Excerpt from King’s Ransom

Absolutely not!” Juliana Richardson told her lawyer agent with fierce determination.

Marty Devens stared at her in surprise. “But Juliana, you’re already under contract—” he began before she cut him off.

“Break it.” Her voice was implacable.

“I can’t do that, and you know it. Not unless you have a damned good reason.” His voice ended the sentence on an up note, turning the statement into a question.

Juliana had a damned good reason, but she couldn’t tell Marty. Couldn’t tell anyone.

“Besides,” Marty coaxed, “you’re the actress who always wants to film on location. You’re the one who says nothing lends realism to historical movies like filming where the actual events occurred. I thought you’d be thrilled they received permission to film King’s Ransom on location in Zakhar, and even within the royal palace itself.”

Juliana walked to Marty’s office window and gazed out at the sprawling city of Los Angeles below her. But she wasn’t really seeing the city through the haze that hung over it like a sepia tint even on good days. She was seeing a lush green valley nestled between towering mountains, air fresh and clean, and Drago, the capital city of Zakhar, looking like a fairy-tale city from the sixteenth century dropped Brigadoon-like into the twenty-first century. She was seeing the royal palace there and the castle walls surrounding it as she’d seen it when she was fourteen, excited and thrilled to be attending her first reception in a real palace with her ambassador father.

I can’t go back to Zakhar, she told herself, feeling suddenly eighteen again and oh so vulnerable. So defenseless. I can’t. I can’t see Andre again. I’d rather die.

Then she laughed bitterly as the mature twenty-nine year old she was now took over. Don’t be melodramatic, you baby. You’ve had eleven years to get over him. You’re not eighteen anymore, and he can’t break your heart again. Been there, done that. Where’s your pride? You’re an actress, damn it! A good one. Three months on location—how tough can it be to play a role for three months?

“Juliana?” Marty’s voice broke into her thoughts.

“What?” Her voice was husky with repressed emotion.

“Is it really that important to you? Not doing this movie?” He cleared his throat. “I’m your lawyer. Your agent. And your friend. The agent and the lawyer say hell no, we already signed the contract, but the friend says—”

“It’s okay, Marty.” Juliana swung around and pasted a smile on her face she knew didn’t fool him one bit. She was going to have to work on that. If she couldn’t fool Marty, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance she could fool him into thinking she no longer cared. “It’s just that…well, never mind. It’s a great part—almost as if it were written for me. And working with Dirk again on something with strong Oscar potential—how lucky can I be? Most actresses would kill for this opportunity.”

Most actresses, she told herself as she turned away and stared out the window again. But not me. She blinked hard to hold back the real tears she hadn’t shed for eleven years. Tears she’d sworn she’d never shed again over a man who wasn’t worth a single tear.
 
KING’S RANSOM, Copyright © 2015 by Amelia Autin Lam
 
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