"Your love scenes just aren't up to much," said the director. It hit her in her stomach like a red hot burning arrow.
"Maybe you just need a break, Katie," he said gently, knowing that an actress' confidence is integral to her performance, and if he ruined her confidence, his film would be in tatters.
"We have had a fairly strenuous filming schedule. Take a week off - relax, don't do anything stressful. Then come back and we'll try again."
On the way home in the limousine, she was on the verge of tears. The year before she had been hot property in Hollywood, on the cover of every magazine in sight for months, dating the hottest guy in the world and even nominated for an Oscar. But then her world had slowly fallen apart. She had millions in the bank thanks to her skilful agent, a beautiful Malibu house overlooking the ocean - happiness was all around her.
But that bastard Donnie had dumped her the week before his upcoming action flick - purely, it would seem, to boost his box office.
She had loved him - or thought she had - but after a two year romance, apparently his personal profile, and the publicity for his film, were more important to him than she was. God she hated dating actors. Sure, they looked good, but their souls were as deep as saucers and they loved themselves like no other group on earth. Donnie had spent two hours getting ready before they went out anywhere - longer than she ever had.
And here it was: she was so desperately lonely. There were hundreds of people around her - makeup, costume, actors, extras, techies, agents, assistants, public relations, reporters, photographers - but she was so very alone. And it seemed that it was chilling her love scenes. Callie Dalbrathe, the celebrated director, could see there was something wrong with her. And now she had been all but thrown off set. It wasn't as though she was unattractive. She was a frequent cover girl, after all. Back home, in her bedroom with its massive bed and glorious sea view through the wall of windows that opened out onto a sun drenched balcony, she looked at herself in the mirrored wall. She hadn't lost her looks - she was still only twenty five.
She popped the button on her tight blue jeans and slid them down her long, smooth legs, tossing them onto the nearby chair. She unbuttoned her blouse and removed it, standing there in just her underwear. She stroked her hands over her curves - there wasn't anything out of place: her well formed breasts were tucked softly into her white lacy bra, her flat stomach led down to her perfectly formed abdomen with the gentle rise of her mound covered by yet more expensive French lace. How could any man not want her? She reached behind herself and unhooked and tossed aside her bra.
Her nipples hardened slightly when exposed to the marine breeze that came through the open windows and she brushed her fingers against them, feeling them harden even more. Men liked her breasts - she knew that much: there were sites on the internet devoted to her breasts. But apparently men preferred them in two dimensions. As she touched herself, she felt a real longing for a strong man to touch her instead. That would cure her love scenes. If she didn't have such an empty space in her heart, she would sizzle on screen.
But where was she going to get a man? Actors were no good - she'd proved that countless times, hundreds of tabloid stories formed the evidence. What she needed was someone without an ego, someone who would love her, not just lust over her. Someone who would cry out her name Katie, Katie... Rather than any of her sultry characters of the silver screen.
Her the panties were the next to go. She didn't even bother to pick them up. She was too busy thinking of her perfect man, sliding her fingers between her legs and imagining they were his, feeling the slight wetness between her warm, soft labia. She pulled the covers back from the bed and lay down on the cool silk. Her hands stroked herself softly, not urgently, just softly, as she fell asleep, dreaming of her lost love.
In the morning, she woke up and showered, hearing the phone ringing as she soaped the previous night's dried moisture from her skin. It was bound to be her agent - asking her what was going on, why the shooting schedule had been altered so as not to include her for another week. For once, she didn't want to talk to him. She was tired of the whole thing - as Callie had said, she needed a complete break, away from everything. She needed to get away from Tinsel town, that was certain. But where to go?
She didn't want to go anywhere renowned as playgrounds for the rich and famous - not Aspen or Monaco or St Tropez or Martha's Vineyard. She needed to be normal, ordinary. She needed to go to somewhere that they wouldn't believe it was her, to relax where the mantle of Hollywood was forgotten. And more than anything, she needed to get away without anyone knowing about it - especially her agent. If she told her agent she was going on holiday, she was pretty sure there'd be a quiet phone call to the paparazzi. Her agent considered any publicity good publicity. She knew where she wanted to go - to a very ordinary place - but where it was she had no idea whatsoever.
Where was her ideal man? Was there someone in the world currently just going about his ordinary everyday business without the stress of fame or fortune? Was he there, wondering when he would meet his ideal woman? Or was she too late, and he had been picked up by someone who clearly wasn't right for him?
How would she find him? It would be a chance in a billion for her to just run into her perfect man. She went into her study - a glorious room full of books, which she hardly ever had time for nowadays. There was on one wall, a huge map of the States, a multi-cultured celebration of her country. She picked up a drawing pin, closed her eyes and walked to the map, placing the pin in the first random place she touched. If she was relying on chance here, then she'd better start using it.
The pin was stuck in Montana, in a small place called Wellingford. Without telling anyone at all, Katie Jennings, movie star, put on jeans and a faded T-shirt, got in her open top Mercedes and drove. She parked it three blocks from a used car dealership and walked the rest of the way to buy a fairly ordinary looking red Honda. The dealer had been shocked when he saw her, but when she told him she was just a look-a-like, he bought it first time. Why would Katie Jennings be buying a Honda, anyway?
And she was free. Free to just drive away from her troubles - and who knew who she'd meet? She drove through the day and the night, up into the mountains and beyond. She had to stop every now and then, but she managed to keep a fairly low profile, going with the whole look-alike vibe. It worked a treat - if she didn't hide herself behind sunglasses, it was more likely to be a look-alike than her. People accepted it with a smile.
It was getting on into late afternoon that she drew into Montana, and she had to admit that she was extremely tired from the long drive. Her concentration wasn't great, so she didn't see the red light at the crossroads seemingly miles from anywhere. Smash. Thankfully she wasn't going too quickly when she hit the red Ford pickup - she had been wandering along singing Elvis songs, and admiring the glorious world, such a beautifully isolated place, where no one from Hollywood would ever come. What splendour they were all missing!
She noticed at the last moment and jammed on her brakes, the tires screeching but unable to hold onto the road. Her little Honda crunched into the back of the pickup. Damn. And she was still at least a hundred miles away from her destination, Wellingford.
"You all right, Miss?"
The driver of the red pickup was first out of the carnage. His tank of a vehicle hadn't received nearly so much damage as her little Honda, though.
"Uh...yeah," she said, looking up into his benevolent face. "Oh my God," she stammered, "I'm so sorry..."
She managed to get the door open and climb outside.
"It's all right," he replied with a smile, "no harm done. Number of people round here - had to be a chance in a billion you hitting me like that."
She looked at him, puzzled. "A chance in a billion?"
"Well...I don't much go in for math. Odds have gotta be up there, though."
He had an enchanting smile and dreamy blue eyes that just oozed sensitivity.
"How far's the nearest town?" she asked him.
He frowned, "some thirty miles back the way you came, I'm afraid."
"Oh," it didn't look as though she was going to get to Wellingford.
"You won't get any repair van out here before Monday, either," he said regretfully.
She nodded, it was a Friday evening. Folks up here wouldn't move at the weekend. She heaved a huge sigh - here was her going on a grand adventure, but it was all over far too soon.
"I only live a couple a miles away," said the stranger, "be glad to put you up for the night."
I'm sure you would, she thought, but then rebuked her cynical LA attitude. This guy was nice - his face was the picture of honesty - and more than anything, she was quite surprised he hadn't recognized her.
"Well..." She sounded uncertain, but inside, she was certain she'd like to know a little more about this stranger.
"It wouldn't be any trouble," he assured her, "we can tie your automobile up to my truck and tow it off the road here."
She smiled and held out her hand. "Thanks," she smiled. "My name's Katie, by the way." She was kind of surprised she didn't give him an alias. "Katie Jennings."
"Pleased to meet you, ma'am," he shook her hand - his grip was strong but gentle. "I'm Harry, Harry Webb."
She watched him move his truck and hook her Honda up to the back of it with a sturdy rope. Wow. He had never heard of her. What he do with himself? He had to be pretty cut off from civilization up here.
"Hop in," he called, breaking her daze.
The cab smelled slightly of old leather, a reassuring smell if ever there was one. Harry made sure she was belted up before they moved away, driving slowly with her car following closely behind, towards the picturesque mountains a few miles away.
"So you're on vacation?" Harry asked as they settled into the journey.
"Kind of," she said.
"Funny time of year for a vacation. You're not in a desk job, I take it?"
"I'm an actress," she said, surprised to her roots that she had to tell him.
She hadn't told anyone what she did for a living since she was nineteen.
"Hmm," he nodded, "I've never met an actress before. Must be pretty difficult trying to be someone else all the time."
She nodded, "sometimes you lose yourself - that's what I'm doing here, I suppose. Looking for me."
"Well," he smiled, "if you don't find you here, you probably won't find you anywhere. There's precious little else out here but you and me."
"What do you do?" she asked, now completely enchanted by his gentle voice and benevolent manner.
He shrugged, "I'm a painter. Don't get much money, but it's none too stressful."
"What do you paint?"
"Mountains, rivers, trees, birds, animals - people when I can, but that means a fair long drive."
"You can paint me if you like."
"Watch it," he chuckled, "I might hold you to that."
The drive was on very twisty roads around soaring mountains. Emerald green pine trees flooded every valley, but now and again they crossed a narrow bridge over beautiful thundering waterfalls or swirling torrents crashing through rocky canyons. The evening mist has settled between some of the distant peaks, filling her heart and soul with serenity.
Harry was interested in her LA lifestyle, and asked her questions all the way while she wondered openly at the beauty of the landscape. Not since she'd arrived in Los Angeles with her parents fifteen years ago had she met someone as interested in her and what she thought about the world. She couldn't remember talking to someone in LA who wasn't just interested in talking about themselves.
And she found she wanted to know about him, what drove him to live where he did, what he thought about the world he lived in, what he liked, what he believed, what his ambitions were for the future. People in LA all had the same ambitions and beliefs - so much so that you just didn't bother to ask any more.
Harry's house was small - only four or five rooms on one level - but couldn't have been better placed, over looking a conjunction of three narrow, steep-sided valleys. A number of peaks were visible in two directions, and the forest was all around. They parked up in a small driveway and the sound of falling water was nearby - Katie turned to find that a healthy waterfall plunged down the mountain side next to the house, which was little more than a log cabin.
"It's gorgeous," she said, marvelling at the scene.
"It's all I've got," he smiled. "Come on - you'll be wanting a hot shower after your long journey."
"Don't tell me you have to boil a kettle for a shower."
"No, no," he chuckled, "I may live miles from the nearest town, but it is civilized here. I have all the modern conveniences, I'll have you know."
She took her case through to the bathroom and took a long, gloriously hot shower, washing all the strains and stresses of the journey from her body. She returned, dressed in a white terrycloth bathrobe, and found him sitting out on the deck that over looked the most wonderful view she'd ever seen.
"Nice shower?" He had a glass of chilled white wine in his hand - there was a bottle and another glass on the table.
"Wonderful," she smiled and sat in the chair next to him.
"There's some food on the way," he said. "You're not a vegetarian, are you?"
"No," she said, and could smell the tantalizing aroma of charcoal grilled meat.
"Paint me," she said. The evening had been her most enjoyable ever - the food, the company, the twilight fading in the misty valleys and a fair amount of crisp chilled white wine. She felt that comforting warmth of alcohol induced relaxation flowing through her veins. They were both getting more than a little light-headed. She had noticed that she had been getting seriously flirty with Harry, and he didn't seem to object to it, either.
"I couldn't possibly," he said with that delightful smile of his. "I could never do you justice."
"Oh go on," she got to her slightly shaky feet and stood in front of him.
"You'd be asleep before I got even halfway."
"I wouldn't," she assured him, then quite suddenly, she dropped her robe.
She saw him gasp at the sudden spectacle. She stood there, a perfect Hollywood blonde, dressed in nothing but a black silk g-string and matching bra.
"How could I say no?" his voice was slightly husky all of a sudden.
"Then don't," she said, and approached him, standing directly in front of him, her immaculate body squeezing between his thighs.
Any Hollywood type would have probably asked her to go down on him, but Harry was clearly different. He stood up and put his strong hands on her shoulders gently, the warmth of the contact between them stirring incredible vibrations in her, exciting her in a way no man had for a very long time. He didn't give in to her obvious drunken attempts to seduce him: his initial thought was concern for her.
"You're going to catch cold if you're not careful," he whispered in her ear, and ushered her back indoors. With the evening light now completely faded, it was getting very cold outside, she was quite relieved to get back in.
Harry lit a fire and asked her to sit by it so that he could paint her. She smiled, pleasantly surprised that he still wanted to go through with it, rather than tearing off her clothes and treating her like a piece of meat. She lay down on the hearth rug, in front of the gloriously hot flames that flickered like dancing imps to warm her deep down. Harry positioned his easel and pallet, with a small light focussed on the canvas. Then he extinguished all other lights, and the scene was dominated by the passionate fire crackling slightly as it burned, bestowing a dreamlike orange glow all around, and turning Katie's skin a blissful golden colour.
"You're so beautiful," Harry said softly, "I've never painted anyone like you before."
"Thank you," she smiled. "How do you want me?" He approached her and knelt down, and she found she really wanted him to touch her.
"The best thing would be for you to lie, I think, in a comfortable position. You might have to stay fairly still a while."
"Okay," she said, and lay so that her shoulders and her head were flat against the soft rug while her legs and hips were curled facing the flames.
"Perfect," he said. "Any time you want a break, just say so - we can always resume later."
"Okay," she smiled, and he departed, back behind the barrier of his easel.
As he painted her, they talked - as much to keep Katie from falling asleep, which she found she would have no trouble doing in the position she was in. They talked about her life, about his life, about their hopes and dreams, their creativity and how best to explore it, and a whole host of seemingly trivial things that made her bond with this stranger more than she had ever bonded with anyone before. And as he painted her, this strange feeling came over her: she knew he was looking at her, really looking at her, taking in every part of her body so that he could record it visually, and it sent little shivers of excitement through her skin to know he was really studying her, and as he painted her, he would make little appreciative comments that just made her whole body buzz with arousal.
After a while, she found herself becoming very wet. "I need a break," she whispered.
"Go ahead," he said, and smiled. She got up, stretching the aches from her body, and went over to him. He was perched on a high stool, and was now wearing a pair of thin tortoiseshell rimmed spectacles that made him look sexily mature and intelligent. She came round to look at the painting and was astonished at his skill. He had painted some of the background, the fire and her head down to the shoulders. The likeness of her was brilliant, and the colours were sensational.
"Back in a tick," she said, and padded away towards the bathroom.
Harry took five and went to the kitchen to fix up a drink. It wasn't long before Katie was back, lying in front of the fire. "All set?" he asked her,and then realised there was something different about her.
"All set," she beamed, "you can finish me off, now."
She had taken off her bra and g-string and was now lying naked in front of the fire. Her pert breasts were peaked by stiff nipples that produced the most wonderful shadows on her golden skin. She lay in the exact same position she had been, so he had a wonderful view of her firm behind, shaded from the firelight but still visible.
"Like what you see?" she asked cheekily.
"Absolutely incredible," he said. "I'm going to have real trouble finishing this painting."
"So finish it tomorrow," she purred, like a cat that knows it's getting cream.
He put down his brush and there was a click as he turned off the light on his easel. She turned over and lay in a foetal position, gazing off into the flames but all the while anticipating his touch. In a moment, he was by her side on the hearth rug, lying spooned against her, not a stitch on his hot body. She felt his hot, hard penis erect between her buttocks, with one hand sweeping around to smother her breasts while the other brushed her hair out of the way to permit his face to nuzzle in just below her ear, kissing the sensitive skin she had around that area.
She was, for the first time since she couldn't remember when, in complete heaven. He nibbled gently on her ear lobe, while caressing her breast, flicking his fingers across her firm nipple and occasionally gripping it between thumb and fingers, pinching to draw out her sensations. She moaned and wriggled back to try and press his hot cock against her body. She was so hot for him, so wet between her legs. His hand departed her breast and slowly traced over her curves, to sweep down her waist and up over her hip, to languish between her inner thighs. She moaned as he brought his hand suddenly up to brush over her moistened folds, to come to rest on the small immaculately trimmed patch of down upon her mound.