The Game

By: Calista Kyle

Prologue



Fifteen minutes. I just had to stick around here for fifteen more minutes and then I could leave. I'd promised myself that as soon as I had walked into the doors of the dingy little tavern where the wrap party was being held. The studio was notoriously stingy when it came to these matters, and I didn't have any particularly fond feelings for the rest of the cast and crew. If it were up to me, I wouldn't have even bothered showing up.

I had been counting down to the last day of filming since I started. It was a nightmare shoot. Filming went over schedule, the director was a perv, and the location was a swampy hellhole. We were stuck in a little backwater town in Louisiana. It was hot, sticky, humid, and full of bugs and who knew what else. That wasn't even including the total utter lack of any kind of amenities. Not even a decent salon and spa for miles around.

There had been times when I was stuck filming out in the bayou, swatting mosquitoes off my neck at 3:30 in the morning, when I wondered why I ever fought so hard for this role. At the time, Charlotte, my manager, told me it was a straight track to an Oscar. When I got wind of the fact that Natalie Portman and Scarlet Johansson were both vying for it, that's when I knew I had to have it.

But that was months ago. It was one thing auditioning in a clean, air-conditioned building in LA, and another thing entirely to experience the unbearable conditions in person. When my two months were up, I was already packed and ready to go, but Charlotte had other ideas.

"You're getting a reputation," she told me on the phone, two days ago when I spoke to her.

"Good," I said.

"No, not good. People are saying you're a diva and difficult to work with. Right now, you're still riding the wave of those Crystal Clementine films, but you're wearing out their goodwill. People will be looking for an excuse to take you down," she said.

I rolled my eyes as I checked out my nails. I was in serious need of a manicure.

"Are you listening to me?" I heard her ask.

"Yeah yeah," I replied.

"Good, so you'll go. It starts at 7pm. Try not to be late."

"Wait. What are you talking about?" I asked caught off guard.

"The wrap party," she sounded exasperated. "The thing I've been talking about for the last five minutes."

"I'm not going to the wrap party. As soon as they yell 'Cut!', I'm out of here."

"Emilia, didn't you hear a word I said? You have to go to the wrap party, and more importantly, you have to be nice! I don't need to hear any more stories about your diva demands and bad attitude. That's not going to win you any friends...or awards," she added.

"How is going to the stupid wrap party going to change anything?" I asked.

"For one thing, it'll show you're a team player. But you have to be nice and gracious! None of this looking down your nose and making people avoid direct eye contact with you."

"Fine," I bit out grudgingly.

So here I was, standing by the bar, trying not to look bored or irritated. I scanned around the dimly lit room looking for any familiar faces. It was a little sad that I'd been working with these people for months, and yet I could hardly recognize any of them. The only one I saw was Harry. He was the director of the film and a total cretin. He had an annoying habit of getting too close in my personal space and letting his hands wander. It was obvious what he wanted, but there was no way in hell he was getting it from me.

To make matters worse, his bitchy wife was with him. Kelsey Keller had been one of the actresses who'd been campaigning hard for the role I got. She probably thought she had an automatic "in" since her husband was the director, but the studio had other ideas. She was straight up D-list (C-list if I'm being generous), and didn't have the clout or box office draw to lead in a film.

She shot me a dirty look from across the bar and I had to tamp down on the urge to flip her off. That was the old Emilia who was always itching for a fight. The new, family friendly Emilia was a lady, and ladies didn't swear or flip off bitches, no matter how deserving. Instead, I checked my watch again. Only three minutes had passed. Damn.

"Don't look so happy to be here."

I lifted my eyes to see a pair of laughing ones looking down at me.

"I didn't expect you to be here, Christian," I said. I felt a little bit of my sour mood lift. Christian Ford was my costar in the film, and was the only person in the whole room I didn't mind talking to. I figured I could kill twelve minutes with him easily.

"What can I say? I just couldn't stay away from you," he said.

"Get the fuck out of here with that," I said, before covering my mouth. Damn, all those elocution lessons, and one horrible shoot out in the wilds had me cursing like I'd never left Jersey.

"Geez remind me not to compliment you anymore," he said.

"So why are you here? I thought you were done filming weeks ago?" I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I was."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Don't tell me you're here with someone? A PA? Oh God, it's not Maria is it?" I asked.

Maria was another actress in the film and had a supporting role. She also happened to be the biggest idiot I'd ever met, and that was saying a lot. Even though I wasn't interested in him, I knew he could do much better than her.

Instead of answering my question, Christian looked past me, over my shoulder and turned his lips down into a frown. "Uh oh," he said. "Looks like you've got company."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Kelsey's heading this way and she doesn't look happy." He smiled at me apologetically before downing his drink in one gulp. "I'm not in any mood to deal with her hysterics so I'm out." He gave me a quick peck on the cheek before walking off.

"Prick," I muttered under my breath as he left. I didn't have time to be angry too long since Kelsey was bearing down on me. I wondered why she looked like she had a stick up her butt, but then realized I didn't care.

"I'm surprised you showed up tonight," she said once she had reached me. She wore a fake smile on her face to go along with everything else fake about her, from her eyelashes, to her lips, right down to her boobs.

I didn't answer her. It was such a stupid thing to say. Why should I care if she was surprised or not? Taking my silence as an insult, she dropped her false demeanor.

"God, you're such a bitch, you know that?" she said.

"Thank you," I said. "It takes one to know one."

"Cut the bullshit Emilia, or should I say Gina Marie," Kelsey sneered.

"You can call me what you like. Doesn't change the fact that you're a nobody, and you'll always be a nobody."

Her features froze and she pinned me with a death glare. "At least I never slept my way for a role. You're nothing but a cheap whore. It's all over town how you slept your way to the top. Your parents must be so proud."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Don't try to play innocent. Everyone knows you slept with Marshall Kent to get the part in Crystal Clementine. How was it fucking an 80-year-old?" she sneered

I wanted so badly to smack the smirk off her face, but the last thing I needed was an assault charge. Instead, I stuck on my sweetest smile and shrugged my shoulders. "Not as good as your husband," I lied. It was worth it just to see the look of shock and anger on her face.

She stood there for what felt like several minutes, staring at me in stunned silence. I almost thought I had broken her. A little guilt seeped into my conscience, and I had half a mind to tell her I was kidding, and was just about to apologize. After all, I wasn't a completely heartless bitch. But before the words could come out, she had regained her composure. A calculating gleam stole into her eyes, and before I could figure out what it meant, she threw her drink in my face.

"You home wrecking slut!" she yelled. "You fuck my husband and think you can get away with it?"

The whole tavern got silent and turned their attention in our direction. I knew she was causing a scene on purpose, but I was so angry, I didn't care. All I wanted was to rip the weave from out of her hair. But somehow I found it in me to control my temper; at least enough that I didn't go flying at her. I calmly wiped the drink off my face with the sleeve of my shirt. Once I had done that, I looked at her dead in the eye.

"Don't get mad at me because your career is in the toilet. That's not going to change anytime soon, no matter how many directors you marry," I said. "You're bitter, old, and undesirable. It's why your husband can't stand you. At least, that's what he told me last night."

Before she had time to respond, I took my drink and threw it right back at her. I had the satisfaction of seeing her face pucker up in anger and shock before I turned on my heel and walked out of the tavern.





Chapter 1: Emilia



One Month Later



"Jesus Christ, Emilia! What were you thinking?" Charlotte snapped as she rubbed her hand across her forehead. She sank down at her desk and glared at me, waiting for me to speak.

I turned to look at my publicist, Arnie Silver, waiting for him to back me up, but he was busy pacing around the office while talking on the phone with God knows who. Charlotte had called me in this morning and told me we needed to have an emergency meeting. "As in code fucking red," she had said.

I knew something major must have happened because Charlotte hardly ever swore. When I arrived at her office, she didn't waste any time telling me the bad news. Apparently the press got wind of a story about me sleeping with Harry Barnes, and being the reason for the breakup of his marriage.

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