He turned, his brows drawing together in surprise. "What are you doing out here tonight? I thought you were leaving for L.A. this morning."

Clad in white shorts and a red halter top with her auburn hair in a French braid, she looked beautiful and uneasy. "I intended to, but when I heard about what happened last night at the hotel, I decided to stick around today and be on hand tonight."

"Why?" Zack asked bluntly.

"Two reasons," Diana said, trying desperately to make him understand that she was sincere. "One reason is to give you some moral support if you need it."

"I don't," Zack said politely. "What's the other reason?"

Diana looked at him, at the proud chiseled features, the striking amber eyes turning cool beneath thick black lashes, and she realized she'd made it sound as if she pitied him. Unnerved by his unwavering stare and prolonged silence, she finally burst out, "Look, I don't know how to say this … but I—I think Rachel is a fool. And if I can do anything to help, please let me. And, Zack," she finished with great feeling, "I—I'd work with you anytime, any place, in any role. I just wanted you to know that, too."

She watched as his unfathomable expression turned to grim amusement and she belatedly realized she'd now made it sound as if ambition was behind her avowals of sympathy.

"Thank you, Diana," he replied with such grave courtesy that she felt even more foolish. "Have your agent call me in a few months when I'm casting for another picture."

She watched him walk away, his strides long and sure, dark blue polo shirt emphasizing wide shoulders, khaki trousers clinging to narrow hips … a lithe, powerful body of hard sinew and rippling muscle, but with a lion's grace … a lion's eyes … a lion's aloof pride. The only thing that spoiled the analogy was his beautiful, thick hair, Diana thought wistfully. It was so dark it was nearly black. Hushed with embarrassment and defeat, she slumped against the tree behind her and looked at Tommy who'd been standing beside Zack during most of her speech. "I really blew it, didn't I, Tommy?"

"I'd say that was the worst performance I've ever seen you give."

"He thinks what I really wanted was a role in one of his movies."

"Well, wasn't it?"

Diana shot him a withering look, but Tommy was watching Tony Austin and Rachel. After a moment, she said, "How can that bitch possibly prefer Tony Austin to Zack? How can she?"

"Maybe she likes to feel needed," Tommy replied. "Zack doesn't need anyone, not really. Tony needs everybody."

"He uses everybody," Diana corrected contemptuously. "That blond Adonis is actually a vampire—he devours people, drains them dry, then he throws them away when they aren't useful to him anymore."

"You should know," he said, but he slipped a comforting arm around her shoulders then and gave her a light squeeze.

"He used to send me to meet his dope dealer. I got busted for possession one of those times, and when I called him from jail to come and bail me out, he was furious because I got caught and he hung up on me. I was so scared, I called the studio and they bailed me out and covered it up. Then they charged me back for all the legal costs."

"He obviously had redeeming qualities or you wouldn't have fallen for him."

"I was twenty years old and completely starstruck when I fell for him," she countered. "What's your excuse?"

"Middle-age crisis?" he said with a lame attempt at humor.

"It's too damned bad the hospital revived him after his last overdose."

The interior lights were going on in the stable, and he nodded in that direction. "Come along—it's show time." Diana slid her arm around his waist and they trooped down to the stable. "You know what they say," she announced, "What goes around comes around."

"Yeah, but the trip usually takes too log."

In his own trailer, Zack hastily splashed cold water on his face and chest, pulled on a fresh shirt and left. He stopped when he saw Emily's father pacing back and forth in front of hers. "Is Emily down at the stable?"

"No, not yet, Zack. The heat has been making her sick for days," George McDaniels complained. "She shouldn't have had to spend so much time in the sun either. Couldn't she stay in our trailer where it's air-conditioned, until you're sure you need her down there? I mean, you're bound to want several takes with Rachel and Austin before Emily's cue."

In other circumstances, the suggestion that a director should wait for a cast member because she wished to languish in comfort would have gotten McDaniels a scathing reply. Zack, however, had a soft spot for Emily, as did most of the world, and so he tempered his voice and said, "That's out of the question, and you know it, George. Emily's a trooper. She'll handle the heat while she waits for her cue."

"But— I'll get Emily," he amended when Zack's expression turned ominous.

Normally, Zack had nothing but contempt for the pushy parents of child actors, but Emily's father was different. His wife had run out on both of them when Emily was still a baby. A fluke coincidence brought Emily to the attention of a producer who saw the dimpled child playing in the park with her father. When that same producer offered Emily a part in a movie, her father had given up his day job to chaperon her on the movie set and started working nights instead. McDaniels had felt that she would be less likely to be "corrupted" if left alone with a sitter at night than with a paid chaperon on the set during the day. That alone wouldn't have endeared the man to Zack, but it was also a known fact that he put every cent that Emily made into a trust fund for her. Her interests were all that mattered to him, and his vigilance had paid off: Emily was a good kid, astonishingly so for a Hollywood child star. She didn't fool with booze or drugs, she didn't sleep around, she was polite and decent, and all of that was due, Zack knew, to her father's unstinting devotion to keeping her that way.

Emily came rushing up behind him as he neared the stable, and he called over his shoulder, "Get your pretty self on that horse and let's get this over with!"

She passed him at a run, wearing the jodhpurs and riding jacket that were her costume. "I'm ready if you are, Zack," she called, her eyes filled with unspoken anguish for what he was about to go through, then she disappeared around the corner where two grips were waiting with the horse she was to be riding.

Zack knew he had little chance of getting the scene perfect on the first attempt with or without a rehearsal, but considering everything that had happened last night, he wanted to get it over with in as few tries as possible. Moreover, the charged atmosphere between his wife, her lover, and himself was only going to become worse the more times he had to direct the sexually explosive scene.

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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