Just a Summer Affair?
A second chance romance set in the middle of the last century.
Actor and director Sam Fielding has a secret life in London from which he escapes every summer by working in a seaside town's weekly rep. Escaping the restrictions of his London life, he enjoys casual flings with his co-stars until he meets Georgie, the lead actress of 1969. She makes him want more than a shallow affair, but his past life won’t let him go so easily. There is a price to pay for his past behaviour.
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How Sam met Georgie
Monday June 2nd 1969 - Fettlestone, Yorkshire
Gina scooted across the road, thrilled by the prospect of the day ahead. She’d put aside her thoughts of missing her parents and settled into her not very comfortable lodgings the previous night. Now, it was day one in her first proper acting job. Not a walk-on or understudy, but a leading actor in the season’s first play. To be followed with more new roles every week, big parts with actual lines to learn. A whole summer season of being the juvenile lead at the Theatre Royal, Fettlestone, and according to her agent, it was quite an achievement for someone less than twelve months out of drama school. A contrary view had come from her London flatmate, Claire, who’d described the job as a baptism of fire. ‘A new play every week! Gina, are you crazy?’
No, just stagestruck, Gina thought as she skidded to a halt outside the theatre. The publicity display had grabbed her attention with a description above her photograph. It stated in large bold letters: Georgina Galbraith – Star of television and the west end theatre.
Star! Why did they write that? It wasn’t true. Her entire professional career was one short season as an understudy at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London and two days on the Doctor Who set as a mask-wearing alien with nothing to do but wave her arms around and breathe heavily. In her opinion, that did not make her a star of anything.
Annoyed, Gina glared in frustration at the theatre’s Victorian facade. What should she do? It wasn’t good to make a fuss, especially on her first day, but something had to be done. She couldn’t be party to lies. She’d have to find the person responsible and persuade them (very politely of course) to change the description to something more factual, and while they were about it, perhaps they could replace the stupid photo. She couldn’t imagine why they would have chosen it. It was the worst in her portfolio: wide-eyed, with a vacuous expression. She looked ridiculous, like a brainless blonde bimbo. How would people take her acting seriously if they saw that ditsy image?
A clock chiming nearby snapped her back into the moment. She was late. Oh no!
In a panic, she ran into the alley beside the theatre, imagining the cast waiting for her inside. Derke, the director, pacing up and down, irritated and repeatedly checking the time on his wristwatch. The other actors grumbling at being kept waiting. This was not how Gina wanted to start her new job.
As she ran, the smell of overflowing litter bins and wicker baskets full of sweaty costumes engulfed her.
‘Nice! Such a glamorous place I work in − not!’ she muttered and sped on, her heels clacking on the concrete. High-heeled sling backs were not practical footwear for the hundred-yard dash. She could break her ankle. But it had to be done. She ran on, aiming herself at a parked car at the end of the alley, its rear end peeking out from the back of the theatre building. Not far to go now … Gina encouraged herself and steadied her pace to a fast jog, preparing to take the corner at a safe speed. She swerved past the car and straight away ran into the back of a man taking a holdall from behind the driver’s seat.
In the instant before the collision, Gina had just enough time to see that the man was tall, and had wavy dark blond hair that curled appealingly at his neck.
Oomph! Her lungs emptied on impact with his solid back.
‘Ow!’ they cried out together.
‘What the f…!’ he growled and turned around.
Gina staggered, knees and ankles buckling.
His frown disappeared, and he caught her before she toppled over.
Trying not to scowl, Gina glared at him. She couldn’t decide whether she was cross at being called sweetheart by a total stranger, grateful he’d saved her from falling or just plain blown away by the look of him. She had never, absolutely never, ever seen a man more handsome. It was difficult not to swoon.
‘Are you all right?’ he asked, still gently supporting her by her arms and looking her over. At first, his expression seemed only one of concern, but then Gina noticed it change subtly.
‘I’m fine, thank you,’ she replied primly, uneasy that his inspection was more than just an interest in her well-being and more than a little concerned he was still holding on to her with no sign he intended to let her go any time soon.
‘You’re sure?’ he said. ‘You hit me with some force. Are you hurt? Would you like to sit in my car for a moment?’ He nodded at the pale blue Mini Cooper, which Gina noted matched his T-shirt perfectly, a T-shirt sufficiently tight to hint at his fit body beneath, with short enough sleeves to expose powerful arms, and nicely developed biceps.
Gina shook her head, horrified at her thoughts when this man was inviting her into his car. Hadn’t her mother always drummed into her, never to get into a stranger’s car?
‘Oh, no, really,’ she said, trying not to sound alarmed. ‘I’m not hurt. Just winded. I’ll be fine when I get my breath back.’ She realised then she was literally breathless … perhaps even a little giddy.
‘Sure?’ His brow puckered with extra concern.
‘Very.’ She pointedly looked at his hands, still wrapped around her upper arms. ‘In fact, you can let go of me now,’ she said. ‘I won’t fall over.’
‘Oh, yes. Right. Sorry.’ He looked flustered, as if it surprised him to find he was still holding her and, with a grin that seemed embarrassed, he immediately let go, leaving her skin tingling strangely where his hands had been.
Gina rubbed her arms. ‘That’s okay. Thanks for saving me. I didn’t hurt you, did I?’
‘Apart from bowling me over …’ He grinned again, more confidently this time, flashing perfect white teeth as he said, ‘No, you didn’t hurt me but thanks for caring.’
Her pulse quickened. She couldn’t remember ever being so intrigued by a man.
Gina, behave yourself! She silently scolded herself. You don’t know him! But then she realised there was something more familiar about him than just the way he’d been looking at her. Perhaps she did know him.
‘Have we met before?’
‘No, not until today.’ He leant into the car and pulled a leather jacket from the passenger seat.
Gina replied, ‘Sorry. It’s just I suddenly thought I might have met you before.’
‘Did you now?’ His smile broadened and the skin beside his eyes crinkled attractively as he shrugged into the jacket. Gina’s heart almost stopped as his action caused his T-shirt to ride up just for a moment, but long enough to reveal a flat belly and the v shadow of hip muscle. She quickly returned her eyes to his face, only to find he’d been watching her ogling him.
His eyes sparkled as he said. ‘Believe it or not, I used to get that a lot.'
Did he mean the ogling? Was she blushing ... it felt like it.
'So …’ he said, stooping to snatch the holdall from where it had dropped. ‘What was the rush?’
‘I’m late for work, in there.’ She nodded at the theatre.
His hazel eyes, flecked with gold, glinted at her. ‘Ah, so we both have a problem. Because if you’re late, then I am too.’
‘You’re going into the theatre?’
‘I am. Shall we go in together? Safety in numbers, as they say. Come on.’
Without waiting for her agreement, he locked the car, looped his arm with hers and guided her towards the peeling maroon stage door, adding, ‘By the way, I should have said I’m Sam.’
Sam who? That information didn’t help a lot, but she replied, ‘Nice to meet you. I’m Georgina Galbraith.’.
‘I know.’ His answer and his smile caused Gina to fizz with confusion. ‘Come on, young Georgie, I’ll escort you into the theatre. And don’t worry about Derke. You’ll be safe with me.’
She hoped he was right. But even if Derke told her off for being late, it was sweet that Sam, whoever he was, had cast himself as her protector. She could grow to like him … maybe quite a lot.
Sam opened the heavy stage door, creaking on its rusty hinges, and held it back for her. ‘After you, Miss Galbraith.’
She smiled graciously at him and entered the theatre, her head held high.
Inside the first thing she saw was the production company’s call sheet typed out on headed notepaper and pinned to a noticeboard next to the entrance to a kitchen.
10:00 a.m. All cast for Surprise Party – full read-through.
It brought her down to earth with a thump, and she silently groaned at her lateness. Derke would skin her alive for sure. He had a reputation, but Sam seemed confident he could keep her safe. She glanced at him. He looked like a hero. The sort of man who kept promises. So she would try not to worry about the irate director, and instead put her faith in Sam and take things as they came. The door swung shut behind them. Sam dropped his bag under the noticeboard and again gathered her to his side.
He’s very touchy-feely, she thought, and justified his actions as only what you could expect from theatrical people. And really, she didn’t mind his warm arm around her waist. It felt good, and he smelled divine.
‘This way.’ He ushered her up a short flight of three steps. The double doors in front of them opened directly onto the area behind the stage where it was almost in darkness. Only one blue security light high on a brick wall illuminated the outlines of the back of a set. They stepped into the gloom. She could hear a mix of voices coming from on stage, and slid another shy sideways glance at Sam.
‘Exciting, isn’t it?’ he said.
‘I think so. Does it excite you?’
‘Yes, very much.’ He leant close, his breath warm against her cheek. ‘I’ll tell you a secret, shall I? Even after all these years, I still get the biggest buzz just walking into the wings.’
‘What about when you go on stage?’ she asked, guessing from what he’d said that he must be an actor.
His perfectly formed lips formed a rueful smile.
‘On stage is different. I’m usually too busy keeping my nerves under control.’
Gina couldn’t imagine Sam, who seemed to exude confidence, ever having a problem with nerves. Yet, he’d just admitted to suffering stage fright. Her heart softened to him, touched that he had shared his vulnerability with her.
‘Let’s just wait a moment,’ he said. ‘Take some time to feel the place.’
‘If you want,’ she whispered, unsure what he meant by 'feel the place', but she was late already. So, what did a few more minutes matter? And there was something very pleasant about standing with Sam.
She listened to the burble of the actors on stage, and for the third time Gina sneaked a sideways glance at Sam. The temptation was too great - he simply was so beautiful in a very manly way. She could imagine him playing a king or a conquering warrior. He reminded her a little of Michelangelo’s statue of David. High cheek bones, slight frown, straight nose, but Sam’s mouth was broader. She’d always thought the mouth on the statue slightly prissy. There was nothing prissy about Sam’s lips.
As if he sensed her watching him, Sam turned to her.
‘It’s the peace,’ he said. ‘Standing in the wings. No matter what’s happening on stage, or going to happen, a few moments of stillness here is settling.’
‘Should we join them now?’ she suggested.
He glanced at the stage. His shoulders stiffened as if with tension.
‘I suppose we must,’ he said. ‘But I was enjoying this quiet time with you alone.’
‘I think we should. We are here to work.’
Well, she was. She still did not know why Sam was here, although he seemed to know his way around and although she’d assumed he must be an actor, he seemed out of place in weekly rep. Too handsome, too well dressed, too … everything, too special in every way to be a poverty-stricken ordinary member of the cast.
Sam blinked, more thoughts in his expression visible but unfathomable.
‘Indeed, we are,’ he murmured.
Then he looked sadly at Gina, and taking her hand, he splayed her fingers in his palm, his thumb stroking her skin, until he seemed to decide on something.
Shrugging, he said, ‘You’re right. I can’t avoid it any longer. It’s time to put aside my dreams and face reality. Come on, shall we do it together? Safety in numbers. And it’ll give the company something to speculate about.’
Without waiting for her to answer and still holding her hand, he walked backwards into the sterile white light on stage. ‘You know, Georgie,’ he whispered, ‘I’m pleased you piled into me in the alley. I confess I enjoyed getting close and personal with you so quickly.’
Gina hardly had time to register that Sam was flirting before she recognised the voice of Derke Morrison.
‘Sam, there you are at last! Where’ve you been? I was worrying.’
A moment of irritation clouded Sam’s face. ‘Damn!’ he muttered. ‘You can always rely on Derke to spoil the moment.’
(to be continued)
So is Sam still the bastard that everyone thinks he is? Is he just playing with the emotions of a young and impressionable actress or is something deeper going on in this opening meeting. To find out get the book. Available on Amazon, including Kindle Unlimited.