Bound to Fall
With so many fences between them and happily ever after, two men wonder if it’s worth opening the gate.
Ten years ago Eddie Crane, an actor on the rise, loved his costar and dreamed of the day they could be together. But his love, with his submissive nature, couldn’t handle fame, and before Eddie could help him, he died in a car accident—with Eddie at the wheel.
Now, guilt-ridden, Eddie buries himself in bad decisions and prays that a stunt—on or off camera—will go wrong.
Teenaged fantasies about the actor on his wall distracted Arthur Pike from real life—his dead father, runaway mother, gruff grandparents, and his unrequited love for his cousin’s straight husband. Now grown and off the farm, Pike is a horse stuntman hired to teach a reluctant Eddie to ride.
Pike is drawn to Eddie’s dominant nature despite the sadness clinging to the actor. Eddie let one lover down, but in Pike’s submissiveness, he sees the possibility for redemption.
EDDIE’S PHONE vibrated in his pocket. He ignored it the first time, and the second. On the third ring, he dug it out.
Text notices flashed across the screen.
Caspiri: Where r u.
Caspiri: We need 2 tlk
Caspiri: Dude! Last nght!
Eddie frowned, unlocked the phone, and typed quickly with both thumbs.
AEM: Bugger off. Nothing to say.
Caspiri: u were happy to tlk last nght. Where r u
AEM: Fuck. Off.
He jammed the phone back into his pocket and slumped deeper into the uncomfortable seat as he swiped at his runny nose. The phone vibrated again. He sighed and took it out.
The screen filled with a set of impressive, naked ones, nipples pinched between hot-pink-taloned fingers. The woman’s wrists were circled by fuzzy pink manacles.READ MORE
“Jesus,” he muttered, fumbling to delete the image and glance over his shoulder at the same time.
No one else in the immediate vicinity of the airport gate paid him any attention. He slunk deeper into the plastic chair and lowered retro eighties sunglasses over his bloodshot eyes.
Eddie jumped and glanced up. His traveling partner, friend, and manager, Margaret, stood over him with two steaming cups in her hands. “We’re almost up. They’ll be calling our boarding line soon.”
“Yeah.” Eddie straightened and accepted the coffee she handed him. In his other hand, the phone vibrated.
“Someone wants your attention.” She wagged her chin at the phone.
“Doesn’t matter.” He put the device down. “Not important.” Even if he was interested in discussing the events of the night before, he barely remembered most of them anyway. There was no way he had anything to say to Caspiri.
The phone vibrated on his leg where he had placed it and he looked at the text.
Caspiri: Not going away.
He switched it to airplane mode and stuffed it into his pocket.
Margaret watched him, but said nothing for a few minutes.
“Leave it, Mags,” he warned.
She shrugged. “Got your passport?”
He took that out and held it up for her to see.
“Good.” She sat back in the seat next to him, and they lapsed into silence until their flight was called.
ANGUS EDWIN McCrea. He ran a finger over the words as if the action might transform them. The identifying ridges and whorls on his fingertip could scramble them out of their current pattern and into something both flashier and easier to remember: Eddie Crane. They didn’t. He tried again. And again. The letters insisted on that configuration.
The picture next to the name blurred and came back into focus as he blinked and sniffled. He dashed his hand under his nose, hoping it wasn’t too red and that Margaret didn’t notice the sniffing. The image before him didn’t change. It was his face. He’d been born with it. And with the name too.
“Stop,” Margaret hissed, tapping his wrist with manicured fingernails.
“They are so not going to believe I’m me,” he whispered back.
“Honey, you are the only one who has no idea who you are. Every other soul in the known universe knows Eddie Crane.” She handed him a tissue, but when he looked down at her, she was studiously arranging her boarding pass and passport and not looking back.
But no one knows Angus McCrea.
He grimaced, wiped his nose, and tossed out the tissue. He had curled his lower lip over his bottom teeth and was combing his top teeth through his soul patch as he got back in line next to her.
She made a face. She thought that particular impulse of his was a filthy habit. He smoothed the wiry strands back against his chin. His image in the little book he held wavered again. The soul patch was there, darker four years ago when the picture had been taken than it was now, and his cheeks had been smoother and rounder. He touched his jawline, scratching the dry skin with bitten nails—another filthy habit Margaret hadn’t managed to break him of. Five o’clock shadow well on its way to midnight scruff scratched back.
“Honey, stop fidgeting.” Margaret’s admonition harkened back to Eddie’s mother reaching past his brothers to smack him, admonishing him to keep his bottom still in the church pew. God. How long ago that had been. Fifteen years? Twenty? It felt like fifty.
He rolled his eyes at Margaret as she stroked his wrist lightly, a gentle scrape of her deep plum nail over his pale skin.
“You’re fine,” she assured him.
He didn’t argue, though he was reasonably sure they would never let him across the border. That thought eased his nerves, oddly enough, and he stopped his hand halfway through the motion of raking it through his midnight-black hair. He almost smiled. If they didn’t let him into Canada, he wouldn’t have to follow through with Margaret’s craptastic idea to reinvigorate his stumbling film career.
His stumbling, drunk-in-the-gutter, coked-out film career. Or, at least, passed out on his couch where Margaret had found him when she’d arrived to bring him to the airport earlier.
“You’re turning into him,” she’d said as she scurried around his living room picking up clothes and shoving things into the trash can.
Eddie crawled from the leather couch, bare limbs sticking to the surface just long enough to sting as he peeled himself off. He had on only his boxers and didn’t remember how he’d gotten home.
“Who?” Stumbling over a strewn pair of jeans he didn’t think belonged to him, he made a pathetic escape bid for the bathroom.
“Eddie!” She trailed after him and got the door closed in her face for her effort. “Angus!”
“Don’t call me that.” He whispered it, because anything louder would puncture his skull and let his brains leak out.
“Annie,” she called more softly. “Don’t do this. The hang gliding and heli-skiing are bad enough. Don’t go down this road, huh? You saw what it did to him.”
“I don’t want to talk about him.” He infused the pronoun with as much acid as possible as he turned on the shower. He fumbled his way inside where anything else she had to say got lost in the spray.
“Where’s your boarding pass?” she asked.
Eddie blinked back to the too-bright airport and shoved the conversation, and the memories of him, far back in his brain.
“I don’t….” He patted the breast pocket of his jacket. That highlighted the absence of the flask he usually carried there. Margaret had forced him to dump it and stow it in his checked bags.
The boarding pass made a crisp crinkling noise in his suit pocket when he shoved his hand in, and Margaret looked at him over the rim of her sunglasses.
“Get it out, Annie,” she said softly.
“Oh, you did not just call me that.”
She grinned. “Get. It. Out.” She caught his gaze and held it. “Annie.”
“I can be.” Completely unperturbed by his venom. She’d developed immunity to most of the poisonous barbs he shot her way. She’d known him over a decade, and he pretty much couldn’t faze her at this point. It sucked.
He hauled out the boarding pass—not caring that it had been wadded up into a ball—and handed it to her. Petty, maybe, that he didn’t straighten it out, but he wasn’t keen to showcase the beginnings of the tremors in his hands. She ignored the slight and handed both her pass and his to the airline agent at the desk.
“Business class,” the agent said. “Very good.” She adjusted her glasses and peered at Margaret’s passport, then his own. She did a double take when he pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head. She looked from the photo to him, and he was about to do a small dance of vindication when the agent nodded. “Very good, Mr. McCrea. Ms. Briggs.” She looked past them. “Next.”
“What? That’s it?” he grumbled, stuffing the passport back into his breast pocket.
“Not even a sneer at how sallow you’ve gotten,” Margaret said sweetly. “Or were you expecting flashbulbs and microphones shoved in your face?”
“I am not—” Eddie glanced at the backs of his hands, noticed the thinness of his wrists sticking from the suit-jacket sleeves, and realized the cuffs gaped. He looked like he was wearing clothing borrowed from someone two sizes bigger.
“Let’s find our seats.” Margaret steered him through the door and down the jet bridge.
“I wasn’t expecting press.” He sounded ten instead of thirty-three. The press had gorged on him the night before. He remembered that much. But then, he gave them a glut of bad behavior to feast on, didn’t he?
“No, of course not.” She smiled so sweetly he had to make a sour face to counter it. “Before last night, you hadn’t misbehaved in nearly two weeks. Much longer and they might have forgotten who you are.”
He slammed back in his seat. Behind him, a mutter of discontent accompanied the sound of a pop can hitting the floor. The guy should not have his food tray out yet anyway. Eddie refused to feel remorse.
“Or,” Margaret said as she twisted in her seat and offered the other passenger a handful of napkins, “you could try out that acting thing you sometimes do. See what kind of press that gets you.”
Eddie snorted. “Like the last film? Joy Ride. Media loved that.”
“Okay, well, no. Not like that one. But you didn’t let me pick that one, did you?” She settled, tightened her belt, and laid a small stack of magazines on her lap. “Should have twigged it wasn’t all about the biker gang when the main love interest’s name was Joy.”
“So the plot was a little thin.”
She lifted one eyebrow in the way only powerful men and very bitchy best friends could do effectively, and snorted for emphasis. “Don’t know what you were expecting. Caspiri isn’t well known for his deeply moving plotlines. You were taking a chance with that toe-rag in charge.”
“Hey, I did some decent acting with what I had, Mags.”
Another snort, this one quieter and on the in breath. “When you weren’t high.”
“Fuck you.” He almost sniffed again, but managed to quell the impulse.
“Careful, babe. Sunglasses are not the impenetrable disguise you think they are. Be polite. You can cuss me out all you want in private.”
Eddie sank lower in his seat until his towering frame was nearly on level with her more diminutive, upright stature. “I’m sorry.” And he was. He shouldn’t be an asshole to her because she was the only one in his life with the balls to call him out. Instead, he chewed on his soul patch and examined the details of the chair back in front of him.
“I know, honey.” She patted his hand. “It’s okay.” She smiled, and it was less sweet and more real this time. “We’re going to fix this, I promise.”
She meant she was going to fix him. He used to want to believe she had that power. With all her business skills, confidence, and complete, unshakable faith that the right combination of work and play could mend him, she should have been able to do exactly what she said. But after the complete ruin he’d become after…. Cory.
Well. There was no fixing him. He knew that. He’d never, ever convince her, though.
He settled into his seat to wait, sunglasses back in place and eyes half-lidded behind them.
Takeoff was smooth. Eddie watched out the window any time there was anything but clouds to look at. It was distraction enough to imagine what each building or configuration of greenery below might be. He tried to ignore Margaret sending the flight attendant away without letting him order anything. Twice.
“God, I want a drink,” Eddie muttered.
“You don’t need a drink, Annie.”
He yanked his hand from under hers. “Who said I needed it? I said I want one. Different thing.”
She tilted her head and turned her attention back to her magazine. “Is it?”
He glared at her, lips pursed, because if he called her a bitch now, he was too frightened he’d mean it more than a little bit.
Maybe she noticed his silence, maybe she didn’t. A few minutes later, she laced her fingers with his and continued to read. He tightened his grip on her, closed his eyes, and prayed for the plane to land already.COLLAPSE