About COLLATERAL DAMAGE
Hollywood It Girl, Francesca Leon, has just landed the biggest role of her career…one that could clinch an Oscar nomination and open doors. If she’s going to move her career to the next level and work with top directors, she has to nail this part — and keep her sexy, but unreliable leading man from screwing everything up.
Bad boy Calder Fox is the son of Hollywood royalty and fresh out of rehab after his best friend’s death sent him on a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol. While his fans still love him and the paparazzi stalk him, he’s never taken life, or anything about his career, seriously. He may be charming and drop-dead gorgeous, but if he doesn’t stay sober, he could ruin Frankie’s future and expose her long-hidden family secret to the voracious media.
Behind the scenes
Things heat up during filming and have the potential to become hotter, deeper, and much more real. But can Frankie trust Calder with her secret? Or is he doomed to sabotage his own happiness yet again?
COLLATERAL DAMAGE releases February 19th
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Unbelievable. I stared at the screen in front of me displaying the taping going on at The Diane Gayle Show as Calder Fox sauntered onto the set. He was as attractive as ever—of course. He seemed to have lost some of his usual arrogance, but my guess was it was just a PR ploy. God, I couldn’t believe I’d ever fawned over that guy when we’d worked together as teens.
I turned to my manager, Brock. “Did we ever find out how Calder got top billing on this instead of me?”
“He offered an exclusive to Diane—won’t be taking any more interview requests after his appearance here.”
I leaned back against the green room couch and crossed my arms like a petulant child. “Figures. What Calder wants, Calder gets. It doesn’t hurt that he’s the son of Hollywood royalty.”
Brock shrugged. “Frankie, you know as well as I do that no one will turn down an exclusive, especially with someone like Calder Fox. Besides, if he doesn’t get his shit together, it’s not going to matter who his parents are—no one will work with him.”
I didn’t respond. I’d been taught by my mom and my PR camp that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, to say nothing at all. Calder and I had only worked together once before—both having bit parts in a TV sitcom where we played brother and sister. We’d only been seventeen at the time, but he’d consistently shown up late to the set and always hungover—hell, he had probably still been drunk most of that time. He’d acted like the pompous ass that he was, ordering people around and treating them like shit, like he was better than everyone there because his daddy happened to be a big-time director and his mother, a famous actress. I’d been like most of the other idiot girls in this town at the time, thinking his attitude was cool and wishing he’d pay attention to me. Now I was able to see him for what he really was—extremely entitled.
Today I was appearing on The Diane Gayle Show at the tail end of a press junket for my latest indie film. I supposed that wasn’t as interesting as confessions of the rich and famous. Poor little Calder had issues. Boo-freaking-hoo…what else was new?
I let out a huff as I settled back in my seat to watch his interview until I had to head to the set.
Diane had on her sympathetic face—she must be getting ready to try and pull some heartstrings. “So Calder, you recently left rehab for substance and alcohol abuse. What was your experience there like?”
“It was eye opening, that’s for sure,” he responded with a nervous laugh. Diane gave him an encouraging nod and he continued. “I needed to be there. My life had spun out of control. It was difficult, but…it was healing at the same time.”
I rolled my eyes as I watched Diane take his hand, fully buying into his apologetic act.
“I know this is difficult to talk about, Calder, but I have to ask…the public will want to know. What specifically were you addicted to?”
Calder ran his free hand through his shoulder-length, sun-bleached locks. I ignored the way the dark roots peeked out here and there and just how hot it made him look. Hot guys in Hollywood were usually douchebags and Calder was no exception.
He sucked in a big breath before answering. “I’ve been drinking since I was about thirteen years old. When you grow up in show biz, there isn’t much that isn’t available to you. Looking back now, I can see that I’d been an alcoholic since the time I was sixteen or seventeen. Back in the day, I used to just drink when I was chillin’ with my friends, but it developed into an everyday thing I needed to feel normal.” Calder used air quotes around the word normal, while Diane nodded her head like she knew exactly what he was going through. “At some point in my early twenties, the booze wasn’t enough and I started dabbling in cocaine and other recreational drugs. I’ve probably tried everything under the sun, but coke was my drug of choice.”
Calder’s neck flushed a bit and he played with the collar of his shirt, seemingly embarrassed by his confession. I hated to admit it, but I understood. The limelight was not an easy place to be, even when you were an up-and-coming media darling like myself. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to have all your darkest secrets laid bare in front of the world, up for discussion and dissection for anyone with a Wi-Fi connection. I shivered, my hair standing on end as I considered for a moment what the press would say if they ever got hold of my secret.
“You cold? I can ask if there’s a blanket or something you can use.” Brock’s voice brought me back from my reverie.
“No, I’m fine. Thanks.” I gave him a weak smile and focused my attention back on the monitor.
“What’s been the most difficult part about all of this for you?” Diane asked Calder.
He answered without hesitation. “Losing my friend in the accident. Being sober allowed me to see all the mistakes I’d made over the past several years with complete clarity…to recognize all the people I’ve hurt along the way.” He swiped at the tears building in his eyes. “That’s hard for me to accept and work through.” Calder looked up to the ceiling and blinked back tears, blowing air from his mouth in a rough exhale.
He seemed sincere, I’d give him that. But with actors, you never really knew what was genuine and what was not. Diane gave his hand a squeeze and turned her attention to the camera. “We’re going to take a break. We’ll be back in a minute to talk some more to Calder Fox and find out where it all went wrong.”
Calder immediately sprang up from his seat and shoved a hand through his long hair, then paced around the set taking deep breaths with his hands on his hips. It genuinely appeared as if his conversation with Diane was affecting him. Could I have been wrong about him? Maybe he had grown up since the last time we worked together. It had been years, after all.
Brock rose from the couch and turned to face me. “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna see when you’re up.”
I nodded absentmindedly, watching as everyone on set scattered to get out of the camera shot except for Diane and Calder, who had now taken his seat again.
Diane flashed her veneers at the camera and began. “We’re back and still talking with Calder Fox, the reigning prince in Hollywood’s royal family and everyone’s favorite bad boy.” She turned to face Calder once again. “Before the break, we were discussing what it was like for you in rehab. What are your plans moving forward now?”
He drew in a breath. “Well, I plan to make amends with all the people I’ve wronged in the past and I’m going to continue living the healthy lifestyle I am now. More than anything though, I want to get back to work.” I’ll bet he did. “I know I’ve burned a lot of bridges with my on-set behavior in the past, but I’m determined to show that I can act like the professional I am and get the job done.”
“Anything in the works right now?” Diane looked like a pit bull, salivating to get the inside scoop and dig her teeth into him.
“Nothing I can talk about at this point.” He flashed her a panty-melting smile that lit up his blue eyes and caused a shiver of need to run through me. I refused to even examine what the hell that was about. Sure, it was no mystery why A-list celebrities dropped their drawers for the ‘Hollywood Fox’, but it pissed me off to know I could be affected by his charm. I didn’t like the guy. Not even a little.
He’d basically been blacklisted for the past year so whichever director and studio took him on next deserved whatever they got.
“You’re up in six, Frankie.” Brock strolled back into the room with a sheet of paper in his hand. “I’ve cleared the list of questions they’re going to ask you. Take a look for yourself though.”
I leaned forward and reached for the paper, giving it a quick once-over. Same shit, different day. That was the thing about doing a press junket. You were asked the same questions a hundred different times but only in ten different ways. By now I’d perfected all of my answers and could do these interviews as drunk and high as Calder on a Saturday night.
I mentally scolded myself…that was mean. I didn’t know what it was, but something about Calder brought out my bitchy side.
Handing the paper back to Brock, I said, “Got it,” and rose from the couch, smoothing my skirt over my thighs when I was upright.
He led me down the hallway until we stood at the side of the stage to wait for my turn. We didn’t have long to wait. Calder came sauntering off stage, appearing completely relaxed and not at all like he’d just been forced to discuss what was supposedly one of the hardest times of his life.
His gaze inched slowly up the length of my body before he met my gaze, a small smirk forming on his lips. My traitorous nipples pebbled underneath my silk shirt, and I was sure he could tell given the fact that I wasn’t wearing a bra. Note to self—avoid backless shirts around attractive men. I pressed my teeth together, more irritated than ever that I found him so physically appealing.
“Have we met?” Calder asked me with that stupid grin still on his face.
I’m sure I looked like I was trying to catch flies with my mouth. Was he shitting me? I schooled my reaction as best I could and responded through clenched teeth. “Francesca Leon.”
“Oh, right. You’re that chick that does all the indie films.”
Seriously? He was going to act like we’d never met before—like we’d never worked together? Why did that grate on me so much? It’s not like I should care one way or the other what he thought. I gave him a quick nod, not saying anything.
He put his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “Well, good luck out there,” he said before walking past me. His cologne wafted by as he passed, a mix of the outdoors and the ocean. I resisted the urge to close my eyes and breathe in deeply. I would not let that idiot’s charm affect me like it did so many other women. I was smarter than that.
A production assistant walked up, a frantic expression on his face. “You’re due on set.”
“Coming,” I said. I swept all thoughts of Calder from my mind, remembering why I was here. This was the final push for my film that would be releasing next week, after which I’d be starting production on my first mainstream, big-budget studio film. This was is it…the one I was determined would launch my career and make Francesca Leon a household name.
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