I can't believe I'm going to be working with Richard, she thought to herself. Rhonda knew that she would likely have little chance to interact with him, since she wasn't acting, per se, but serving as the leading lady's stunt double. Still, she was thrilled.
The day began with a bang. Literally. Rhonda and Brian, Richard's stunt double, did their first scene - a typical "big explosion in background as the heroes run and dive for cover" shot. The two characters were running from an elegant manor where they had just attended a formal party. Dressed in a black sequined evening gown thankfully long enough to cover the sneakers on her feet, with Brian decked out in a tuxedo, she grabbed his hand and ran. As the FX crew detonated the charge, Rhonda and Brian leapt out of camera range and jumped safely onto a soft air mattress.
"Cut!" yelled Jack Palmer, the director. "Good job, guys, but we had a problem with one of the cameras. I"m afraid we're going to have to do that one again. Take five while we set up the shot."
Rhonda looked at Brian and smiled. He looked nice enough in his tux, but not as good as Richard surely would, she thought to herself. They grabbed some bottled water and quenched their parched throats while they waited.
Soon it was time to do it again. This time, it went flawlessly, and as Rhonda dusted herself off and went for another drink at the craft service table, she saw Brian already there, his back to her, getting a glass of juice.
"Great job, partner!" she smiled, reaching out to touch his shoulder. But when he turned around, it wasn't Brian. It was Richard, wearing an identical tux, but looking a hundred times hotter and more devastatingly handsome.
She gulped. "Oh, I... I"m sorry, Mr. Dawson, I thought you were the stunt man." Way to make a great first impression, Rhonda, she chided herself silently.
"It's Richard, please," he smiled. "But I'm afraid I'm at a disadvantage. May I ask your name?"
"I'm Rhonda," she smiled, instantly eased by his charm and his radiant smile. She extended a hand, which he proceeded to kiss gently.
"I'm sorry, I look a mess! The glamorous life of a stunt woman...." she said with a grin.
Richard chuckled and looked her up and down with a gleam in his eye. "You look really good from where I'm standing, darlin'. And I must say, I'm quite impressed with your work. That must be a difficult job."
Rhonda felt warm all over, from the physical exertion and from his lovely compliments. "Yeah, it's not easy, but it's an awful lot of fun. I'm also an actress - usually minor parts in major films, and vice versa."
"Well, if you ever wanna teach me a tumble or two, come see me!" And with that he gave her a wink and a grin and left to shoot his next scene.
Anytime, honey, anytime...
Sheila, Rhonda's friend and fellow stunt woman from the agency that they both worked for, came over to where she was standing, still in a daze over their encounter.
"Oh my god, was that..."
"Wow, he's so..."
"He sure is."
They looked at each other and giggled. "What were you two talking about?" Sheila asked. "It looked pretty intense."
"He was just making pleasant small talk, that's all," Rhonda replied, but somehow hoping she was wrong. Richard did seem very sweet and warm with her, but then, wasn't he that way with everybody?
"I don't know..." Sheila said. "I saw the way he looked at you."
Rhonda laughed. "Oh yeah, he wants me. Bad. Please... Have you seen the leading lady? Blonde, totally gorgeous, totally his type."
"Oh sure," Sheila said with a roll of her eyes, 'If you go for the cold hard bitch type."
The star, Cynthia Lee, was indeed drop-dead beautiful, platinum hair and green eyes, with the stereotypically perfect toned, thin, tanned and tucked Hollywood body. She also had a reputation as a ruthless, power-and-man-hungry barracuda who could put Madonna to shame.
"Meeeeeow! Please retract your claws," Rhonda said, shaking her head and giggling. "Besides, what's a guy like Richard going to see in me?"
Sheila looked at her and shook her head. "Rhonda, it's time to cancel that subscription, honey, because you've got a lot of issues.... Gee, let me see. You're attractive. You're intelligent. You're strong...." She smiled. "And you could kick that blonde starlet's butt in a New York minute!"
Rhonda laughed out loud. "Well, there *is* that!"
"So what are you waiting for? Go get him," her friend encouraged her, "Before I do!"
Laughing, she hugged her friend. "Well, we'll see..."
Later, as Rhonda and Brian were rehearsing a fight sequence a little later in the day, she noticed out of the corner of her eye Richard leaving Cynthia's trailer. After a few minutes, Jack knocked and entered, followed by loud screaming, obviously Cynthia by the high pitch of the shriek. Jack then bid a hasty retreat.
They continued their rehearsal with a shrug, used by now to seeing temperamental stars throwing diva fits. Rhonda couldn't help but wonder, however, what Richard had to do with it. Was he seeing her? Soon Jack walked over to them.
"Rhonda, I need to speak to you about something, please come meet me in my trailer in 15 minutes."
"Alright, Jack," she said. "I'll be there."
Rhonda grabbed a banana and a bottled water to rejuvenate herself, sitting down to rest and eat for a couple of minutes, then headed to Jack's trailer. When she went in, Richard was also there, and smiled at her.
Rhonda sat down beside Richard as Jack spoke. "Well, it looks like we have a little problem here on the set. Cynthia just left in a huff and quit on us."
"What?" she asked. "Why? I mean, doesn't she have a contract?"
"Sure," Jack replied, "and we'll pursue it legally, of course, but that could take months, even years to settle. In the meantime, we have a picture to make. Richard has only a limited time on his 'Family Feud' hiatus, and we can't wait."
He looked at Richard, then back at Rhonda. "Richard suggested we talk to you about taking over the role." Jack smiled. "I'm afraid we can't pay you the salary we were going to pay Cynthia, but it'll be quite generous, I assure you, much more than you'd get for your stunt work." He handed her a slip of paper. "How does that figure hit you?"
Oh my god...
Rhonda looked and tried to hold back a gasp. "Like a ton of bricks.... " she replied, still in shock. "But, I... I mean, I don't understand. I'm not exactly the fancy Hollywood actress type."
"No, and that's why I think you'd be perfect. I only went with Cynthia because she was a big name, and she was available... but when Richard mentioned that you were an actress as well as a stunt woman, I liked the idea immediately. You're beautiful, yet you're very real. You're also tough and you have a great personality."
"Besides," he said with a grin, "You and Richard seem to have a marvelous chemistry together that I think will play very well on screen."
Well slap me silly and call me a movie star.
"I don't know. I've never done such a big-scale production before," she said. "I wouldn't want to let you down."
Jack smiled. "I promise, if it doesn't seem to be working out, I'll tell you. You'll still be paid, of course." He continued, "But if my hunch is right, "You're going to be just fine.
"Let me have the contract drawn up, and you come sign them first thing in the morning, alright? Meanwhile, here's the script. We're done for the day, so go home and read it over, but don't worry about having it memorized right away - this is a really last-minute thing, I know." He handed her a thick binder. "See you tomorrow, Rhonda, and thank you!"
"Oh no, thank *you* Jack!" she replied, shaking his hand and walking out with Richard.
"Hey, want to go grab a cup of coffee," he suggested. She grinned and agreeed.
They sped off in his silver Jaguar to a little coffee shop far from the hustle and bustle of HollyWeird, in a quiet area just out of town. They took a seat and ordered coffee and apple pie.
He leaned in and spoke in a whisper. "We had to leave the city limits to order dessert. I'm pretty certain that eating anything that tastes good is a misdemeanor in Tinseltown."
"Well, I'm glad we came here then, because I hate rabbit food!" Rhonda smiled, his humor putting her somewhat at ease.
After they shared a good laugh, her voice turned serious for a moment. "I wanted to thank you, Richard. You've no idea what an opportunity this is for me."
He smiled and took her hand. "Sweetheart, I was a struggling actor myself about a hundred years ago, " he said with a chuckle, "so I do have an idea what it's like. But I admit my motives were not purely unselfish."
She looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"Well, after Cynthia left, I was so afraid they'd just cast another just like her in her place."
"Oh yeah," Rhonda giggled, 'I'm sure it would be absolute torture, working with a gorgeous blonde movie star all day."
He smiled softly, capturing her gaze with his. "It is, when you'd rather have someone kind and caring and real, instead of... instead of the alternative."
Rhonda sighed. "I'm sorry. But I saw you coming out of her trailer earlier today, before Jack went to see her. I thought... well... that you two were an item."
Sipping his coffee, he thanked the waitress as she brought them two generous slices of pie. "No, dear, we aren't. As a gentleman, all I can say is that she was unhappy with the fact that I wouldn't..." He chose his words carefully. "...date her. That's why she got so angry and stormed off the set."
"Oh, I see." she replied. "I'm sorry..."
"Don't be, my angel." Richard smiled. "It brought us together, didn't it? And it gave you a great shot at the big leagues of show biz!"
She looked at him. "Can I be honest?" Rhonda asked nervously.
"Of course, love," he said with a reassuring smile and squeeze of her hand.
"I'm more excited to be working with you than the job itself, as wonderful as it is. I... I think you're an amazing man."
He raised his eyebrows in gentle, delighted surprise. "You do? How very sweet to say..."
Taking a bite of the sweet, cinnamony pie, she swallowed it, and the lump in her throat, down with a long sip of coffee.
"Yes. I've admired your work for a long time, and I was so thrilled just to get to work on the same set as you, doing my stunts. But to be your leading lady... well, that's just beyond anything I've every imagined." She looked at him and breathed in a bit of courage. "And I also think that you're very attractive."
Richard sat down his fork and looked deeply into her eyes, reaching out to touch her cheek. "I think that you're a very beautiful woman too, Rhonda, and I must admit that I'm thoroughly enjoying the idea of being your leading man."
"You are?" she replied, stunned at what he was saying to her.
He took another forkful of pie with his second cup of coffee. "You have no idea how difficult it is to meet someone when you're in my position. Sure, there are women who like me, but they usually turn out to like me for my money or my fame, or just to have a story to tell their friends." Richard sighed.
She shook her head. "Then they're fools. All of them."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Rhonda looked kindly at him. "There are so many reasons I can think of that would make any woman want you, and believe me, none of them involve money or fame."
Smiling, he asked "Like what?"
"Like your sense of humor. Your kindness. Your charm." She smiled. "And your incredible eyes..."
Richard put his elbows on the table and rested his chin in his hands, leaning in close to her, torturing her mercilessly with his hypnotic gaze. "What about my eyes?" he grinned.
Rhonda giggled nervously, helplessly. "You British boys don't play fair, do you?"
He smiled. "Ah, but all's fair in gloves and drawers, they say. Well that's what my dear, sainted mum always used to tell me, at least. Although I must confess that it never made much sense to me..."
Laughing until tears came to her eyes, she replied "I suppose she warned you against going to the symphony as well. All the sax and violins, you know.."
Wiping the tears from his own eyes, Richard chortled "Oh my god, my sides hurt..." he laughed. "Have mercy on an old man, darlin'!"
Rhonda smiled. "If you're an old man, I"m the queen of England."
He smiled sweetly at her. "Your majesty..." he whispered, kissing her fingertips, sending a shiver through her body.
"Rhonda, there are a lot of young, handsome actors out there..."
She interrupted him. "And none of them could compare to you. They'd be lucky to have half of your class, charm and style. Not to mention how handsome you are."
His eyes twinkled, but held a touch of sadness. "I could be your father..." he said softly.
"Richard, you could be whatever you wanted to be to me," Rhonda replied, caressing his cheek.
He smiled, a blazing inferno in his eyes. "So many things I could imagine... But for now, since the studio parking lot is probably locked up for the evening, I think I'd best take you home." He cleared his throat. "Umm, drive you home, that is."
"Oh, my favorite type of lingerie," she laughed, "A freudian slip!"
"You are *not* helping..." Richard said with mock sternness as they arose from the table.
"Sorry!" she grinned.
He looked at her, trying to fight the grin that teased the corners of his mouth. "Uh huh..." She giggled as he paid the check.
At her apartment door, he looked at her. "I'll pick you up at 9 tomorrow morning, alright?"
"Yes, thank you Richard. For everything..." Rhonda smiled at him as he leaned close to her.
"I want to kiss you, Rhonda, so very much..." he said softly.
Rhonda felt a shiver. "Oh yes, Richard, please," she replied, "Please..."
With that, Richard's warm, soft lips found hers, and he kissed her gently. Rhonda parted her lips, desperately wanting to taste him inside her mouth in a deep kiss.
Richard moved his face away slightly, putting his mouth to her ear. "I have an idea," he whispered.
She ran her fingers through his hair and sighed. "Mmmm, I've got several... what's yours?"
He looked at Rhonda, smiling softly. "Tomorrow, we're supposed to film our characters' big kiss. What do you say we give ourselves all night to think about it, dream of it.... and then share our first real kiss for the cameras tomorow?
"No one will know but us, everyone will just think it's just a stage kiss. It'll be our little secret. And every time we watch the movie, we'll smile and remember our very first kiss, right there in glorious Technicolor."
Rhonda touched her lips to his soft cheek, drinking in the scent of his aftershave.
"God, what a wonderful idea. I love it..." she sighed.
"Me too, love, but you don't know how difficult it is for me not to take you into my arms right now and kiss you the way I want to, the way you deserve to be kissed."
"Oh, yes I do know," she smiled with a sparkle in her eye. "I feel the same way."
Richard smiled and kissed her cheek. "Until tomorrow, then, dear lady."
"Until tomorrow..." she replied, heading inside to face a night of sweet, tortured dreams.
The next morning, Rhonda showered and dressed quickly, anxious for her moment in the spotlight with Richard, the anticipation rising within her like a tidal wave.
At 9, Richard rang the downstairs intercom and she buzzed him in. In a couple of minutes, he knocked at her door.
"Good morning, my angel!" he said cheerfully as he handed her a bouquet of spring flowers.
Rhonda embraced him. "Good morning, and thank you!" she replied, reading the card.
'You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss... Yours now and as time goes by, Richard'
"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMil!" she grinned.
"Good, so am I. More than I can say... so let's get to work!"
Rhonda laughed and followed him out the door, as they headed to his car. As they arrived at the studio, they headed to the craft service table for coffee and bagels.
"I think I'll skip the lox and onions this morning," he said with a boyish grin.
"I'd appreciate that," Rhonda giggled, "but I'd kiss you anyway, onion breath and all..."
"Same here," Richard replied, "It would take more than mere fish and vegetables to keep me away from your inviting lips..."
Giggling, she replied "Gee, Richard, you should be a poet!"
Richard cleared his throat with a flourish. "OK, here goes... There once was a girl from Nantucket..."
Rhonda glared at him with a grin. "Oh, *that's* original!"
"Wanna hear the ending?"
"I've heard it, thank you. Naughty boy..." They laughed.
Jack walked over to them, an amused expression on his face. "Good morning, I see you two are already having fun this morning!"
Richard pointed a finger at Rhonda. "She started it!"
"Hey!" Rhonda protested with a giggle.
Jack laughed. "Well, I'm glad to see you're both in good spirits today. Rhonda, are you ready for your big debut?"
She gave Richard a subtle, knowing smile. "Yes, I'm really looking forward to it."
"So am I," Richard chimed in. "We went over the script last night, and I think she's really going to perform well." He turned away from Jack and turned to her with a raised brow and a huge grin. She fought the urge to laugh and make a face back at him.
"I'm sure I'm in very capable hands," she replied, turning back to Richard with an equally big smile.
"Good!" replied Jack. "They're ready for you on the set, so let's go ahead and do this thing."
As Jack walked on ahead, Rhonda elbowed Richard lightly in the side as they followed. "Oh, you're very cute!"
He looked at her with a glint in his eye. "Why, thank you, my darlin', and you're very beautiful..."
"No fair," she said in mock protest, "I was being all mad and stuff, but how can I stay that way when you're so sweet... stop that!" she teased him.
They went to get into makeup and their evening clothes costumes, then stepped onto the set, a dark alley with rain provided by machines overhead. The moody low lighting and the misty faux rain made for a mysterious atmosphere that made Rhonda feel as if they were truly alone, in a quiet moment, about to share a kiss with the man she cared for so much.
"Alright," Jack called out, "Here we go. Ok, Richard and Rhonda, you've been on the run searching for the villain for hours. You're tired, you're wet, and you're just now beginning to realize that you're falling in love with each other. And you kiss for the first time, an intense kiss, tentative at first, but quickly grows passionate, yet emotional and real as well. Ok, ready...and...action!"
"Jonathan..." Rhonda said, quoting from the script.
Richard took her into his arms. "What is it, Serena?"
"I...I think I'm falling for you," she replied.
Looking into her eyes, he smiled tenderly, and she knew he meant it, as much as she meant her words. "I feel the same way about you, Serena."
Rhonda softly caressed his cheek and held Richard even tighter. "I don't even know what to say."
"Then don't say anything..." And with that, Richard leaned in toward her face, and touched her lips with his. It was gentle, like a small tingle. But then, something in his eyes changed, and a dark storm of passion filled them as he suddenly took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply.
Rhonda felt herself swooning within his embrace as Richard ran his moist, hot tongue across her mouth, causing her to separate her lips. His tongue touched hers, and found its way deeply into her mouth as she sighed and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him in closer as their tongues wriggled and writhed together with a heated need for each other.
My god, this is the most amazing kiss I've ever had, and he tastes so sweet I could eat him up with a spoon...
His head moved away for a moment to look deeply into her glowing eyes with a gentle smile, as he brushed her hair away from her neck and buried his face in the warm flesh, softly brusing, marking her.
"This is incredible," she said in a breathless gasp in his ear.
"You're incredible," he whispered back as he sought her mouth again, desperately, deeply tasting of her sweetness once again, bringing out a soft whimper of pleasure from the depths of her soul. Richard's quickening breaths and soft groans told Rhonda that he was as blissed out as she by the magic of the moment.
God, please never let this end...
And as they held to each other and indulged themselves with one last kiss, the director interrupted their perfect celluloid romance. "And...cut!"
With great reluctance, Richard and Rhonda broke free from their embrace, and shared a long, meaningful look at each other befor facing Jack.
"That was great," he said, "But one of the lights was off-center a bit, so we're going to have to do a second take. Give us five and we'll be back to you, ok?"
"Sure," Richard said with a grin, as the crew all turned away from them and left the pair almost alone again, and he faced Rhonda. "What a shame, we'll have to do that all over again."
"Yeah, that's a real pity."
"So, tell me, how was that?" he asked with a sweet, mischievous grin.
She took a breath and smiled. "As soon as I can see straight again, I'll let you know..." They chuckled.
"You know," she continued, "I think I'm going to take some more acting classes, to really study my craft. But I've already decided one thing."
"What's that, my love," Richard asked.
She smiled. "Method acting is the *only* way to go..."
"Amen to that, darlin'" Richard laughed softly as Jack called them back to replay their tender scene, "Amen to that..."
* * * * *
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