It’s my 19th book birthday! 20th written (because Vol. 4 is next in line. And books 21, 22, and 23 are close behind.) Holy crap! How did I get to have so many titles? Insanity!
For those who might want a taste of what the book will be like, I’m including the first chapter below.
It was a frizzy-hair-inducing sort of morning. The kind of day no leave-in conditioner could tame. The air outside would either be snot-freezing or brisk and beautiful. October in New York City was like that. Moody and unpredictable, just like Eva Shaw’s hair every sunrise.
There was no time to do anything but pull the wild strands back into a low ponytail as she sucked down a sip of her morning coffee. Without even glancing at her watch, Eva knew she had only twenty minutes to arrive at the Red Curtain Theater, unlock the doors, kick the heat on, and prep the black box. The black box was smaller of the theater’s performance spaces. It only held fifty people and was used mostly for rehearsals and experimental shows, but it was Eva’s favorite. It was far more intimate than the main stage.
The black box is where the auditions would be held so she wanted to make it look presentable. Gerri, the theater’s artistic director, would likely arrive early to go over audition sides, which had already been copied and neatly sorted into the numbered piles just the way Gerri liked. While Eva technically wasn’t due at work for another hour, Gerri would expect her to arrive early. After all, it was audition week!
Audition weeks were always exciting, but this one was even more so. Adam Rice was rumored to be auditioning for the lead role. While not a Hollywood star yet, he might as well have been. It wouldn’t take long for him to be plucked out of the theater world and given a movie as a leading man. The guy exuded sex appeal. Which was why Eva was so excited for this week to begin. From her vantage point behind the desk, she’d be able to spend the next few months ogling him from afar should he audition. If he showed up, he was guaranteed a part. He was that good.
Eva sighed, still in her daydream of Adam as she bent down to scratch behind Bowie’s ears as he munched his salmon delight. He gave her a few purrs of appreciation before she stood up and stretched.
After grabbing her mason jar salad that she’d prepped the night before out of the fridge, she bundled herself up to endure the hell of whatever weather was awaiting. There had been an unprecedented cold snap in the last few days that had taken all the vest-loving, knee-boot-wearing, cappuccino-drinking tourists by surprise. Eva secretly looked forward to watching them in their misery on her walk to work. She’d looked ahead at the forecast and had already taken her winter coat and boots out of the storage bin under her bed. She had a delightful selection of scarves, hats, and gloves, thanks to the predictable Christmas gifts her parents gave her year after year. Money would have been a more helpful gift for them to give a single woman trying to survive in the city, but then again, her parents never approved of her moving out of the suburbs. New gloves were part of her penance for being stubborn. Today she would wear them and gloat at those who were less prepared than she was.
“Morning, Henry,” Eva said to the lab that lived in Apartment 2B, who was coming in as she was heading out. She still had no idea the name of the owner, but whoever the older woman was, she never seemed happy to be delayed by Eva’s greetings. The dog licked his “hello” as the woman tugged against his leash, eager to get back into the warmth.
“Bye, Henry.” She laughed to herself. People were always in such a rush in the city. Something she would never get used to despite having gone to high school there. Her parents had insisted they move back to the suburbs the day she graduated, and she’d longed to return ever since.
The only thing she missed about the suburbs was the slower pace. Eva loved nothing more than to lounge in her pajamas and sip coffee all day and have deep conversations with a friend or go for a walk with no agenda in mind. A novelty there. City life was rush, rush, rush. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything. Because that rush also got her closer to the one thing she loved more than the calm of suburban life: the theater.
The off-off-Broadway theater Eva worked at was small but had a great reputation for producing quality work. Many of their shows were extended, and a few lucky shows had made the move over to Broadway. They had one small main stage theater and two smaller black box studios used primarily for rehearsal space or small showcases.
Eva felt a strong sense of pride being the company’s administrative assistant, even if she was too afraid to let her parents know that was the “office” she worked for. They wouldn’t understand, so why bother fighting about it?
As she approached the front door, she made a mental note to change out the marquee to display the upcoming audition information. Eva was quite excited about this one. The show was a new play by an up-and-coming playwright from Maine, of all places. Sure, he was also Gerri’s nephew, but she wouldn’t entertain a play if it wasn’t good. She had a nose for talent.
Because of the quality of the play and the possibility of Adam Rice auditioning, there was a buzz among the actors who called, asking for information about auditions. They attempted to butter her up as though Eva had any real say in casting. Still, it felt nice to be connected to the magic, even if it was from well off stage.
That was the strange reality of theater. It was alive. Even when a show was dark. A theater held a lifeforce to it. It was hard to describe but universally felt by anyone who had ever been a part of a show. It was that magic that had sucked Eva in at a young age. That drive fueled her choice to minor in theater in college, even if her courage to try acting never panned out the way she’d hoped. She did the bare minimum the minor required in terms of acting, taking ensemble parts or the non-speaking villager. Still, she’d learned so much about the world she was now a part of. If only from the administrative end.
Placing her master key in the door, Eva banged her hip against the glass to pry the lock free from its semi-frozen state. The lights were already on, which was odd, considering the hour.
“Calvin? Is that you?” Calvin was the resident ghost. She’d never seen him or witnessed anything amiss during her time there, but he helped form the theater when he was alive sometime in the 1800s. People swore they heard him still roaming the theater. And because theater people were ripe with superstition, the Red Curtain Theater, and others like it, left a light on backstage that was never turned off. It was called The Ghost Light. Theater people did lots of superstitious things like never wishing anyone “good luck” before a show, and never, ever uttering the play “Macbeth” inside a theater, instead referring to it only as “the Scottish play.”It was all nonsense, and yet, Eva did find herself worried for a moment since the light was on in the lobby when it shouldn’t have been.
“Calvin, come out, come out wherever you are,” Eva whispered, really hoping she wasn’t about to be jump-scared.
Instantly, she relaxed. Not Calvin. “Gerri, you’re here early. I didn’t expect you for at least another hour.” Gerri merely grunted and then gestured for Eva to follow her into the black box. Eva ditched her coat and bag and did as told.
Once Eva came in, Gerri looked up from the papers she was holding. All of Eva’s carefully arranged sides were strewn about on the ground. Eva flinched, knowing it would take hours to re-sort them. Gerri’s hair looked as frazzled as the piles on the floor. She shoved her red glasses up to perch on top of her head, caging her gray shoulder-length bob from her face.
“I know, but I could not sleep at all last night thinking about how crucial the casting of this show is going to be. I’ve been here for hours.”
“Yikes. Need coffee?” Eva asked, holding her cold fingers to her mouth to warm them with her breath.
“God, yes. I tried to make some earlier, but it came out as mostly grounds.” Gerri made a face. “I still drank it, mind you, but I’d love a cup I don’t need to chew.”
“On it.” Eva chuckled. “That machine is persnickety. If you don’t put the filter in the right way, it will revolt.”
Gerri leaned back in her chair, smiling. “I adore that you use words like persnickety.”
Eva shrugged. “Comes from being a bookworm, I guess. No friends, but lots of books.”
Gerri laughed. “My parents didn’t own a single book between the both of them.” Gerri’s family, from what little Eva had discovered, was from Kentucky, and poor. Though you’d never know that by looking at Gerri. She was the epitome of a city girl. Always wore nice clothes, expensive jewelry, and heels. None of the looks Eva could pull off, much to her family’s dismay, but Gerri did it with an ease she envied. There was a confidence that lived in her that Eva could only dream of.
Eva came back into the lobby a few minutes later and handed the coffee to a grateful Gerri, who had emerged from the black box and was now leaning against Eva’s desk. Her eyes were weary.
“Oh, Kenneth called after you left last night,” Eva said, going over to her desk and handing Gerri the message.
“Perfect. I hoped he’d be willing to come earlier today, too. He’s worried. Especially after the last show. Nightmare. Totally his fault, too. That Kathy girl was all wrong for the part. I don’t know what he was thinking when casting her.”
“Probably that she was drop-dead gorgeous,” Eva said mostly to her coffee cup.
“Yes, well, that is precisely why I’m insisting on being at the auditions this time. Kenneth is brilliant as a director, but he is not great at seeing actor potential the way I am. I mean, I’m the one who plucked Adam Rice out of obscurity. Did you know that?”
“I had heard that rumor.” Eva smiled, her mind wandering to him yet again. He was now a God in the theater community. If a production landed Adam Rice, then you would guarantee there were butts in seats on opening night. His talent was legendary. It didn’t hurt that he was also that perfect-looking sort of guy. The quintessential tall, dark, and handsome man everyone lusted over. Including Eva.
“Do you really think he’ll come out to audition for Inside Man?” Eva did her best to hide the nervous hitch in her voice. While she certainly knew who Adam was, he’d never worked at this theater while Eva was the admin. She was hoping this show would change that.
“He’d better show up. I had drinks with him last night.” She laughed. “I practically told him the part was his, he just needed to come in to read. Stroked his ego. He’ll demand top billing, which of course he’d get. Nick is the lead, after all. Hell, even if I cast Adam as an off-stage voice, I’d still probably give him top billing. He’s worth it.”
Yes, he is. Eva swooned.
“So, he seemed interested then?” It pained Eva to push the matter. She knew she must sound desperate, but if Adam Rice was coming to auditions, she had to be prepared.
Gerri considered the question. “He did. He loves Kenneth as a director. Despite—”
“So, has Kenneth officially offered him the part?”
Geri frowned. “No. Kenneth is making him audition. He loathes the idea of pre-casting, no matter how strong a talent he has. It’s sort of become this badge of honor for him. He’s an idiot.”
“Some actors would be put off by having to do an audition at Adam’s caliber.”
“I know.” Geri moaned dramatically. “So much ego in the world of theater. But I will say this. Adam is intrigued by the hype of the playwright. I am, too, and not just because he’s blood. Have you read the script? It is simply delicious.”
“No. Just the sides you had me copy. I’m anxious to read the full script, though,” Eva conceded.
“Well then, we must remedy that at once.” Gerri stood up and stretched her arms to the sky. She looked exhausted already. “Why don’t you put up the new audition notice on the marquis, and I’ll hunt down a script for you?”
“Deal.” Eva took one last sip of her coffee, which had already grown colder than she preferred. Even with tepid coffee, random work hours, and knowing she’d have to go back out in that cold again, she really did have the best job in the world.
Now, if you know my writing at all, I never leave my characters in this happy, content moment for long. 😉 What wrenches will I toss into Eva’s seemingly content life? Read Waiting in the Wings to find out more!