"But with Christophe gone, there's nothing stopping us from being together," he said, pressing her slim body against the broad plane of his chest. She shoved him away, tears sparkling along her thick lower lashes.
"You idiot," she hissed. "I've never loved you! I told you that. You were a fool to think that just because my husband was dead that would change. Now get out!" Her head held high, a few tendrils of hair escaping the thick bun, she pointed to the door.
Glaring, he snarled, "I wouldn't take that high-handed tone if I were you, my dear. Christophe did and look what happened to him."
Her large gray eyes grew wide in astonishment and then her face contorted with rage. "You bastard," she cried, slapping him the face with all her strenghth. He bellowed in rage and siezed her elbows, throwing her to the floor. Heart pounding, she plunged her hand into the thigh-high slit in her silk gown, drawing the slim revolver from her stockings. When he spotted the gun, he began to charge at her, then struck his leg on th overturned ottoman and fell.
She threw down the gun in disgust. "Well done, Jerry," she spat exasperatedly.
"Well, who knocked over the furniture, sweetheart?" he retorted. "And what was that slap?"
"Improv," she drawled, arching an eyebrow.
"Enough!" cried the director impatiently. "Everyone take five. Gerald, try to look where you're running. Regina, when you fall, look out for the stool."
Not for the first time Roger Middington wondered what he had done to deserve such a volatile cast. Making any soap opera was tricky, but when your leads hated each other it was that much more difficult.
Not that he hadn't come a long way, he though proudly. When he's been hired on as the new director Guilty Pleasures had been a baby in the world of soaps and already a sinking ship. But he'd pulled it out of the grave it had dug itself. First a new team of writers (In other words: willing to work for peanuts) were brought in. The second major change had been the leading lady. He could see why audiences lost interest in Angelica Lane quickly. Her blonde curls and curvy body were reminiscent of bombshells from the fifties, but before too long it became clear that she had all the intelligence of a concussed bird, no real acting skills, and was far more interested in seducing her costars and getting dolled up for expensive dinners than in making her performance anything more than laughable. He'd been at his wit's end when a local theatre production had introduced him to Regina Sinclaire.
Visually, she was stunning. Tall and slender, so willowy she almost appeared frail, but still with delicate curves, a large quantity of rich sable-colored hair that contrasted well with her large, intense eyes and gardenia-colored complexion. And what legs and teeth! But more than that, she could act! Her eyes could sparkle with laughter one minute and the next, instant her mouth might pout so plantively that you couldn't help but be charmed. He'd approached her immediately after curtain call and introduced her on the show as a visiting cousin and gradually increased her role until she began to edge out Angelica bit by bit.
She was an immediate hit both with the critics and the audiences. Her cart of fan mail virtually bubbled over with gifts and notes declaring everything from admiration to passion. Ratings had increased practically overnight.
But it had come with a price. She was considered too smart for her own good by many. To call her a perfectionist was to insult her with understatement. Sometimes she seemed to forget that she was working on a soap opera and not a groundbreaking motion picture. One of the writers had quit in a huff after she pointed out a glaring continuity error in his latest script and Roger himself had been hard pressed to be civil when she'd asked for extra takes on scenes that "could be blocked more effectively".
He sighed and rubbed his stubbly face, reflecting that even though the show had been awful, he'd been able to shave while trying to decide which of Angelica's godawful takes was less of a joke. "Reggie," he called, gesturing her over. She swept her loosened glossy hair over her shoulder and glided over to him.
"Roger," she said before he had a chance to say anything. "Now that we're making money, you can use my payraise to buy Gerald some acting lessons."
Middington scratched his curly hair. "Regina, sunshine..." He fought down a wave of amusement as she scowled prettily at the nickname. "I know he's not on your level and you know he's not on your level, but women love him and until I stumble over another local gem," he gestured to her graciously. "I'd suggest that you try to get along with him better unless you'd like Desiree Jacobs to go into a coma next episode." She glared at him momentarily before putting on a flashing smile and walking back to Gerald. His handsome, square-jawed face registered surprise, but after a moment he relaxed as she earnestly said something (Roger prayed it was an apology), gazing appealingly up at him through dense black lashes.
"What's the problem now?" a voice came from Middington's right. He glanced over to see Jack Kovitz standing near him, chewing a sandwich and peering at Regina as she laughed happily at something Gerald said, brushing his arm with a graceful hand.
"What else?" Middington sighed. "My villain is an idiot, my scripts this week are crap and my leading lady thinks she can do everyone else's job better than them."
"Maybe you should give her a shot. She's pretty smart," quipped Kovitz.
Middington shot him an irritated look. Jack Kovitz was quick, bright and unlike a lot of the "new team" of writers, he genuinely wanted to do his job! But right now he wasn't in the mood for his jokes. "Anyway," Jack continued. "I wanted to go over some script ideas with you."
"Not now, Jack. Sorry, but right now I've got to try to explain why I'm two days behind schedule and finish nursing this collosal headach."
Crestfallen, Jack asked, "Well, when would be a better time for you?"
"Tell you what, when Gerald stops fucking up every scene he's in and the writers stop trying to squeeze more money out of me without producing more scripts and Regina just keeps her opinions to herself when the cameras stop rolling, I will sit and listen to every idea that you've got, okay Junior?" He hated being so rude, but he couldn't really be bothered with sparing his feelings right now. Jack watched as Roger strode over towards Regina and Gerald while Angelica approached him waving the newest script and demanding that her dinner scene be extended and that she have more wardrobe choices.
He raised a dubious eyebrow. Tall order, Roger, he thought wryly. He was sure that if Middington would just listen to him, he'd like his ideas. Maybe even finally offer him that head writer position that he was assured he was too young for. But if those were the conditions of getting his attention, it would never happen. Jack was good at what he did, which was come up with dynamic ideas and write the best witty banter in the business. But the heavens themselves couldn't make Gerald a better actor or Regina less opinionated and outspoken and certainly not him. No matter how long he worked on the set, he couldn't quite stop being a little nervous around her. He'd spent a few years knocking around Hollywood and had never met anyone quite like her. She was too poised, self-assured and too out-and-out gorgeous for him to be completely at ease with. He watched her wistfully for a moment working her charm on Gerald and took a bite out of his sandwich. Then he slowly began to smile. Talk about killing multiple birds with one stone. He finished his meal and grabbed a pen to make some scribbled changes to his script notes.
"I know, Gerry. Sorry I was such a bitch today. Just a little tired," Regina said warmly over the phone. She rolled her eyes. If people could see the acting she had to do behind the scenes, she'd have an Oscar by now. "No, I think I'll need to give drinks a miss. I, um, there's--" a sudden knock on her dressing room door provided the needed excuse. "Jack Kovitz is at my door! Take care, doll." She quickly snapped the phone shut and opened the door.
"Hey, Regina, I- oh, sorry. I can, uh, come back later," he said awkwardly, looking at her attire.
"Jack, it's a wardrobe check. If you're not comfortable around half-dressed people, you probably shouldn't work on a soap," she said scathingly. Truth was, she was just a bit embarassed at being in so little when she wasn't in character and the cameras weren't rolling, but she liked to appear aloof and unflappable especially to Jack because he himself was so awkward. He was actually very attractive in a gangly unkempt kind of way, but far too nervous and fidgety for her and who knew when his hair had last met with a comb.
"Oh, wardrobe," he said uncertainly. "I thought I'd interupted you changing."
"This looks like something I'd pick out for myself?" she said sardonically.
She had a point there. Once filming was wrapped, Regina ditched her character's slinky dresses and beautiful couture for jeans and crisp button-downs. She looked lovely either way, but it was a shame that she didn't pick out something like this for herself. Her long, slender legs were encased in very sheer black seemed stockings clipped to a sapphire blue garter skirt that exactly matched the half cup bra that neatly contained her small, firm breasts.
"Um, well..." there didn't seem to be a correct answer. "Anyway, I was just coming because Roger wanted you to look over the script notes for the next few episodes," he said.
She accepted the stack of papers from him and sank down in the chair, crossing her legs. She absentmindedly chewed on her bottom lip as she glanced over the pages. With a roll of her eyes, she sighed, "For shit's sake, Jack."
"What?" he said, frowning.
"Kidnapped? Come on, it's the ultimate cliche. Mad villain nabs helpless heiress and locks her in a basement or secret passage or fucking giant cage, she weeps and wails for an episode before Handsome, Square-Jawed Hero comes to her rescue. I'm good, but I don't know how long this damsel can be distressed in a room with a canopy bed."
"Well, he sort of sees it taking a different direction. The idea is more like bound and hidden away for a long, drawn-out cat-and-mouse game. Desiree will eventually have to save herself."
"Which leaves us with the issue of how she gets in the situation to begin with. As far as soaps go, Desiree is pretty smart. I don't buy it," she said, all impatience.
He shrugged. "Obviously there are some plot points to work out, but Roger did want us to work out the ties to make sure you're comfortable. Do you have a while?"
She arched an eyebrow, "For you to tie me up?" At his nod, she tossed his script aside. "Oh, why not?"
"Great," he said with a smile. "Safety word is 'action' in case you're in pain, okay?" He reached into his bag and drew out several lengths of rope.
"You really came prepared, didn't you?" She said, a little surprised.
He laughed, "Well, some of us actually listen to the director."
"Listen. You know I think Roger's great, but he could do more," she said. While she spoke, he drew her wrists together and wrapped the soft white rope tightly around them. When she wriggled her wrist slightly, he tightened the rope.
"So, you think the soap opera..."
"Has been amazing, but come on, it's just a soap opera," she explained as he continued with the tie. When he pulled her arms further back, she let out an involuntary yelp.
"Everything okay?" he inquired. She nodded, irritated with herself for being such a wimp. "Well, if you're tired of doing soaps, read my scripts." She snorted dubiously.
"All I'm saying is that Middington could do anything if he could save this shit-bomb of a show and I..." she continued to talk about the eternal struggle between artistic integrity and the desire to pay one's bills, but he was only half-listening as he passed more rope around her midriff, lashing her arms to her sides. He'd barely had a coherent conversation with Regina before and now he was so close he could smell the thin clean smell of her perfume. To add to that, she was intimidating enough in her jeans and blouses. With her graceful arms and sleek body on display it he could hardly concentrate on the task at hand.
"Regina," he cut her off abruptly. "I can't really concentrate on what I'm doing with you talking, so we've arrived at this a little sooner than I thought we might." With that he pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket.
"Ugh, no thanks," she fired back. "I don't know where that's beemmm!" Her casual dismissal turned into a muffled squeak of protest as he stuffed the cloth past her lips and teeth. She shook her head, murmuring around it, but he pressed his fingers against her mouth.
"Calm down. It's clean. Now be still." Something in his demeanor had changed. He seemed more self-assured, authoritative. She slowly nodded, eyes wide. He reached across and grabbed a filmy scarf from her dresser, folded it into a wide band and wrapped it over her soft lips, knotting it at the base of her neck. "Say something," he instructed.
"Mmmphgm," she muffled through the gag.
"Perfect," he said, with a slow, easy grin that looked nothing like his hesitant smiles on the set. He moved in front of her and knelt down. A few deft turns of ropa and her knees were bound together. "Perfect," he repeated. Her brows furrowed. She tried to shift subtly away from him, but found herself very firmly restrained.
"Hmmphm," escaped from behind the gag. She was trying to say "action, but all but the faintest whimpers were muffled through the cloth.
"Sorry, didn't quite catch that," he said absently, taking hold of one shapely, stocking-clad calf and bringing it closer to the other. She mmmphed more insistently, squirming slightly in the very tight bonds, but he only said, "Just need to finish doing up these absolutely amazing legs of yours." After tightly wrapping her ankles, he stood back and smiled. "So, to answer your question, this is how a smart, tough girl gets kidnapped."
At these words, she panicked. She began to struggle frantically, shrieking into her gag. She was so stupid! One look at a few phony script notes and she'd let herself be bound and gagged by a kidnapping maniac posing as a nice guy writer. He quickly clamped a hand over the gag, further muffling what few faint cries could be heard.
"Regina! Calm down! I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not even going to kidnap you. I was just saying it's a workable plot."
"MMMNFMM! Mmm, mmmph!" came her emphatic reply.
"If I take off the gag, do you promise not to scream?" he asked quietly. She nodded slowly, beginning to calm down. He untied the scarf and removed his handkerchief from her mouth.
"You idiot, I could have you fired for this!"
He laughed. "You're a natural at this. Nobody does feisty like you." He pulled a chair close in front of her and took a seat. "This isn't any evil scam. I really did just want to show you how easy it would be and make sure you'd be comfortable. I mean, you're not hurt, are you?" He looked genuinely concerned as he reached over and gently slid a fallen bra strap back on her shoulders. She was surprised to feel goosebumps on her bare arms and tried to ignore them.
"No, I'm fine," she said, blushing slightly. "You just, well, you scared me. You usually can't form two sentences."
"Actually, I can. It's only around you that I have trouble with it."
"Why?" She said. Already he was turning back into the awkward writer; long arms folded protectively over his chest and tall body a bit slumped.
"Why?" he repeated incredulously. "Look at you! You don't exactly put a guy at ease, do you? When you've spent half your life typing up scripts, a gorgeous woman who makes you feel about this tall isn't a comfortable thing."
"But, Jack, you- oh!" she broke off as she overbalanced slightly and almost toppled the chair. He quickly jumped up and steadied her, one hand on her waist, one on her knee.
"I've got you. What were you saying?"
She was flustered. She wasn't accustomed to not being the one in control of the situation. It was a strange feeling knowing that she wasn't the one in charge and in no position to make decisions. "I, well, I just meant when you're being assertive, you're more.." She broke off. His hand was very warm against her soft skin. It was hard to keep track of what she was thinking...
And then his phone rang. He glanced down and grimaced. "I need to take this."
"You what? But w-mmf!" whatever protest she'd had was lost in his palm as he flipped his phone open and pulled her head back against his shoulder.
"Roger. Yeah? Oh, absolutely. No, I'm still here. Sure. Your office? Ten minutes? I'll be there in five. Sure. Bye." He clicked off and smiled. "Kind of important. What were you saying?"
Furious at the indignity of being left hanging for a phone call, Regina glared. "Never mind, Kovitz. Just untie me so you can go to your big meeting."
"Well, the thing is, you're going, too."
"Then cut me loose. I need to get changed," she said, wriggling.
He shook his shaggy head. "No you're going like this. Well, maybe not exactly like this," he added as he saw the stormy look in her eyes.
"I'm not going anywhere like this you little--" Before she had time to blink he'd stuffed the handkerchief back in her mouth and smoothed two pieces of gaffer's tape across her lips like a large X, sealing her lips effectively.
"And as a male, I think Roger will thank me for not letting you 'get changed'. You look absolutely stunning like this." With that, he stooped, dropped a light kiss on her shoulder and then pulled her to her feet. She swayed unsteadily on her bound feet, letting out a muffled squeal of alarm, but he caught her easily and tossed her over his shoulder as she raged and argued into her gag.
When they reached Middington's office, he set her easily on the desk and took a seat in one of the chairs. She felt absurd perched on the desk trussed up in her character's undergarments, but couldn't deny a certain thrill at Jack's appreciative glances.
Roger strode in a moment later. "Sorry, Jack. Angelica's still bitching about-- what the hell?" He came to an abrupt halt at the sight before him: Jack Kovitz lounging casually in a chair looking more at ease than he'd ever seemed and Regina bound and gagged on his desk. He walked towards the actress saying, "What are you..."
"Wait," Kovitz said quickly, holding up a hand. "Listen."
"Listen to what exactly?" Middington exclaimed, bewildered.
"Exactly," the writer grinned. "No lighting advice, no blocking suggestions, no snide remarks that piss Gerald off, nothing. A quiet leading lady."
"What?" Roger said, sinking into his chair. Regina looked infuriated, but Jack Kovitz found it easy to speak over her gagged arguments.
"There's my script notes. Picture it: Desiree Jacobs kidnapped, tied and gagged and left to struggle. Gerald doesn't have to do anything except be menacing and make phone calls and Angelica gets a few episodes with more lines."
"MmmMP?" Regina kicked her bound legs furiously, but Roger's expression cleared and he slowly began to smile. Fans wouldn't be disappointed and he had to admit that she looked very nice tightly bound and firmly gagged.
"Jack Kovitz, you're a genius. You've been holding out on me. I can't believe... I mean, Regina, are you comfortable with this?"
"She's actually very comfortable," Jack said smoothly.
"She looks pretty mad," Middington commented uncertainly.
"That's because in addition to being the most breathtakingly beautiful girl on the small screen, she's a phenominal actress. And while some would argue that both of you are too good for soaps, at least we can make the conditions a little more workable."
Roger shook his head in wonder. "I've got to make some phone calls about you, kiddo. Get me a completed script by tomorrow and we'll run with it. Next time we go out, drinks are on me."
"I believe the promised reward for your grand solution was that you'd read whatever I give you to read. I also wouldn't say no to a raise."
"Oh, but I would," Middington said sardonically.
"Fuck you, Roger," Kovitz said laughing.
"If you were a little prettier, maybe," came the reply as Roger strolled out the door.
Jack turned to his captive co-worker with another of his slow smiles. He carefully peeled the tape off her lips and removed the handkerchief. Then he planted a long, slow kiss on her lips. When he pulled back, she was still trying to be appalled and outraged, but her cheeks were very red as she demanded, "What was that for?"
He smiled brilliantly. "Just wanted to celebrate while I had the chance. It won't happen again. Unless of course you wanted to join me for a celebratory drink."
She considered. "Dinner," she said decisively. "And you will have to cut me loose for that."
He laughed as he began to untie her ankles. "For dinner, sure. We'll see about for the rest of the night."
"Cut!" shouted Roger Middington joyfully two weeks later. "Beautiful, brilliant, perfect and best of all, a wrap!"
"So that's it?' said Gerald joyfully.
"That's it," Roger confirmed. Then he couldn't resist adding, "Unless anybody has any suggestion?" He glanced over at Regina.
Indeed, she did have a few suggestions. She would have loved to inform him that Gerald was so over-the-top he seemed corny or that dimmer lighting might seem more menacing or many other things. But all that she could manage was faint mumbling through the thick white cloth pulled between her teeth. Her full lips moved in vain around the muffling gag, but to no effect. She gave a hopeless thrash on the narrow cot she'd been trussed on.
"You did great, sweetheart. You really sold it."
As the rest of the cast and crew filtered off, Jack Kovitz sauntered up to the helpless ingenue. "He's right, you know," he commented as he pulled down the gag. "That was some of your best work to date."
She scowled as she licked her lips. "Oh, you're hilarious," she spat. "What are you so excited about anyway?"
"I just finished my newest script! I think you're really going to like it. It starts out--"
"Jack," she said, exasperated. "I'm tired. I'm ready to take a shower and go home. I'll listen to your script when I have time."
He shook his head with a grin. "Well, you know what they say," he said, pulling the cloth across her mouth, gagging her firmly. "There's no time like the present."
She gnawed angrily on the thick band of cloth as Jack began to explain the finer points of his new screenplay to his very captive audience.
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