From Hollywood to Heartland
Old flames burn bright...When a disgraced starlet returns home to lick her wounds, she discovers that her high school sweetheart is just as tempting as ever.
Allison: When I left for California, I gave myself a new name and never looked back. Now my carefully crafted good-girl image is getting torn to shreds in the press thanks to my Oscar-winning A-hole of an ex-boyfriend. So I escape to the only safe haven I know and trust—my hometown—to take a breather while I plot my triumphant Hollywood comeback. However, when I arrive at my parents’ house, Jackson Burke answers the door instead. And suddenly the past comes rushing back. . . .
Jackson: First kiss. First time. First love. Yep, Allison Murphy and I shared a lot of firsts back in the day. When she left, she took half my heart with her. Now she’s back in town, and even though I swore I’d keep my distance, her parents hired me to remodel their house, and I’m going to finish the job. But one hot kiss later, suddenly the press is calling us the next big celebrity couple. Sure, I’ll play the part, for Allison’s sake—but I refuse to let her close enough to break my heart all over again. . . .
“Since this Oscar thing has blown up on the internet, I didn’t want someone to mention it to you and catch you off guard. I know how well you’ve trained yourself to ignore magazine covers at the checkout lines.”
Like a Jedi, I think. I stare at gum instead in case Allison’s face is splashed across a cover.
“And the news again is . . . ?” I prompt.
“Nina stole an Oscar from Millie Duncan,” my twin sister Jules says, calmer now. “You know, three-time-Academy-Award winner, Millie Duncan? The original America’s Sweetheart, Millie Duncan? Everyone loves her and now Allison’s become the town pariah since McCormack turned on her.”
That pinch of pain in my chest is general empathy. I’d feel that for anyone.
“Last Saturday night, McCormack and Nina were at her house for a party and Nina swiped one of Millie’s statuettes. There are pictures of Allison via the paparazzi. She was hiding it under a coat the whole time. It’s alarming.”
“I’m alarmed that we’re having this conversation,” I say drily.
“I wanted you to be prepared.”
“Anything!” she exclaims, exasperated. “McCormack gave a statement—”
“Stop saying his name,” I warn between clenched teeth. In the restroom in the hallway, I balance the phone on my shoulder and wash the drywall dust from my arms. The mention of Xavier McCormack makes my neck muscles go tight. I don’t know what Allie, or the rest of the world, sees in that douchebag. Doesn’t the fact that he won his own Oscar only prove he’s a really good liar? The press calls them McNina, which is as stupid as McCormack himself.
“Jax. They broke up.”
I pause, towel in hand, my eyes on my reflection in the mirror. My hair and beard are dotted with dust, making the brown strands appear gray. My face is drawn and white—-partially from the dust and partially from this conversation. I towel off my hair and face and turn from the mirror, cellphone in hand as I repeat what my sister just told me.
“They broke up?”
“Yeah. He said that Nina stole the Oscar in a fit of jealousy and that she boarded a plane this morning for a rehab facility. I don’t even like her and even I felt sorry for her when he disclosed that. It wasn’t his story to tell. Plus, he seems full of shit.”
“Because he is,” I snarl.
I’ve always hated Xavier, and not only because he’s dating my ex. From the second I saw his smug, pretty-boy face in the movie Legends and Bygones, the title that won him that treasured statuette, everything about him rang false.
“She’s better off without him,” I add, walking to the stairs. My stomach interrupts with a mighty roar. I tug my too-long hair out of the elastic holding it back. I’ve let it grow, and as a result it’s in my way a lot. Since I’m doing it to impress no one at all, I’m considering a haircut.
“Thanks for the update. I have to grab something to eat. Call you later?” I ask as I jog down the stairs.
“Yes. But . . . you’re okay?”
Since I know what she’s really asking, I answer the unspoken question instead. “Jules, I’ve been working in her parents’ house all week long. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about her.” I know Jules is less concerned about someone chattering to me about what happened and more concerned that I’ll catch a magazine cover or an entertainment blip on TV and lose my shit.
“For a while you wanted her back.”
“Yeah, well, that was a long time ago. It’s not like she’s here, Jules.”
“I know. I just . . . I worry.”
“You don’t have to.”
She sighs in defeat. She loves to worry about me.
“Okay,” she mumbles. “I should go. I have a million things to do. Bye, Jax.”
I shove my phone into my back pocket, smiling to myself. Jules, as tough as she acts on the outside, has a gooey, caramel center. Don’t tell her I told you that.
As I pass by the front door, the lock disengages and it opens. I step back, head tilted in curiosity. I can’t imagine Tommy or Daryl showing up voluntarily. The door widens and the subject of mine and Jules’s phone call stands at the threshold. The blood drains from my head to my toes so swiftly, I wobble a little.
Allison Murphy is silhouetted by sunshine. She looks a lot like she did when we were together—petite, her dark hair curling over her shoulders. She’s wearing huge sunglasses, her full mouth open in a stunned gape and her thick eyebrows arched in surprise.
I open my mouth to speak, but it’s my sister’s words that come out.
Buy America’s Sweetheart:
Raise your hand if you love a reunion story. 🙋🏼♀️
You can probably tell (from plenty of evidence in my book backlist) that I love the heck out of a reunited lovers story. America's Sweetheart allowed me to do the whole college-sweetheart thing but with a fun element that us authors are sometimes discouraged from exploring. HOLLYWOOD.
Allison Murphy is an Emmy-award winning actor. Ten years ago she landed a walk-on role on a show called America's Sweetheart that turned into the biggest role of her life. Now that the show is over she's looking for her next Tinseltown gig, but there's quite the scandal surrounding her. Namely: A v. famous person's missing Oscar. Missing because Allison "allegedly" stole it. GASP! Not only has Hollywood turned on her, but so has her Oscar-winning boyfriend, who just publicly dumped her on TMZ. Yowch.
Now Allison is back home but her parents aren't. They're celebrating an anniversary out of the country. But guess who's been hired to remodel their bedroom and redo the deck while they're away? None other than Jackson Burke, Allison's first love, first kiss... first everything. Throw in a bit of paparazzi naming Jax & Allie the new "it" couple and plenty of run-ins at the Murphy homestead and what you have is a reunion story that feels like going back in time to when Jax and Allie were head-over-heels, knock-down, drag-out in love with each other.
There's only one question... will they last?
I hope you love Allie's and Jackson's story as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was pure fun to be in a celebrity's head and write a hero who was so brokenhearted by Allie he was afraid to open up again.