a short self-conscious little laugh, as well practiced as her stiletto strutting, and tried to push thoughts of Brad from her mind.
Easier said than done, considering who she was sitting across from.
“The D-Something, you say? I have no idea what that is,” Tris said, eyeing Brooke’s cocktail. Brooke laughed again, for real this time. “Me? I’ll have whatever the cheapest beer is today.”
Brooke smirked. “I should have guessed you’d be a Pabst Blue Ribbon kind of girl.”
Tris smirked right back. “Pabst Blue Ribbon kinda woman, if you please.”
Another startled, embarrassed I-said-too-much look. She recovered quickly, though. Relatively. But it was obvious Tris’s days of perfectly prepared, crowd-pleasing soundbites were long gone. Brooke wondered if she’d ever reach that place. “And they don’t serve it here, no matter how much I beg. Bourgeoisie scum!”
If Tris had been a guy, she’d have stopped herself to explain to Brooke what “bourgeoisie” meant. And then Brooke would have smiled and listened with rapt attention and acted like getting a half-correct explanation of Marxism from some random guy was the most fascinating and more importantly hottest thing she’d ever experienced.
But Tris just let the reference lie, leaving Brooke to quip back, “I’ll meet you in a dive next time, deal?”
They shook on it.
Tris’s grip was strong and simultaneously lazy at the same time. Confident
without overcompensation. Her hand was warm.
Annnnnnnd Brooke had been holding it for officially too long.
She let go with a guilty laugh.
“Thanks for this, by the way. I… feel better already.”
“I know exactly what you mean. The Rose and Thorns isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s a hell of a lot more hospitable than the outside world.”
Brooke had to be honest. Though all Brad’s words of warning still lingered in her head, though she remembered all the rumors, though she remembered Tris had actually slept with a married man, she had to be honest: “I didn’t just mean the club.”