Five for Friday: It’s Monster time!

Hello everybody!

The Monsters which we are about to discuss should probably be set on me for leaving you all in the lurch last week. For once though I have a reasonable excuse.

Two Wednesdays ago, Lila and I became foster parents to a litter of three-week-old kittens. Unfortunately all four of them they were already incubating feline panleukopenia, the feline form of canine parvovirus and started to show symptoms the next day. Lila was here when the first kitten died (the mortality rates in kittens less than 2 months of age is approximately 95% no matter what treatment is attempted) but, due to family commitments, left for the weekend on Thursday evening. Unfortunately the rest of the weekend turned into a prolonged nightmare where a second and then third kitten died, one on Saturday afternoon and one on Sunday night after clinging to life for as long as possible.

Thankfully the fourth and strongest kitten recovered and is slowly starting to thrive again. She is the second cutest thing on Earth (after Lila of course!) and is of the opinion that she is a person who happens to wear fur. In particular, she expects a share of all tuna (from our supper this evening) and, bizarrely, pizza consumed in the house (not that I subsisted on pizza while Lila was away or anything!).

The upshot of all this is that I didn’t get a chance to post last week (and wouldn’t have been in the mood to do so, even if there had been time) but, as usual in such circumstances, two Five for Friday excerpts will appear today, with the second arriving online around lunchtime on the Eastern seaboard of the US/mid-morning on the Western coast.

Anyway, lately we have been exploring the paranormal parts of Lila’s erotic romance canon. This was all in preparation for the series we are going to start looking at today. The next few posts will feature excerpts from the currently available books in the series and all this leads up to the publication of the fourth book (which is available for pre-order from Amazon) on Tuesday, October 9th.

How many of you knew that Monsters are real? Well they are, and it turns out that in order to reveal themselves to the world, a number of them have come to Hollywood where they are filming a movie announcing their existence. After all, how else would a group of mythical creatures present themselves to the world for the first time?

Lights, Camera... Monsters cover
When Monsters need a makeover, they head to the one place that can make it happen. Hollywood.
Luke is desperate to save his people. A lifetime of sneaking into human houses and watching movies has convinced him that if he can make a great movie about monsters, humanity will change its opinion of them. With his friends at his side, all in shiny new human bodies, Luke heads for Tinsel Town.A rising Hollywood producer, all-business Lena knows a good story when she sees it. Luke? He’s just another amateur who wants to get famous. But Luke’s too gorgeous to pass up. And there’s something vulnerable about him that leads her to throw caution to the wind and invite him to dinner.One night of incredible sex later, Lena wakes up next to the surprise of her life. She’s sleeping next to a monster. Literally.Appearances aside, she finds herself wanting to help Luke save his people.
But they’ve got more to worry about than just human prejudice. Some of the monsters would rather stay in the closet—and to make them all stay there, they’re willing to kill.

Prologue

The city was full of life. From high above he could see it, smell it. He wanted that life, ached with the desire for it. From this elevated height the wind tasted of salt, of the sea. He narrowed his eyes, peering through the haze of light that blanketed the city to see the dark sea beyond.

He fanned his wings, letting the salt-flavored breeze ruffle the jagged edges.

Beside him two other pairs of wings spread, great arches of dark and light against the indigo sky.

“Will they help us?” his companion asked.

He did not have answers, only hopes, ones he was tired of voicing. Without aid their people would be forced to war or will themselves into death. This city, the possibilities it held, the humans who thrived here, were one of their last hopes.

“Let’s fly,” was his reply.

One by one they leapt from the rooftop, wings snapping like sails of the finest ship as they soared above the sprawling city of light and dreams.

Chapter One

“Good morning,” the dapper young man at the reception desk chirped.

“Good morning, Kurt.” Lena held out her arm, Kurt snapped a stack of mail into her hand, took her nearly-empty paper coffee cup and replaced it with a full mug of piping hot mocha. Lena never even slowed down.

Bumping open her office door with a hip, Lena skirted her glass desk and settled into her chair. Within an hour she’d gone through her mail, checked the industry blogs and compiled a media book for their last project, an indie film that had done well at Tribeca.

It was barely eight a.m.

Sipping the dregs of her mocha, Lena cleared off her desk and picked up a notebook. She had an eight thirty a.m. meeting with the whole office. Swiveling in her chair, Lena examined the blown up and framed cover of The Hollywood Reporter that hung on the wall.

In the photo, Lena and her four best friends, each wearing a bright jewel-toned color, stared out at the camera. Lena stood in the center wearing royal blue and holding a sign that said “Calypso Productions”. The title beneath the picture read, “Hollywood’s New Elite”. In smaller script it said, “Five friends, each with a talent of their own, open a production house reminiscent of old Hollywood’s powerhouse studios”.

Smiling, Lena rose to her feet, brushing her fingers against the frame of the poster before heading out of the office into the conference room.

“What’s next?”

“New client.” Jane said, checking her agenda.

“I thought we agreed we weren’t taking on new clients,” Akta griped. Feet on the table, she leaned back, testing the bounds of her ergonomic, executive chair.

“Some of us don’t have cushy savings to fall back on and need the extra work,” Margo snarked. Akta stuck her tongue out at Margo.

Lena, their default leader, though some of the other A-types in the room might have disputed that leadership, reined the group in.

Their weekly meetings were both enjoyable and frustrating. Going into business with her four best friends from college had been a risky decision, but it paid off. They were following their dream, making and producing original and innovative movies and TV shows. However, the years of familiarity meant that behind closed doors their maturity level with one another had a tendency to deteriorate. Lena tapped her pen against the high gloss conference table and tried to remind her friends they were professionals.

“We’re always open to new projects, and these gentlemen got through Kurt, so they must be good.”

Kurt, their receptionist, stuck his head around the door and frowned at them. “I’m not bringing these guys in until you look professional. Cali, adjust your boobs, Akta, fluff your hair. Trust me, these guys are worth it.”

He pulled the conference room door closed. Lena, eyebrows arched, looked at Jane, who sat across the table from her. With a shrug Jane pulled out a tube of lip gloss and applied it blind. Akta reached over and snatched a thick script from Mercedes, aka Cali. Flipping the script shut, Akta tossed it onto the table where it landed with a meaty thud.

“What is that? War and Peace?”

“It’s The Octopus,” when the others stared blankly at her, Cali added, “Frank Norris?”

“Sorry, Cali, no idea,” Akta said cheerfully.

“Illiterate plebeians.”

“You’re such a charmer.”

Cali leaned forward in her chair, reached into her fitted, corset-style pinstriped top and repositioned her boobs. Akta leaned forward in the same manner and scrubbed her fingers through her hair, before flipping up. Once Cali had cleavage enough to kill a man and Akta’s soft cloud of dark hair floated around her head and shoulders, Lena hit the intercom button in the console on the conference table.

“Kurt, show them in please.”

Around the table the women straightened, the easy mannerisms of years of friendship melting away to reveal glass-sharp businesswomen.

The conference room door opened. Kurt stepped inside, holding the door wide for their prospective clients. One by one the three divinely gorgeous men walked in.

Lena kept a cool professional smile, even as her blood hummed.

The men took seats across the table from the women, and Kurt poured them each a glass of water, giving Lena a chance to inspect them.

The first was your classic California surfer god. His tan was pure Mother Nature, not fake and bake, and his highlights appeared to be from the same source. Gold with pure white streaks, his hair curled and waved around his face. It was surfer length—just below his ears, but not long enough for sci-fi geek. His tight green T-shirt showed strong shoulders and delectable biceps.

The second was archetypal indie British rock guy. Chestnut hair was styled to frame his face in a close-cut cap. Next to the surfer his physique was slender, but by no means skinny. He was sporting layers: T-shirt, button-down and jacket, all stylish.

The last one to enter took a seat in the center, between the other two. While Lena admired the first two for their distinct beauty and style, it was an academic admiration, but this one—he spoke to her.

Caramel skin, a gift of birth, fitted over high cheekbones and a square jaw. His deep-set eyes were dark brown, with straight black brows above. His hair was black and high gloss, draping over one eye. His white on white embroidered button-down was shabby chic, with a purposefully wrinkled look. The color set off his skin.

Lena forced a breath in and out, pulling her attention away from him as Kurt poured the last of the water and skirted out the way. As he pulled the door closed, Kurt sent them all a significant glance. There was a brief pause, then Lena saw the intercom light blink on. She flipped it off, imagined Kurt’s cursing at having been denied eavesdropping rights and smiled at their prospective clients. She had to force herself to include all three in the smile, rather than just the exotic eye candy.

“Gentlemen, welcome to Calypso Productions. I’m Lena, creative director and one of the producers.”

Lena glanced at Jane, who picked up the cue. “I’m Jane, our writer.”

“Hello, gentlemen, my name is Margo, and I’m the other producer and manager of Calypso.”

“Mercedes, I direct.”

“And last but never least, I’m Akta, art director, and actor.”

Lena waited for a reaction to Akta’s introduction. Of the five of them, Akta was the only one with immediate recognition. Her starring role in an award-winning indie production had landed her on the acting map, her ethnicity making the accomplishment all the more outstanding. Her decision to shun blockbuster roles in favor of continuing to work on more artistic pieces had raised a few eyebrows in Hollywood, but gained her, and Calypso, a lot of respect.

Usually clients were the most excited to meet her. They enjoyed the idea of having a built in actress at the production company.

These three paid Akta no more attention than they had any of the others. Akta blinked twice in surprise, though her smile never faltered. There was an awkward moment of silence before the gentlemen introduced themselves.

“I’m Michael,” said the surfer.

“Henry,” added the indie rocker.

Dark and dangerous looked right at Lena as he introduced himself. “My name is Luke.”

The room fell into a second awkward silence, but Lena hardly noticed. Gaze locked with Luke’s, it was like tunnel vision, the rest of the world blurry and out of focus. There was no arrogant L.A. smirk, or hard-ass barracuda New York grin on his face. His beautifully full lips were unsmiling, but not unhappy. The intensity of his gaze didn’t feel threatening, but he still seemed dangerous in the way only a truly beautiful man can be.

“So, what can we help you with?” Margo demanded. Lena had let the silence stretch too long, and Margo jumped into the void with her less than gentle question.

Luke broke the eye contact with Lena, turning his focus to Margo. “We are looking for a company to help us tell a story.” His voice was low and rich, with the slightest touch of an accent.

“How would you like to tell this story?” Jane asked.

“That’s what we need you to tell us. We have a story, but we don’t know which…”

“Medium?” Akta offered.

“Yes, what medium,” he smiled at Akta, “would be best.”

“Then can you tell us something about your story?” Margo asked, a hint of annoyance working its way into her voice.

“Certainly,” Henry added. Because of her first impression, Lena expected him to speak with an accent, but, besides precise pronunciation, his voice was unremarkable. “We want you to tell our story.”

Jane barely repressed a moan, Cali reached for the abandoned script and Margo slumped in her chair.

Lena sighed but kept her smile. She was already chalking this up as a lost cause. Almost everyone in the world thought their story was interesting enough to be a movie and 99% of them were wrong. There were places, companies, who would make any script that came across the table if the client were paying them to do it. Calypso was not that kind of company. They created and produced stories beyond the ordinary.

These boys probably had some heartwarming story of lifelong friendship they thought would make a great movie or TV series. Maybe it would, but Calypso wouldn’t produce it.

“Well, gentlemen, as much as we would like to help you, we don’t produce stories for payment.”

“That’s not what we want. We don’t have any money.” Henry replied.

“Fantastic, just what we needed,” Jane murmured.

Lena let her smile slip to a serious expression. They all had work to do, and this was just wasting time. How had these guys managed to get past Kurt? Usually he turned people like this away. She looked them over again and answered her own question, making a mental note to remind Kurt he needed to pre-screen everyone, even the hot ones.

Placing her elbows on the table, Lena leaned in, “I’m sorry to say that, while your story is undoubtedly very interesting, we have stringent standards regarding what we produce. If you are looking for a company who will make a movie to your specifications, we can suggest several other production houses.”

The gentlemen looked at each other. Luke leaned forward, mirroring Lena’s posture. He smiled tentatively, and the hint of vulnerability was incredibly appealing.

“I think we’ve done a poor job of explaining everything. Is there a…uh…less intimidating forum in which I might be able to talk to you?” Luke waved his hand to indicate the setting.

Lena looked around. Five powerful, gorgeous women, a boardroom with a view of the L.A. County Museum of Art through the window at their backs and white floral arrangements worth over two hundred dollars a pop, might be a bit intimidating. She looked at Luke, their eyes met and the tunnel vision returned.

“How about dinner tonight?” she heard herself say.

Luke smiled, and Lena sighed in pleasure.

Read more about Lights, Camera… Monsters and other books from the Monsters in Hollywood series here.

Other International Heat authors with Five for Friday posts include:
Bianca D’Arc,
Jambrea Jo Jones,
Mari Carr and
Rhian Cahill.

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