If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com. If you have suggestions or corrections, please don’t bother as that’s the job of my publisher’s editor.
Come visit me at: www.officialaspfilms.com or my publisher at: www.pdpublishing.com
Becca climbed up to the second level balcony, feeling like a monkey. With the expert precision of doing it thousands of times, she swung from the sliding ladder to the cement floor.
"Hey, Brian!" she called, leaning over the railing. Her younger brother, who was standing on the main level of the warehouse, talking to their forklift operator. He looked up at her. "How many do we need again?"
Brian Steiner looked down at the order clipped to his clipboard. "Four! Horn-rimmed. Black!" he called back up. Becca saluted acknowledgement, then disappeared into the shadows of the second level again.
Becca searched through all the plastic tubs that were lined on the hand-built wood shelving, scanning the labels. "Ah ha!" she exclaimed, finding what she was looking for. She pulled off the plastic lid to reveal a box full of various types of glasses: plastic frames, wire frames, and every color of the rainbow. "Black," she muttered, sorting through until she found the color and style. "Horn-rimmed, and four pairs." Glasses set aside, she replaced the box and moved on to the next item on her list.
Brian was finishing up the paperwork by time Becca had everything stowed in the Prop Master’s car. She waited behind her brother with her hands buried in the back pockets of her well-worn jeans. When the business was concluded, Brian and Becca headed inside the massive structure that was B&B Prop Shop.
"He said he’s going to talk with Spielberg tomorrow," Brian was saying, heading toward the office they shared. "He may be back for that Cadillac."
"Okay." Becca threw herself into one of the padded metal chairs, blowing out a loud breath. "Damn, it’s been a long day." She ran her fingers through her long, dark hair. "What?" she asked, eyeing her brother, who had sat behind the desk across from her.
"I can’t get used to you with the dark hair." He eyed her, shaking his head. "It’s so… not you."
"Oh, come on. It looks good," Becca murmured absently as she pulled a few strands in front of her eyes to look at the deep, chestnut color.
"Guess that’s what happens when you’re in a relationship with a movie makeup person." He grinned. "At least it wasn’t blue this time."
Becca rolled her eyes. "Oh, god, I know. ‘Honey, I want to color your hair so it matches your eyes.’" They both dissolved into laughter at Becca’s dead-on impersonation of her girlfriend of two years.
"Well, are you ready to close up shop?" Brian looked at his wristwatch. "It’s almost midnight-thirty. I’m pooped."
"Me, too. You go ahead, Bri. I don’t want Christy to kick my ass."
Brian grinned, pushing away from the desk. "Well, since it was supposed to be my day off and all…"
"Yeah, yeah." Becca leaned back in her chair, eyes closed as she listened to her younger brother move around the office. "I’ll remember that snide comment next time you get a huge order in and it’s my day off." She heard him chuckle, then leave. Within moments the engine of his truck roared to life, and he was gone.
Blowing out a breath, Becca opened her eyes and wandered into the warehouse. Hands on hips, she studied her surroundings. They’d come far in eight years. She thought back to those early days. She’d arrived back in her hometown, not knowing the town anymore. It had grown in the four years she’d been gone. New buildings. New businesses. New people. She’d gotten a job at a tattoo parlor called Badland’s Tattoos, the owner a friend of her Aunt Barbara’s. After finding an apartment and settling in, she’d worked for a month before she’d garnered the courage to go home.
To say the welcome was icy was a gross understatement. Her two youngest brothers had welcomed her with open arms, far too young when she’d left to really remember the bad times, or condemn her. Her oldest brother, James, still refused to speak with her, but the second oldest, Toby, two years her senior, had started to come around within a year.
Her parents, well, that had been a different story entirely. Her father refused to see her or allow her into his house. Her mother, on the other hand, had cried as she’d held her only daughter. They’d meet for clandestine lunches and meetings. Things weren’t much different now than they had been eight years before, or four years before that. Her father still judged her, and was a miserable old man for it.
Brian had gotten married to a local girl, then they’d headed off west to California where Christy’s family was. A twenty-three year old Brian had managed to get a job as a security guard at Universal Studios, and the bug had struck. Two years later he’d talked Becca into joining him. Over the next two years they’d managed to make a deal with the bank and Christy’s father, and started their very own business. At first it had been simply a matter of selling themselves to production companies and studios to gather what the production needed: heavy equipment, vehicles for shooting. They would find staff, and make deals for sound stages, with companies that didn’t have their own.
Their reputation for being fair and extremely good at what they did spread quickly, and finally they opened B&B Prop Shop. Now, Becca stood on the ground floor, looking into the vastness of the space that surrounded her. They carried everything from clown noses to furniture to an Army tank, all stored within the walls of their warehouse. They catered to the film sets, as well as the many colleges, universities and acting schools from San Diego to Seattle. They had finally hired three other employees last year, the business too much for the two of them to handle.
Becca liked her life. It was a good life. She was content in most ways, though she couldn’t help but wish she had what Brian and Christy had. Yes, she had Jae, but even after two years together, she had no desire to move in with the eccentric makeup artist. Jae was great, she was beautiful and a little bit crazy, but she wasn’t in Becca’s heart. She wasn’t sure that the twenty-eight year old even had that kind of capacity within her. Becca had known better when she started to date the woman who was six years younger than herself. She’d learned long ago to stay away from the younger ones.
Sighing heavily, Becca shut down all the lights and made sure the security system was set. She waved goodnight to Wayne, their night guard, then climbed into her two month old midnight black Chevy 3LT convertible Corvette. The two-toned black and white leather seats were soft under her weight as she sat. She inhaled the wonderful smell of new car, then started the engine. Immediately the rag top was stowing itself into the trunk as she squealed into the night.
Usually one for her alone time, she didn’t feel like going back to an empty house. For some reason tonight she craved company, a rarity. Her time in prison had changed her irrevocably. Once she was a social butterfly who got a charge out of the looks and stares that came her way. In prison her looks had made things so much worse for her. Petty jealousies that were harmless on the streets were deadly behind bars. Once she’d gotten out, she’d craved solitude and peace.
That was one thing she liked about living near L.A. Beautiful people ruled the landscape. You saw one, you saw a hundred. Becca was no better, no worse, and she liked it that way. During her time in the City of Angels, the modeling world had come calling more than once, but she was finished with that. She no longer had a need for attention and to be fawned over. She wanted to live a happy, quiet life running the business she and Brian had worked so hard to build. Her brother, now thirty and with Christy and two young children, were her only family on the coast, and they were really her only friends or social outlet. More often than not Jae had something industry-related to go to, and once in awhile Becca joined her. But, for the most part, she stayed in the small bungalow she’d bought three years ago, and relished the peace she’d finally found.
The spring night air was warm as it blew through her hair, whipping all over her face. One-handed, she grabbed a baseball cap from the glove box and put it on backwards. She grinned as her newest toy purred beneath her as she took the winding roads in the Hills at dangerous speeds. She could see the Hollywood sign intermittently between the trees as she sped along. She felt like howling at the moon in the joy of her freedom.
Two hours later Becca pulled into her driveway, a groan escaping her throat. Every light in the three bedroom bungalow was aglow, as well as a trail of cars were parked along the curb. "Shit."
Laughter could be heard before Becca even got the front door open. The smell of pizza filled the air, as well as beer. "Babe, is that you?" a female voice called from around the corner in the living room.
"Who else?" Becca muttered, closing and locking the front door. "Yep." She walked into the well-lit room where her furniture was filled with bodies, all laughter and talking stopped as all eyes focused on her. She held up a hand, giving the room at large a small wave. She recognized most, all Jae’s friends, and most in the film industry in one way or another. Her eccentric girlfriend was sitting on the floor cross-legged, a beer in her hand. She raised the brown bottle in a salute of greeting.
"What’s going on?" Becca asked, glancing at the wall clock, "at almost two in the morning."
Jae pushed up to her feet with a small grunt and walked over to the brunette. Wrapping her in a tight hug, she kissed Becca thoroughly. "I missed you and was lonely," Jae explained against her lips.
"Well," Becca said, trying to hide her irritation. She knew how social Jae was, and tried not to be a complete anti-social hermit. "I’m tired, so can you maybe pack it up?"
Jae backed away just enough to look into Becca’s eyes. Not seeing any anger, she grinned as she nodded. "Okay." One more quick kiss and Jae turned away and back to her roomful of guests. "Everyone out. I wanna screw my girlfriend."
Becca nearly died of embarrassment even as the group chuckled. Slowly they began to gather their trash and throw it out. A smattering of goodbyes, and fifteen minutes later, Becca and Jae were in Becca’s bedroom, the makeup artist quickly undressing her quarry. She spoke as she did.
"You should have joined us tonight. We had a lot of fun."
"I’m sure you did," Becca said, her nipples instantly hardening as the air from the overhead fan swept across them. "It was just too long of a day." She moaned softly as one of those nipples was suckled. "Who was the tall black guy?" she managed.
"Rob. He’s the newest boyfriend of Alec," Jae murmured, systematically removing jeans and panties.
"Oh." As Becca stepped out of her jeans, she got a mental image of Jae’s old friend, Alec. He was a fellow makeup artist in the industry, as well as an artist. She called his thin frame and short, well-cut black hair. He was a good looking guy, and his new boyfriend was, too. They made a good couple.
"Alec is the reason why I get to work on that new Matt Damon film," she murmured, pushing Becca’s newly-nude body onto the bed. "He won’t miss his daughter’s birthday," she explained, crawling on top of the brunette.
"Kid?" Becca gasped, hips surging as she was filled.
"Yeah. He’s got a kid."
All discussions were over for the night.
Becca lay in the dark, too exhausted to sleep. She shouldn’t have let Jae make love to her, but once the makeup artist had started, she was too far gone, lost in pleasure to stop her. When she’d arrived on the threshold of her house, she’d been tired to the point of dropping. Somewhere after her second orgasm, she’d crossed the line to deliriously tired. She’d been at the prop shop since seven-thirty that morning. As tired as she was, she loved the long days, which were constant. Especially in the spring. Everyone was trying to get their films made before the summer heat, when business slowed way down. The universities were out for summer, productions slowed or stopped, or moved to cooler locations, typically abroad. But then come fall, business boomed again.
She glanced over at the woman who lay next to her, bare back to Becca, the sheet tucked under her arms. It was then that Becca realized Jae had red and yellow streaks in her normally dirty-blonde hair color. Smirking, she returned her attention back to the ceiling above her.
It was almost four in the morning, and she had to be back at work at eight. UCLA was putting on some huge production, and their production designer had called B&B six days ago to put their order in. It would be a cast of one hundred and four, each needing a pair of Roman sandals. She began to tick off the numbers in her head: 14 crested Roman helmets; 50 Centurion helmets; 13 more Roman swords and shields… On and on the list went. She and Angus, one of their delivery guys, would start bringing things to the school later that afternoon while Brian sweet-talked their sources. He was far better at that then Becca was.
With a sigh, she turned to her side, back to Jae, and began to count sheep.
"Okay, gonna move these. I don’t really want to get stabbed." Becca readjusted the box of Gladius’ that were on the front seat of the small cab of the truck she’d be using to bring props to the school. The back trailer was completely filled. The dozen ten foot "stone" Roman pillars they’d asked for took up a hefty amount of space. Add to it the chariot and boxes of weapons and armor, and she had a full load.
"You ready, Becca?" Angus asked, keys to his truck dangling from his fingers. He would follow her over and help unload.
"Yep. Let’s hit it." Becca climbed behind the wheel of the diesel, getting her roaring into action. They pulled out of the industrial park where the warehouse was, and headed out toward the University of California at Los Angeles.
The twenty-four foot trailer and truck were directed around the back loading docks, followed closely by Angus and his thirteen year old Dotson pickup truck. Becca watched the guy on the loading dock, inching the truck back until he gave her the stop gesture. She put the truck in gear and cut the engine, then hopped down from the cab.
"’Afternoon," she said, climbing onto the loading dock, handing him a clipboard with a list of the contents of the trailer. "Are you Clint?"
"Yes, ma’am. Nice to meet you." He looked down at the list in his hands, waiting as Becca unlocked and tugged open the cargo door. Soon Angus joined her on the dock. As items were accounted for, Clint marked them off until he had a list full of check marks. "Great. Let’s get all this inside."
Paperwork set aside for the moment, Becca, Angus and Clint began to unload the props, following the short, squat man down a long, dim hallway until they reached the back of the stage area, where other props were already assembled.
"Set the pillars over there against that wall," Clint directed, pointing toward a far corner. Becca grunted her acknowledgment, an end of the long, heavy pillars resting on a shoulder of hers and Angus’. Together they got the pillars lined up, Becca adjusting her shoulders as she headed back out toward the loading dock and the nearly empty truck.
She visually perused the contents that remained: the chariot and three boxes of armor, as well as the two boxes of swords in the front seat. Within a few moments she had the chariot loaded with the boxes from the back, and with a heavy grunt, began to pull, in the horse’s places before the hard plastic and metal replica. It was beautifully done; from the audience, it would look like it was made of wood, gold and ornate artistry.
Angus was coming back down the hall, but flattened himself against the wall when he saw Becca coming. "Grab the swords from the front seat," she grunted. He nodded, hurrying outside when she passed him. She plodded along, finally reaching the backstage area, where Clint and a tall, rather gaunt woman were sorting through what had been brought.
"Let me help you!" Clint exclaimed, hurrying over to Becca, seeing the exertion on her face.
"Just take the boxes out of the back," she instructed, as they were full of metal armor, beautifully pounded and polished. He and the woman quickly stacked the boxes against a back wall, leaving Becca to wheel the much-lighter chariot next to the pillars.
"This stuff is fantastic," the woman exclaimed, bringing out one of the Centurion helmets. "Absolutely fantastic!" She held up a helmet for Clint to inspect.
"We’ll have the rest for you within a few days. We’re still waiting on a few things to come in," Becca explained, delighted that they had another satisfied customer on their hands. She quickly withdrew her business card wallet and handed the woman and Clint a card. "If you guys ever need anything... Spread the word."
"Oh, I know I certainly will," the woman gushed. Becca was amused by her overly-dramatic flourish. She figured she must be the director. "You must come see what we’ve already done to the stage!" She grabbed Becca’s arm and drug her around to the wings, and finally onto the stage.
Becca looked around, taking in the people milling about in the auditorium and on stage. The stage had been set up like a grand hall in Caesar’s palace. It looked so real Becca was almost convinced she could walk up to one of the flats and right through it, down the ornately appointed hall and outside into another era.
"Hey, Michael! I need the yellow when you’re done!" a woman cried out, her voice echoing in the large space.
Becca’s gaze was pulled toward the sound, which niggled at the back of her spine. She turned but only saw a small group of people working on another flat. Three were standing, one kneeling in front of them. She could barely make out the kneeling form between their bodies and legs.
A young man, didn’t look any older than nineteen, hurried from the left wing, nearly clipping Becca as he passed, a container of paint in his hands. "Sorry, Teach," she panted, obviously running a great distance with the paint. He handed the container to the kneeling figure.
"Thanks," she said, taking it from him. "Has the chariot arrived yet?" she asked him.
"Umm, I don’t know. Want me to check?" he said, his upper half disappearing in front of the standing painters as he bent over at the waist, resting his hands on his knees.
"Yeah. The props were supposed to have been delivered this morning, I think."
"Okay." He stood, looking around. His dark gaze caught Becca’s. "Hey," he called out, walking across the stage toward her. "Have you seen a chariot back there anywhere?" he indicated the back of the stage with his thumb.
"Yeah. I just dropped it off. Hold tight and I’ll grab it," Becca said.
"Great! Thanks. We gotta match up colors and stuff," he explained shyly.
Becca nodded then trotted off toward where she’d left the two-wheeled vehicle near the pillars. She hurried back to the stage as quickly as the heavy prop would allow, finally wheeling it to the middle of the stage to stay out of the way of the painters.
Michael’s eyes lit up when he saw it. "Oh, that is so cool! You guys gotta see this." Michael walked all around the chariot, running his hands along the smooth finish. "Damn, looks real." Other students began to gather, leaving their paintbrushes on upturned paint can lids or in paint trays. They murmured amongst themselves as
Becca stepped back, arms crossed proudly over her chest. She felt almost as though she had created it herself. She glanced over to where the woman who requested the prop was still kneeling, finishing up an intricate "wall covering". She had her blonde hair held back from her face with a blue and white bandana. She wore a tank top, strong, tanned shoulders and arms moving and flexing with her artistic efforts. She leaned up on her knees to reach the uppermost part of her artwork, then she, too dropped her brush into a paint tray.
The woman got to her feet, brushing her hands on loose-fitting paint-stained Levi’s. Becca felt her heart begin to hammer in her chest, her palms sweat as she watched the woman slowly turn to head over to the main attraction of the chariot. Her heart seized when she was confronted with striking, green eyes.
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