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When Stars Align

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Chapter 3


The lake was still shrouded in darkness as I made my way to the dock, the beam from my flashlight bouncing off the trees. I wasn’t afraid of the dark, but this was unfamiliar turf. The wildlife in these woods didn’t know me. And I was more afraid of people than animals. There were three hundred crew members staying at the camp.


Just because they were working on a movie set, didn’t mean they weren’t criminals. It was a big production, with lots of subcontracted services.

Elwood was already at the dock when I arrived at ten minutes to five. He offered to come and get me, but I declined. I didn’t want people to think I was a fragile woman, who couldn’t do anything on her own. And I didn’t want the other crew members thinking there was something going on between us.

I wasn’t looking for a relationship. Elwood seemed like a sweet guy, but he wasn’t my type. I really had no idea what my type was. I’d only ever had one boyfriend. I had no inclination to meet anyone else.

“Good morning!” he called out as I made my way down the rickety wooden steps that led to the shore.

“Good morning,” I said.

“How was your night?”

“I slept well,” I lied.

I had a terrible night, between the pain from the burns on my thighs, and my confused sex drive, trying to trick me into thinking I was attracted to the miserable ogre next door.

“We don’t have to ride on that, do we?” I whispered as I watched some men loading equipment on an aluminum barge tethered to the dock.

“The cast certainly don’t,” Grove said, appearing behind us. “But it will be used to transport the crew back and forth. Since you don’t fit into either of those categories, I guess you’re swimming.”

A nasty comeback was on the tip of my tongue when Richard clambered down the steps.

“Good morning!” he bellowed. “I hope everyone slept well. We have a full day of filming on the docket today. Time is money.”

“It’s a movie set, not a courtroom,” Grove muttered.

A thin man wearing a three-piece maroon suit picked his way down the steps, muttering under his breath while he slapped at the numerous mosquitos buzzing around him.

“It’s your cologne, Issac,” Gentry sighed, shaking her head as she joined us on the dock.

“I’m not an outdoors person,” he whined. “I had to shower under a lukewarm trickle of water. And I had to settle for regular coffee! I don’t know if I can go three months without my Lungo.”

“Didn’t you bring your Espresso machine?” Gentry inquired.


“Why not?”

“I don’t know how to use it.”

“Why didn’t you get Ginger to teach you?”

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “I’m a stupid, stupid man.”

“Issac, this is Gertie,” Gentry said. “Otherwise known as Lana Lush.”

“Hello,” he said, glancing briefly at me with vague indifference.

“Issac is Grove’s personal assistant,” she explained. “Ginger is my brother’s housekeeper. She’s younger than both of them, but she functions like their mother, catering to their every need. Without her, they can barely wipe their own asses.”

Grove ignored his sister’s dig, joining Richard at the end of the large dock, where a fancy speedboat was waiting.

“She’s a beauty, Richard,” Grove observed.

“Yes,” he agreed. “You can’t put a price on comfort. It’s a top of the line, twelve-passenger, luxury speed boat catamaran.”

“Do you know how to drive this thing?” Gentry asked.

“Of course not,” he chuckled. “I’ve secured a local fellow to look after that. He knows the lake, and has lots of boating experience.”

“How far is it to the castle?” Grove asked as we piled onto the boat.

“Ten minutes,” the boat captain replied.

“That’s not bad.”

“Good thing we’re riding in luxury for the long trip,” Gentry laughed.

I sat between Gentry and Elwood, securing my backpack between my feet. Grove glanced across the boat, scowling when Elwood rested his arm behind my head.

“Good morning!” a female voice rang out.

Twila Winston climbed onto the boat, almost toppling over in her five-inch heels. The female lead in my movie was an up-and-coming actress in Hollywood, recently winning her first Academy Award for her role in a blockbuster hit about human trafficking. She got her start in the business with a sex tape, accidentally released, depicting her having some seriously raunchy relations with a famous, and very married, athlete.

I was shocked when they cast her in the role of Alice. Twila couldn’t portray an innocent twenty-year-old. No matter how good of an actress she may have been, people would always associate her with her sex tape. But I wasn’t consulted about the casting.

“We were just about to leave without you,” Richard informed her.

“I’m right on time,” she protested.

“You’re one minute late!” he barked. “Next time, you’ll find yourself on the barge. Time is money!”

How many times a day did he say that?

Twila ignored him, taking the empty spot next to Grove. He cringed, moving over so his jean clad thigh wasn’t touching her bare leg.

Did they already know each other?

It was obvious Grove didn’t like her much. He wasn’t going out of his way to hide it. But Twila was oblivious.

“Grover Goodwood, don’t get shy on me,” she whispered, loud enough for everyone to hear. “We have some very intimate scenes together. And I like to do lots of rehearsing, if you get my drift.”

“Not gonna happen, Twila,” he growled, lifting her hand from his thigh. “Any rehearsing will be done with the intimacy coordinator present.”

“We don’t need her.”

“Yes, we do!” Richard barked. “She is on her way as we speak. Her plane just landed in Pickle Lake.”

“Who is it?” Twila sighed.

“Bernadette Stein.”

“Seriously?” she scoffed. “She’s an old spinster. What does she know about sex?”

“There’s a lot more to being an intimacy coordinator than just knowledge about sex,” Gentry said. “They have to have a solid understanding of choreography and movement, and people skills, so they can help ensure the actors aren’t doing anything they aren’t comfortable with. Bernadette Stein has an amazing reputation. She’s worked on some pretty big productions.”

“Not to mention, she was a professional dancer and an accomplished actress in her younger years,” Issac added. “I absolutely adore Bernie. She’s a close, personal friend.”

“Whatever,” Twila muttered, slapping at her arm. “There’s too many mosquitos here.”

“Maybe don’t bathe in perfume tomorrow morning,” Grove muttered.

“Why are you always so rude, Grover?”

“I’m not rude, I’m honest,” he said without turning his head to make eye contact with her. “And if you don’t stop calling me Grover, you’re going to find yourself going for a swim in the lake.”

I tuned out their bickering, taking in the scenery as we zoomed down the lake. The sun appeared behind the tall pines, the first rays of light stretching across the water.

Nothing could top Bear Lake, Idaho. My home in Caribou County was nestled in the southeast corner of the state, on the north shore of the lake.

But my current surroundings ran a pretty close second.

The only thing that would’ve made it better was the mountains.

And my family.

I swallowed past the lump in my throat, focusing on the sounds of the lake. The birds chirped their morning chorus, the frogs croaking happily as the woods and the water slowly came to life.

We rounded a bend in the lake.

And there it was.

The castle.

A towering stone monolith, its turrets and chimneys outlined against the bronze sky.

“She’s a beauty,” the boat captain said as we approached the long curved dock stretching out over the rocky shoreline. “The entrepreneurs who bought this island had more money than brains, though.”

The castle was a modern replica of a medieval fortress. A couple of billionaires had it built with the intention of using it as an exclusive inn for the rich and famous to come and relax, without the worry of being harassed by the paparazzi or crazy fans. But they underestimated the cost of building a castle on a remote island in Canada. When they couldn’t secure enough investors, they had to scrap the project.

“How were they planning to get guests over here in the winter?” Grove asked, wrinkling his nose as he took in the island.

“They built an airstrip,” the boat captain replied. “It’s out back.”

“Why didn’t they do any landscaping?” Issac inquired.

“They never got to it.”

“Aren’t we doing scenes outside?”

“There aren’t too many outside the walls,” Richard said. “Most of the story takes place inside. We built a set in the courtyard.”

“The Bailey,” I said quietly.

“What’s that, sweetheart?” Richard asked, taking a puff on his cigar while he pinned me with a stare that would scare the skin off a raw potato.

I licked my lips, my heart thundering in my ears as I prepared to be fired and thrown overboard.

“The courtyard in a Medieval Castle is called a bailey, or a ward,” I explained, my voice trembling.

“Interesting,” he said, studying me thoughtfully. “You’re going to be a real asset up here this summer, Gertrude.”

Grove glanced at Isaac, making no effort to disguise his scowl of derision, and the accompanying eye roll. I really couldn’t stand the ass who was starring in my movie, or his stuck up, condescending little jerk of an assistant.

“I want everything in the movie to be perfect,” Richard continued. “Fifty million people bought King of the Castle. And that doesn’t include all the ones who read it when it was on that free website where you first published it. I don’t want to hear those fifty million fans complaining that the movie wasn’t as good as the book. I want to accomplish what very few directors before me have done. This movie is going to be exactly like the book. That’s what the people want.”

“I agree, Richard,” Twila gushed. “I read the book, and I would be very upset if you changed anything about the plot or the characters.”

“You know how to read?” Grove snorted.

“That’s very rude, Grover,” she whined.

“Sorry, honey,” he chuckled. “But I can’t picture you curled up with a book. The only thing that pops into my head when I look at you, is the memory of you with your ankles behind your ears, with that basketball player’s giant dick slamming your cunt.”

A collective gasp rippled through the boat.

I’d never met someone as nasty as Grove Goodwood in my life. And that was a bad word. One of my brothers got caught saying it once, and my mother washed his mouth out with soap. None of the boys ever used it again. Or at least not in front of my parents.

“You might wanna close your mouth, Lana,” Grove suggested, rising from his seat as we pulled in next to the dock. “Your boyfriend is entertaining some dirty thoughts right about now.”

I stood up, cursing my short legs when I had to crane my neck to glare at the ridiculously tall jackass in front of me.

“I already told you, he’s not my boyfriend,” I hissed.

“He wants to be,” he whispered, a sly smirk spreading across his mouth as he glanced over my shoulder at poor Elwood, standing awkwardly with his hands shoved in the pockets of his cargo shorts. “Did you tell him about last night?”

“There’s nothing to tell.”

“That’s not how I remember it,” he chuckled as he turned and headed for the steps.

I followed him, my eyes landing on his jean-clad ass.

Grover Goodwood was a hot piece of meat.

There was no argument there.

But that didn’t make up for his surliness or his condescending attitude toward not only me, but his co-star, Twila. She didn’t deserve to be spoken to like that.

I looked up to find Richard watching me with a curious stare while he puffed away on his cigar.

“C’mon, Gertrude,” he commanded. “We’ve got a movie to make.”

“Well, young lady,” Richard said when we reached the top floor of the tower keep. “What do you think?”

How was he not out of breath, after climbing multiple staircases? The man had to be pushing sixty. He was morbidly obese. And he smoked nonstop. I was surprised his cigars stayed in his pocket during the tour. The set designer, Janice, only had to remind him once.

“It’s perfect,” I said, walking over to the window. “What a view.”

Trees and water stretched out beneath us in every direction. It was so strange not to see any mountains though. This part of Canada was quite flat.

I glanced around the room, noting the chaise lounge and lighting equipment. Some areas of the castle were completely unfinished, with nothing more than stone walls and floor boards, but the ones where scenes were set to filmed, had been decorated and furnished.

I knew exactly which scene would be filmed up there. I did write the book. The scriptwriters had to change some stuff, but for the most part, they stuck to the original storyline.

“I’m still working on this set,” Janice explained. “Intimate scenes are a challenge, and getting the lighting right up here is going to require a lot of finesse, and multiple retakes.”

“The first time Therion and Alice do the deed is one of the most important scenes,” Richard explained. “It has to be perfect. I don’t even want to attempt it until Grove and Twila settle down.”

“I’m making some revisions,” Laurie said. “I want the scene up here to be romantic. The first time Therion and Alice have sex is anything but romantic, and ends badly. I think the first time should be in Alice’s bedroom. What do you think, Gertie?”

“I agree.”


He rubbed his pocket where he kept his cigars, pursing his lips. “Makes sense. I’m more concerned about the animosity and lack of chemistry between the actors than minor changes to the script.”

“I heard them squabbling when I went past hair and makeup,” Janice said.

“Bernie will be here shortly,” Richard said. “She’ll straighten them out, and guide them so they channel their dislike into sexual tension on the screen.”

“Do you film the scenes out of order?” I asked.

“Most movies aren’t filmed in chronological order,” he explained. “This one is a bit different. We’re only shooting in one location, and the cast is here for the duration of filming. If there are multiple locations, scheduling is much more challenging and rigid. If you’re shooting outdoors, the weather can be a factor. With this film, the biggest challenges I foresee are the intimate scenes.”

“They are, uh, interesting,” Janice chuckled. “And there are quite a few.”

“And we have children on the cast,” Richard added. “We have to make sure that they aren’t on set when we’re filming sex scenes. They won’t be here all summer, either. Their scenes will be shot over a period of a few weeks midsummer. It’s time-consuming, because kids are only allowed to work so many hours a day, and we’re at the mercy of their moods, and their parents.”

“I’m learning so much,” I said.

“Is the castle how you pictured it in your mind when you were writing the book?” Janice asked.

“It really is,” I said. “It’s perfect. You did an amazing job.”

“Thank you.”

“When you hear a single buzzer, that means they’re about to start rolling,” Gentry explained as we stood along the wall. “As soon as you hear that, you have to be quiet until you hear the double buzzer, indicating they are no longer rolling.”

“How long does it take to film a scene?”

“It depends,” she said. “It could take thirty minutes, or it could take an entire day.”

“An entire day?” I gasped.

“If it’s a complex scene that requires lots of set up and takes to get it right. But there are no action scenes, or stuntmen, or special effects in this movie. The one they’re preparing to do right now is when Alice meets Therion for the first time.”

I giggled when Grove appeared, dressed in a dark green velour tracksuit.

“He was so pissed when he found out his character dresses like that,” Gentry whispered.

“They captured Alice’s look perfectly,” I said when Twila walked into Therion’s office, dressed in a long, homemade, brown plaid dress.

“Did she sign all the paperwork?” Therion barks.

“All twenty-five pages,” Phyllis sighs, handing him a folder.

“Sit,” he orders, pointing to the chair facing his desk. “Phyllis, you’re excused.”

Alice stares at her hands, trembling while her new boss glares across the desk.

“Look at me, please.”

She lifts her head.

“You have no experience.”

“I have three younger sisters.”

“That doesn’t qualify as nanny experience.”

“Your assistant hired me, and arranged for my transportation here. I thought I had the job.”

“Your employment here is probationary, and can be terminated at any time, if I feel you’re not the right person to care for my daughters.”

“Thank you for giving me a chance, Mr. Tolbert. I won’t let you down.”

“You do realize I have eight daughters?”


“They’re a handful.”

“I’m up for the challenge.”

“I have my doubts about that,” he snorts. “You’re excused. Phyliss will show you to your quarters. The girls are in bed. You will meet them tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re dismissed,” he says with a wave of his hand.

“Why is it taking so long to film such a simple scene?” I whispered after two hours, and multiple retakes.

“Richard is fussy, and the assistant director is a perfectionist. They’ll spend an entire day filming one scene, if that’s what it takes to get it right.”

“That’s crazy.”

“The initial meeting in a romance is an important scene,” she explained.

“I’m not feeling any chemistry,” Richard bellowed. “Grove, go do scene seventeen in the kitchen with Ann. They were ready an hour ago. Time is money, and you two just wasted an abundance of it with subpar performances. There will be no phoning it in! No more scenes with Therion and Alice together until Bernie gets here. You two are gonna rehearse this one until you get it right.”

“I better go talk to my brother,” Gentry sighed. “Will you be okay on your own for a bit, Gertie?”

“Yes,” I replied.

I wandered down the hallway, poking my head into different rooms. Some were empty, others full of camera equipment, lights and filming paraphernalia.

Richard’s angry voice had me skidding to a stop. I ducked behind the massive staircase in the great hall.

“I don’t understand,” the woman with him said. “They did a chemistry read.”

“And I wasn’t convinced she was right for the part, but Dan insisted the chemistry was there. He’s been in the business almost as long as I have. He’s one of the best casting directors in Hollywood.”

“Do you think they’re fucking?” she asked.

“No way,” he declared. “She tried to come on to him this morning, and he shut her down in true Grove Goodwood fashion, without an ounce of kindness.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she said. “But if there’s no sexual chemistry, it will be a challenge to manufacture it on the screen. Especially if they’re at each other’s throats the second the cameras stop rolling.”

“If there’s one person in the world who can fix this, it’s you, Bernie.”

“I’ll do my best, Richie.”


“How about we find an empty room, and make good use of it?” he whispered.

I slapped my hand over my mouth.

Richard and Bernadette Stein were doing the nasty?!

Wasn’t Richard married?

He’d had so many wives, I’d lost track. And you couldn’t believe everything you read in the tabloids. But Bernadette Stein had to be pushing eighty.

A frightening image of Richard on top of a four-foot something granny popped into my head.



“Save your energy and your pills for later,” she chuckled.

I stayed in my hiding spot until I was sure they were gone, my mind reeling with everything I’d just learned.

Richard was banging the intimacy coordinator.

And he didn’t think Twila was right for the part of Alice.

She definitely wasn’t. No argument there.

But wasn’t it far too late to recast her?

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