Ruby Bell has put scandal and relationships behind her to forge a successful career in film. Then the talk of Hollywood himself, actor Devlin Cooper, strolls onto her Outback set-fired from his two previous movies, and looking decidedly tempting! The last thing Ruby needs is Dev making outrageous demands and causing her to question her “no romance at work” rule….
But what’s a girl to do when Dev’s taking her on a lavish date one moment, then calling “cut” on their growing closeness the next? What exactly does he want with her-and what’s causing the shadows behind those famous blue eyes? Now she’s too intrigued to walk away….
Ashton does a superb job of creating an arrogant yet endearing hero, while she tackles a sometimes stigmatized mental illness in a believable manner (4 stars) – Romantic Times Book Reviews
The tangle of chemistry and conflicts between Ruby and Dev was completely compelling. I especially loved Dev for being movie star on the outside, but so different under the surface – somehow the contrast between his rugged exterior and his desperate vulnerability has catapulted him into position as one of my all time fave heroes. And Ruby’s strength and integrity was fab. Leah Aston’s voice is sassy, slick and witty. Can’t wait to read more from her – Jane Linfoot (Goodreads)
Read an excerpt
Ruby Bell estimated her phone rang approximately half a second before her brisk walk was rudely interrupted by an unfortunately located tuft of grass.
More fortunately, she’d had the presence of mind to hold onto said phone during her less than graceful swan-dive onto the dusty, sparsely grassed, paddock floor. A paddock that had once housed a significant number of sheep, but more recently had become the temporary home of a 90-man (and woman) strong film crew. Thankfully this particular patch of paddock was evidence-of-sheep-occupation free.
But, at such close range, Ruby had also learnt that the paddock floor was: a) lumpy and b) hard.
“Paul,” Ruby said, wincing slightly as she lifted the phone to her ear. Still lying flat on her belly in the dirt, she shifted her weight in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid the patches of grass that prickled through the thin fabric of her t-shirt and the seeping warmth that had once been her half-drunk cardboard cup of coffee. Just slightly winded, Ruby’s voice was a little breathy, but otherwise she sounded about as efficient as always. Good. She’d built a successful career as a Production Co-ordinator that took her across the globe – regularly – by being sensible, unflappable, no-nonsense Ruby. Tripping over her own feet couldn’t even begin to rattle her.
“I need you back at the office,” Paul said, even more flustered than usual. “There’s been a development.”
And that was it – he’d already hung up. Ruby knew it was impossible to interpret her Producer’s urgent tone – it was quite possible the sky was falling, but about the same odds that one of the runners had simply screwed up his espresso again. Either way, Ruby needed to get her butt into gear.
“You okay, Rubes?”
Ruby glanced up at the worried voice, squinting a little against the early afternoon sun. But, even mostly in shadow – or maybe because of it – the very broad, and very solid frame of Bruno, the Key Grip, was unmistakeable. Beside him stood a couple of the younger Grips, looking about as awkward as they always did when they weren’t busily carting heavy objects around – plus about half the hair and makeup department. Which made sense, given she’d managed to come crashing to the ground right outside their trailers.
“Of course,” she said, pressing her outflung hands into the soil and levering herself up onto her knees. She waved away Bruno’s helpful hand as she plucked at her t-shirt, pulling the coffee-soaked fabric away from her chest. The parts of her not damp and clinging were decorated with a mix of grass stains and a remarkable number of dirt smudges.
But she didn’t have time to worry about the state of her outfit just now. Or her hair – running her fingers through her short blonde pixie-cut confirmed only that it was somehow dusty too.
A moment later she was back on her feet and her day carried on exactly as before – grass stains and the uncomfortable sensation she was covered in a head to toe sticky coating of dirt – not withstanding.
“Ruby!” A yell from somewhere to her left. “Weather tomorrow?”
“Fine. No chance of rain,” she called out, not even slowing her pace. Paul, as always, would’ve preferred if she’d gained the power of teleportation. In its absence, she just needed to walk even faster than normal.
The cottage that temporarily housed the film’s production office was only a few minutes away – tucked to the left beyond the final cluster of shiny black or white trailers and the slightly askew tent city that was catering.
She kept her focus on her path – already well worn into the grass in the two days since they’d set up camp – mentally crossing her fingers for a coffee-related emergency and nothing more dire. So far she’d already dealt with an unexpected script change, a sudden decision to relocate a scene, and an entitled young actress who’d gone temporarily AWOL. And it was only day one of filming.
“Got a minute?” asked Sarah, a slight redhead in charge of the extensive list of extras required for The Land – an “epic historical romance played out in the heart of the outback” – from the top stair of a shiny black trailer.
“No,” Ruby said, but slowed, anyway. “Paul,” she said, as way of explanation.
“Ah,” Sarah replied, then skipped down from the trailer to fall into step with Ruby as she passed. “Just a quick one. I’ve got a call from a concerned parent. They’re worried about how we’re going to get Samuel to cry in tomorrow’s scene.”
By the time she’d reached the last of the row of trailers a minute later, Sarah was on her way with a solution, and Ruby had fielded another phone call on her mobile. Arizona Smith’s assistant wanted to know if there were Ashtanga Yoga classes in Lucyville, the small north-west New South Wales country town in which they were filming.
Given the remote town’s population was just under 2000 people, Ruby considered this unlikely – but still, with a silent sigh, promised to get back to their female lead’s assistant ASAP.
Ruby broke into a jog as she turned the corner, her gaze trained downward – she wasn’t about to hit the dirt again today – and her brain chock-full of potential “developments” and their hypothetical impact on her already tight schedule.
Consequently, the first she knew of the very large man walking around the corner in the opposite direction, was when she slammed straight into him.
“Ooomph!” The slightly strangled sound burst from her throat at the impact of her body hitting solid muscle. She barely registered her hands sliding up sun-warmed arms to grip t-shirt clad shoulders for balance, or the way her legs tangled with his.
What she did notice, however, were his hands, strong and firm at her waist, the fingers of one hand hot against bare skin where her t-shirt had ridden an inch or two upwards.
And the scent of his skin, even through the thin layer of cotton, where her face was pressed hard against his chest.
Fresh, clean. Delicious.
“Hey,” he said, his voice deep and a little rough beside her ear. “You okay?”
Slowly, slowly, embarrassment began to trickle through her body.
No, not embarrassment – the realisation that she should be embarrassed, that she should be extricating herself from this… clinch… as soon as possible.
“Mm-hmmm”, she said indistinctly, and didn’t move at all.
His fingers flexed slightly, and she registered that now she was moving. Then her back pressed against the cool metal of the shaded wall of a trailer, and she was sliding downwards. He’d been holding her – her feet dangling. Somehow she’d had no idea of this fact until her ballet flats were again responsible for holding her upright.
Had anyone ever held her so effortlessly?
She was medium height, far from tiny – and yet this man had been holding her in his arms like she weighed as much as the average lollypop-thin Hollywood lead actress.
Again his hands squeezed at her waist.
“Hey,” he repeated. “You’re worrying me here. Are you hurt?”
She blinked and finally lifted her head from his chest. She tried to look at him, to figure out who he was – but his face was mostly in shadow, the sunlight a white glare behind him.
But something about the angle of his jaw was familiar.
Who was he? He was fit, but he wasn’t one of the Grips. Some of the guys in Props were pretty tall, but Ruby honestly couldn’t imagine enjoying being held in the arms of any of them. Which she was, undeniably, doing right now. Enjoying this.
She shook her head, trying to focus. “Just a bit dazed, I think,” she managed. Belatedly, she acknowledged that was true. With every second, the fog was dissipating. But it was a gradual transition.
Right now, she found herself perfectly happy where she was. Standing right where she was.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
She could barely make out the slightest curve to his lips, but it was there. “I’ll survive.”
His grip on her softened a little as he seemed to realise she wasn’t in any imminent danger. But he didn’t let her go. Her hands still rested on his shoulders, but removing them wasn’t even a consideration.
A cloud shifted or something, and the shadows lightened. Now she could make out the square line of his jaw, covered liberally in stubble; the sculpted straightness of his nose; and the almost horizontal slashes of his eyebrows. But even this close – close enough that the action of breathing almost brought her chest up against his – she couldn’t quite make out the colour of his gaze.
A gaze that she knew was trained on her, exploring her face – her eyes, her lips…
Ruby closed her eyes tight shut, trying to assemble her thoughts. Trying to assemble herself, actually.
The fog had cleared. Reality was re-entering – her reality. Straight-forward, straight-talking Ruby Bell. Who was not taken to romantic notions or embracing total strangers.
He wasn’t crew. He must be an extra, some random guy minding his own business before she’d literally thrown herself into his arms.
Inwardly, she cringed. Too late, mortification hit. Hard.
Rational, no-nonsense words were right on the tip of her tongue as she opened her eyes.
But instead of speaking, she sucked in sharp breath.
He’d moved closer, so, so close.
The man didn’t look worried now. He looked almost… predatory. In a very, very good way.
She swallowed. Once, twice.
Beneath traitorous fingers that had crept along his shoulders to his nape, his overlong hair was coarse beneath her fingertips.
“You,” he said, his breath fanning against her cheek, “are quite the welcoming party.”
Ruby felt overwhelmed by him. His size, his devastating looks, his nearness. She barely made out what he’d said. “Pardon?”
He didn’t repeat himself, he just watched her, his gaze locked onto hers.
Whatever she’d been going to say – the words had evaporated.
All she seemed capable of was staring at him. Into those eyes, those amazing, piercing… familiar eyes.
Finally it clicked into place.
“Had anyone ever told you, you look just like Devlin Cooper?” she said. Babbled, maybe. God. She didn’t know what was going on.
One of his hands had released her waist, and he ran a finger down her cheek and along her jaw. She shivered.
“A couple of times,” he said, the words as dry as the grass they stood upon.
No, not quite like the famous Devlin Cooper. This man had dark circles beneath his eyes, and his hair was far too long. He was too tall, surely, as well – she’d met enough leading men to know the average Hollywood star was far shorter than they looked on screen. And, she acknowledged, there was a sparseness to his width – he was muscled, but he didn’t have the bulk of the movie-star. He looked like Devlin Cooper might look if turned into one of those method actors who lost bucket-loads of weight for a role. Not that Ruby could imagine that ever happening – Devlin Cooper was more generic-action-blockbuster-star than the Oscar-worthy-art-house type.
But, as the man’s fingers tipped her chin upwards, any thought of Devlin Cooper was obliterated. Once again it was just her, and this man, and this amazing, crazy tension that crackled between them. She’d never felt anything like it.
She was sure she’d never wanted anything more than to discover what was going to happen next.
Text Copyright © 2013 by Leah Ashton
Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books SA. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprise Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.