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REX (The Billionaire Croft Brothers #3)

By:Paige North

REX (The Billionaire Croft Brothers #3)
Author: Paige North





I've never needed a job this badly in my entire life.

The desperation I'm feeling is so intense that I worry the producers can sense it. They're looking for cute, spunky and successful, and I'm giving them pathetic and needy.

My over-emphasized smiling and nodding to their every statement can't be helping, either.

Calm down, Addison. Try and act like you have a career, a life, that you're the hot new thing they absolutely must hire.

But the sad fact of the matter is that I've run out of money and out of options, and my dreams of making it in L.A. are quickly coming to an end.

So I need to land a gig.

Any gig.

And if I don't get this commercial today – for Kain's, the discount clothing store--I'm not sure how I'm going to pay my rent next month.

"Let's take it from the top," one of the producers says, and I nod my head, smiling and pretending like this is the best news I've ever heard.

Luckily my vibe with the other actress felt good – we bounced lines off each other like the new great friends we're pretending to be.

I've auditioned for some of these producers before, so they kind of know me. I swear I was so close to landing a canned cheese commercial a couple of months back, that I could practically taste the chemicals.

I always try to stay steady, not get my hopes up because there's so much rejection in this business. And because I'm not the typical Los Angeles beauty with big fake boobs and a tiny waist, I get more rejections then most.

Finally, a producer with thick-rimmed glasses says, "Maybe one more time, just to be sure."

Another producer, this one wearing a straw fedora, shrugs as if he doesn't care, and so we begin again.

"And … " the producer begins, " … action!"

"When you're starting your new life, you're going to need the essentials," I begin, as if this place I'm pretending to stand in is the best place in the world. "That's why I go to Kain's for all my-"

"Stop," a voice calls. It's the man in the straw fedora. He looks to the woman in the glasses and says, "Really, Rita. It's enough. Don't torture her."

That's when my stomach starts its slow descent.

"Becky, great job," the fedora guy says to the other actress. "We'll call your agent and let her know of the schedule. Welcome aboard."

Becky does a restrained little jump-and-squeal movement next to me. "Thanks, Harry! See you, Rita!" She makes her exit as I stand and wait for my own verdict.

Rita holds her hands out to her side and says, "Sorry. It's just not going to work out."

She goes back to shuffling through papers, looking to see who is next-they all do, avoiding looking me in the eyes. I'd thought I was so close on yet another job. Why can't I land something?

"Is there anything I should work on?" I say, my voice now weak compared to when I was pretending to be college girl shopping at Kain's.

Rita forces a smile and says, "You're just not what we're looking for."

Which is annoying because they have my headshot, and if I didn't look like what they were looking for then they shouldn't have brought me in. I need more. With the loss of this gig, I'm in a bad spot.

What am I going to do about rent?

How can I live? What do I do next?

I've been telling myself that I would give it another month, another week, another day, but now it's starting to become ridiculous. I don't have enough money to survive anymore.

"Anything more specific?" I say, trying to sound pleasant, professional. But I am eager for something real, something solid I can use. Otherwise what the hell am I doing down here in California with few friends, zero family and no money chasing this dream?

The producers and casting agents all dart their eyes at each other. Finally Rita speaks. "Sweetie, you gotta lose some weight." She shrugs like it's nothing. "Ten to fifteen pounds, I'd say."

The fedora guy adds, "And you need to upgrade your look." Everyone's eyes at the table travel down my body. "You need something more … aspirational."

I stand grounded before them, as if my feet are glued to the linoleum. Their eyes have all left me now, going back to their papers and the next girl they bring in here. The next girl whose dreams they will shatter.

"Thanks for coming in, Madison," Rita says curtly.

"It's Addison," I mutter. I force my body to move toward the door. I can feel my chin begin its telltale quivering. I'm trying my very best to hold it together as I leave the audition room and step out into the waiting room, where more than a dozen girls are sitting, watching each of us come out that door, hoping for failure so that they'll have a shot. I can't show them any emotion.

Ten to fifteen pounds … something more aspirational …

That's when the gates open and tears begin their free-flowing stream down my face. Instantly my nose is filled with snot, I can hardy see through the tears and I just need to get the hell out of here.

I know I'm not model thin.

But I believe that not every girl has to look alike in this industry. There should be enough roles for all of us.

I also believe I am a good actor. I did well in my program at the University of Oregon. My professors said I had real talent. They said I could make it. So with nothing left for me in my home state after graduation-my parents didn't even wave goodbye as I left town-I came down here, arriving in my clunker on fumes with a hope and a dream like so many others. I thought I'd be different from all those sad stories.

Turns out the only thing different about me is the extra fifteen pounds.

Which starts a fresh wave of tears as I take the stairs down two floors to the parking lot. As I punch out the door, I realize that this is really it. This audition is the last straw. I don't know where I'll go or what I'll do. I've got no home to go back to, and I'm not trained for anything else. If I'd had reliable parents they might have suggested a backup plan when I said I was studying theater.

I'm not blaming them, I'm just tired and frustrated. I need a good cry at home alone, and then I can figure out how the hell to get out of this situation.

Barely scraping by and landing only gigs as background-sitting in a set restaurant and miming conversation while the real actors say their lines, getting minimum pay that hardly covers groceries for a week-isn't cutting it anymore.

///



The fight to keep my head above water is exhausting.

"Excuse me, miss!" a voice calls. "Wait up." I turn and see one of the men who sat at the table and watched me get told I was fat. He's short, with black hair and a weak chin. He's sporting some stubble in an obvious attempt to cover it up. Doesn't work. "Addison, hello again."

At least he got my name right. "Hello," I say, digging in my bag for my sunglasses, and not just because it's sunny out-I'd rather not show my red splotchy face to this guy.

"I'm Damien, one of the producers," he begins, then wipes away a bead of sweat dripping down his temple. "Listen, I might have a gig for you after all."

I shift, looking at him more clearly. "Oh, yeah?"

"It's not a national commercial or anything," he says, "but it is a decent paying job if you're interested."

I feel a spark of hope flare inside my chest, but try to keep my calm. I've had way too many close calls and disappointments since I came to L.A., and this might just be one more.

"Yes," I say. "Definitely interested."

"It's … a little different than what you're probably used to," he begins.

"This is L.A.," I say. "I'm used to different."

"Yes, well, even so," he says. "This is sort of an acting job but not quite. I work for a company called Stand In Girlfriend."

"What is that? Like a reality show?" It's the last thing

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