Karrie Roman © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Unknown Aussie could be our new Sam
Out of the half-dozen people in the room, he was the only one who was standing. It didn’t matter to him; he needed to stand; it was the only way he knew how to do this and he had to do it well. This was his big chance; he felt it. Actually, it was the first real chance he’d had in months. He called on all of his training—which wasn’t much—focused as he’d been taught, and gave it his best shot.
“I didn’t do it for me, and I didn’t do it for her.” He bent down to look into the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. They were so bright—almost electric—and especially in this town, he couldn’t even be sure they were real, but they were certainly breathtaking. “I did it for you—always for you,” he finished on little more than a whisper.
The amazing green eyes flared with anger, darkening them. Their owner slammed his palm on the table in front of him. “I never asked you to. I never wanted you to—”
“Then what do you want from me?” He raised his voice in anger too.
“I don’t want anything from you right now. I gave you a chance, Sam. I begged you and you chose to walk away. I don’t know what else there is to talk about.”
“Dominic, please. I made a mistake. I never should have listened to Trina, never should have gone with her. I believed it was the right thing to do. I thought it would help. Please…come back. It’s dangerous for you out here, alone.” He let fear bleed into his plea, hoping he was pulling this off. He kept his gaze on those green eyes, doing his best to block out every other person in the room. He knew any chemistry between them would sell it, and chemistry started with eye contact.
“Is that actual concern for me, Sam, or do you and the rest of the team only need me for my talents?”
“Of course, I’m concerned for you, Dom. I never once said I didn’t care.”
“And cut.” A deep voice broke into the scene, and Ryan immediately relaxed. Acting never came easy to him, though it was this challenge and the rush of performing that attracted him to it. “Good job, both of you. Ryan, as you know, we’ve already cast Lucas as Dominic and you played off really well against him today as Sam. We’ll take a look at your test on the screen to make sure the magic here in the room translates onto film. We should have an answer for you in a few days.” Mike Faraday, one of the hottest producers in television these days, was far less intimidating than Ryan had expected. He was a big man, but his face was the complete opposite of a resting bitch face—he seemed to wear a perpetual smile.
“Thank you, Mr. Faraday, for this opportunity.” Ryan then turned to Lucas Evers, who still sat at the table from where he’d read his lines. “Thank you, Lucas. I really enjoyed doing the scenes with you.” This had been the last of three scenes he’d done with Lucas as part of the final audition, and he’d loved every second of it.
“Likewise, Ryan. Good job.” Lucas finally stood and reached to shake Ryan’s hand. Ryan had watched Lucas in his old role on Tides for many years, but the man was far better-looking in person and had a presence that, even being new to the industry, Ryan had no doubt was required for mega-stardom. Lucas Evers would one day be a Hollywood idol.
“Oh, Ryan, sorry, but just to make sure”—Ryan turned toward the casting agent with the delightful name of Molly Anne Moskin—“we want to double-check you understand the character of Sam Dawson is gay. Meaning you would be required, at some point, to do romantic scenes with men. We want to be sure it’s not a problem for you.”
The saying beggars can’t be choosers flitted across Ryan’s mind, but the simple fact was he didn’t care. He had no experience with men, but he’d never ruled them out either. He’d found more than a few attractive from time to time. The truth was, though, he’d been far too busy working to support his acting classes and running around to auditions to care too much about a personal life. So, no, some gay scenes didn’t bother him at all.
“Of course, Molly. It’s no problem at all.” He hastened to reassure her because he’d hate to lose this role over something he thought of as a non-issue.
“Excellent. Well, your look is spot-on: tall, dark, and handsome. And those dark-brown eyes are screaming to be on the screen, and don’t get me started on that jawline. Rawrr. So I guess, well…we’ll be in contact.” Molly Anne reached out and shook his hand.
Ryan made his way around the room, thanking the others present before saying goodbye. He walked out the door and through the maze-like corridors of the enormous studio offices and couldn’t help wondering if his life was about to change in extraordinary ways he’d hardly dared to imagine even in his wildest dreams.
Samdom is happening, y’all.
The light cracked and flared too brightly even behind his closed lids. The sound of the clicks and the noise of the crowd thundered in his ears, and the stench coming from the masses of the overheated, overstimulated crowd assaulted his nose. Hundreds of people were crowded into this one giant room and every one of them seemed to be having the time of their lives—except for him.
“Ryan! Lucas! This way.”
“Lucas! Over here.”
“James! Oh my god, James, marry me.”
“Ryan! Ryan! Samdom! Samdom! We love you!”
Ryan had no idea which way to turn, who to look at, how to open his fucking eyes without being blinded by the flashes. Jesus fucking Christ, he never thought it’d be like this. He’d lost track of how long he’d been standing stationary, paralyzed by the overstimulation to his senses. He didn’t even know if he could fucking breathe. He thought he’d made it maybe halfway to where his seat was on the stage, but he had no clue how he was going to make it the rest of the way. His body was trembling so bad his teeth were snapping together.
Just as he felt as though he was losing himself to the panic, a warm hand slipped into his and a soft, throaty voice whispered in his ear, “I’ve got you, Ryan.” Then he felt his arm being raised in the air and shaken a little. Ryan tentatively opened his eyes; he’d known by the citrusy scent that it was Lucas who’d grabbed his hand—who’d freed him from his panic. He watched Lucas as he smiled and waved at the crowd, his other hand still linked with Ryan’s above their heads as though they were doing some sort of victory salute. Lucas glanced briefly at him and gave a little nod. Ryan knew it was a question—are you okay now?
Ryan Lowe was far from fucking okay, but Lucas had him now and maybe he’d be able to get through this first Comic-Con panel. Lucas led them, still hand in hand, to their seats, and Ryan settled into his, calming as the crowd seemed to settle and take their own seats. Suddenly, the room didn’t seem so daunting, so stripped of air. As Lucas took his seat next to Ryan, he gave his shoulder a little squeeze, so he was able to relax even more. Once the cast from The Witches’ Hammer were seated, no time was wasted before the questions began.
“Samdom is now the most popular ship worldwide. What can you tell us regarding their story this season?”
Ryan glanced sideways at his costar, Lucas Evers. Surely the audience would understand they couldn’t say much about what would be happening in the new season.
“Well, we can’t give away too much, but I can say Samdom shippers will be happy—” A roar went up from the crowd who’d come to watch The Witches’ Hammer cast panel. “—and sad,” Lucas continued, laughing even as those in the crowd gasped and moaned. Ryan couldn’t help but admire Lucas’s poise and self-assurance in this situation, while Ryan himself was struggling to form a complete sentence.
“And can you tell us if you’re nervous about kissing another man?”
Ryan had expected this question. His costar was a happily married man, and though there had been speculation in regards to his own sexuality, Ryan had never felt the need to confirm or deny any rumors. Truth be told, he wasn’t keen on labels and had never applied one to himself.
Ryan’s mind momentarily wandered to where it usually did these days—to thoughts of how the hell he’d gotten here. It was only when he felt a slight nudge to his arm that he came back to the enormous room and the crowd of fans, now with all eyes pinned to him.
“Sorry?” He winced, knowing he probably sounded completely daft.
“I was just wondering how difficult it was taking on this role so late in the show and knowing how much the fans had loved that Ray Starkey was originally going to play Sam.”
Ryan took a breath, collecting himself as he struggled to give a coherent answer. “It was definitely intimidating. I knew going into the auditions fans loved the choice of Ray for Sam and how devastated they were when Ray had to pull out. I’ll admit once I got the part I did check out the blogs, and I can’t tell you how relieved I was that people were mostly happy I’d been given the role. I had to play catch-up with training and these guys had already shot the first two episodes when I joined, so it was hard, but everyone on set was a great help.” The Witches’ Hammer was a weekly series based on the wildly popular book series of the same name. Fans of the books were self-admitted fanatics and had scrupulously monitored the process of casting the roles for the show. They’d argued choices back and forth and discussed the pros and cons of each cast member in forums. And when Ryan had replaced Ray Starkey, he’d been terrified of their reaction.
“And this is your first television role?”
“Yes, before this I’d only done ads and bit parts. This is definitely my biggest role, and it was pretty terrifying knowing the rest of the cast were all well-known actors who’d each had success in previous roles, but they’ve been terribly welcoming and helpful. I’ve learned so much from each of them.”
“What about you and Lucas? I mean the chemistry we’ve seen so far on screen has been off the charts, and we haven’t even seen the kiss yet. How do you get along offscreen?”
“We’re definitely friends. Lucas is a great guy. We’ve been working together for a few weeks now, but it doesn’t feel like work at all. We have so much fun on set and we genuinely like each other, so I think that comes through in the show.” Ryan turned to Lucas, hoping he’d got his answer right, and from Lucas’s smile, it seemed he had.
“We’re only up to episode four. Can you tell us in which episode we will get to see the Samdom kiss?”
They hadn’t shot that scene yet, though Ryan knew it wasn’t far off, and from the screams of the crowd when the kiss was mentioned, he knew it couldn’t be soon enough for them. Ryan let their director, Lon, answer that question, and he sank back into his seat, hoping his turn to answer questions was over.
An hour later, Ryan was sitting at a table signing autographs for fans who had lined up and paid money for the privilege of meeting him; some had even paid a ridiculous extra amount for a photo. Mercifully, security ensured he was approached by only small groups at a time, and Ryan was able to breathe easily for the duration of his stint.
Though he looked for him, Ryan was unable to find Lucas to thank him for earlier when he’d nearly lost his shit. He was embarrassed by what had happened, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from letting Lucas know how much he appreciated what he’d done. All in all, it had been several hours of hell for Ryan, and by the time he made it home, he’d never been so glad to see the inside of his tiny little flat.
Through the closed bathroom door, Ryan could hear the buzz of his intercom. It was probably his driver and that meant he had definitely stayed in the shower far too long. Now he’d miss breakfast and have to turn up to work on an empty stomach. Might be for the best, given the butterflies flittering inside there. He walked toward the intercom, rubbing his hair with the towel at the same time in an attempt to dry it a little.
“Hello.” He spoke into the intercom.
“Hey, Ryan. You ready?” came a somewhat garbled voice.
“Lucas?” Ryan had expected his driver, not his costar.
“Yeah, it’s me. Thought we could ride in together.”
“Sure. Give me five and I’ll be down.”
Ryan threw the damp towel onto the floor somewhere; he didn’t much care at this point. He grabbed some fresh boxers, jeans and a T-shirt and threw them on. His apartment was tiny, but there was only him, and it was clean and affordable. He’d consider upgrading once the next season of his show was confirmed and he could feel more secure in his job.
He slipped his cheap Vans knockoffs on, grabbed his wallet, keys, and bag and headed out the door. It wasn’t until he was in the elevator that he realized he hadn’t even combed his hair down. He’d just started running his fingers through it when the elevator door opened, and Lucas Evers stood before him in all of his devastating sexiness.
“I could have waited if you weren’t ready, man,” Lucas said as he glanced up at Ryan’s head.
“Hey, give me a break. I’m not a morning person.” Ryan grinned. He followed Lucas toward a black town car, with a driver standing at the open back door.
“Ryan, this is my driver, Chris.”
“Mr. Lowe,” Chris addressed him.
Ryan stuck out his hand to shake and Chris took it, giving him a quick, business-like shake. “Please call me Ryan, Chris,” he offered.
“Mr. Evers, Mr. Lowe, ready to go?” Chris asked and Ryan realized it was more of the fame…the divide between celebrity and reality. There would be no more simply Ryan; he’d be Mr. Lowe now, and he hated it already.
He bundled into the back of the car with Lucas, wondering for the millionth time how he’d ended up here and when the hell somebody would call him out for the fake he was.
What he’d seen of celebrity so far seemed like a strange beast to him. And he was sure it would only get stranger.
Only a week after he’d been cast, he’d been recognized for the first time when a couple of teenage girls had approached him at the bus stop, of all places, and asked if he was “the Aussie guy who’d be playing Sam?” They’d waited with him for his bus while giving him insights as to how he should play Sam, what his motivations were, and finished by cautioning him not to fuck up the romantic relationship with Dominic.
Many of Ryan’s scenes were played out with Lucas Evers. Physically, Lucas was gorgeous. At just on six feet tall, he stood a couple of inches below Ryan’s six-foot-two height, but his body was perfect. Ripped abs and toned everything, but his most compelling feature was his green eyes. Ryan remembered being transfixed by them during his audition. They were a glowing light green, the whites so clear and bright, and framed by thick, dark lashes. The contrast with Lucas’s dark skin was striking. His shaggy black hair was incredibly sexy, and Ryan couldn’t help thinking it would be perfect for running his fingers through or grabbing hold of the soft strands.
Physical beauty did not always guarantee beauty within, but Lucas had been nothing but welcoming and friendly toward Ryan, despite being an established star and Ryan being a complete unknown.
Of course, Ryan knew Sam and Dominic would become lovers at some point during the first season, and he was both terrified and excited about those particular scenes. He was thrilled to be a part of the growing number of TV shows with LGBTQ characters. And while the truth was that he’d never kissed a man before, he was definitely attracted to Lucas, so he wasn’t worried about having to fake an interest.
“Are you okay? I mean after yesterday?” Lucas broke into his thoughts.
Ryan knew Lucas had to be concerned about his near panic attack at Comic-Con yesterday, and though appreciative of his concern, he couldn’t help being a little ashamed of how he’d reacted. “Yeah. I’m sorry about that. It was just…so much more than I was expecting. Thanks for…well, for what you did.”
“Of course, if you didn’t get at least a little nervous the first time you encounter something like that, then I’d be worried. You’re gonna be great though, Ryan.”
“Thanks. I hope so. I don’t wanna fuck this up.”
“Don’t worry. You answered the questions well. I know you can act, and god, you’re so fucking hot, the fans are drinking you up.”
Ryan coughed a little to try to cover his shock at being called hot so casually by Lucas. He knew nothing was meant by it; Lucas was married and this was Hollywood, where compliments were thrown around like confetti, but it still shocked him how open and over-the-top people were in this town. It wasn’t the first time a man had called him hot here, and it was a far cry from what he was used to.
Showing an interest in another man in his hometown might have got him a fist to the face, or cold-shouldered at the very least. Ryan had hated it back there: the labels, the intolerance, the hatred. He’d gotten out as soon as he could, and there wasn’t a single person he missed from that place.
“Yeah, maybe if they can see past you and the rest of the cast long enough to notice me.” He congratulated himself for his own flattering reply—maybe he could make it in this town.
When he looked up, he found Lucas’s gaze boring into him, his green eyes questioning, as though he was trying to figure him out. “I can’t decide if you are truly that self-deprecating or you think it’s the polite thing to say. Most people in this industry have an ego the size of Texas, but you don’t seem to.”
“Just the small-town boy in me, I guess.”
“Where is it you’re from again? The place with the great name.”
Ryan never enjoyed opening this can of worms. He’d managed to avoid any deep and meaningful conversations for the last few weeks, usually because when he spent time with the cast or crew, they were too busy for personal questions. Riding into work with Lucas now with nothing else to do but talk nudged open that door into his private life. Did he want to let Lucas through? Maybe he did want that, just a little. He’d skim the surface of his past though; no point diving straight into the muck. “Toukley. It’s a tiny little town on the Central Coast, a little north of Sydney. Nothing of note there.”
“That’s right. You never told me about your family, though. Are they still there?”
“Mum died when I was little, Dad’s a…oh I guess you’d say he’s a…a no-hoper, a drunk, a bastard. No brothers, no sisters. No friends.” Ryan could feel Lucas’s stare piercing him again. When he looked at those green eyes he couldn’t read the expression he caught in them, but Lucas was definitely looking at him as though he was the most interesting person in the world. He guessed that was what real charisma looked like: making the other person believe there was nothing more important than them—and Lucas had charisma in spades.
“No one you regret leaving behind?”
“Nope. I was this pretty boy who wanted to act, never had a girlfriend, wasn’t interested in having one either. People came to their own conclusions, and I wasn’t very…well liked.”
“Do you keep in contact with your dad?”
“No way. When I left, I left for good. He didn’t want a bar of me, so I returned the favor. I don’t think he even knows I’m here in the States.” Ryan needed to change the subject. He didn’t want to delve any deeper into his grotty past. He’d placed it firmly in his rearview mirror and that was where it would stay. “How about you? Where’s your family?”
Lucas laughed and it was a sweet sound, honest and pure. Ryan could tell just from the laugh that Lucas loved his family. “Oh, they’re around. They all came with me from Tacoma…and I mean they all came with me. Mom, Dad, two brothers and one sister. We’re um…close in our way, I guess. My wife, Anna, grew up across the road from me. I’m pretty sure her folks would have come, too, but they were…they didn’t…they weren’t too happy with our marriage.”
“Oh I’m sorry. Did they not like you? I mean… Sorry.” He winced.
“No, it’s okay. They’re the kind of people who don’t take to anyone. They didn’t agree with the getting married part, among other things… They believed we were too young.”
“You’re never too young, if it’s love, right?”
For the first time, Lucas turned his gaze from Ryan and stared out the window. Ryan barely caught his mumbled reply. “Sure.”
Lucas kept his gaze fixed out the window and silence fell. Ryan wondered what he’d said wrong. He didn’t think he’d insulted Lucas at all. Maybe it still hurt that his in-laws didn’t approve of his marriage. Ryan wracked his brain for something to say, anything to break the quiet that was beginning to stifle the earlier ease of being around Lucas.
“So, umm…if our show was real life, would you rather be one of the witches or one of the hunters?” God, could he have come up with anything lamer?
Lucas turned to him, a grin on his full lips and his eyes sparkling. “Are you kidding? Definitely a witch. How much fun could you have with all of that magic? And let’s face it, as good as the hunters are, a little bit of magic should be able to stop them, even if it doesn’t on the show. What about you?”
“Well, I’m gonna say a hunter because they get to use all of those awesome weapons. And they’re the good guys, fighting off the evil witches. Everyone wants to be the hero.”
“Ah, but not all of the witches are evil. I’d be a good witch, but with a hint of a mischievous streak.” Lucas completed his statement with an impish smirk that had Ryan’s stomach flipping—just a little. Christ, Lucas was fucking hot.
By the time they arrived at the studio, they were in fits of laughter over the antics each of them had decided they’d get up to if they were the real-life embodiment of characters from the show. Ryan’s remaining nerves had been left behind somewhere on Franklin Avenue. He couldn’t help hoping a shared ride to the studio would become a daily thing. He liked Lucas, enjoyed his company, and in his up-till-now friendless life that was as new to him as this whole Hollywood stardom business.