Val Saunders and Sam Newman are two Hollywood actors at opposite ends of their careers. Hers is skyrocketing while his, well, never really took off. Fate brings them together when they’re cast as lovers on a steamy new television series. The on-screen chemistry between them is off the charts and when it spills over into a real life attraction, they find themselves in a situation.
Sam is an honorable man. He has been faithful to a toxic, Hollywood marriage for nearly half his life. He’s never strayed and isn’t about to start now, despite the fact that he is falling head over heels for his co-star.
Val’s worked hard to get her career on the path to the A-list and the last thing she wants, or needs, is a scandal. If only her heart and her brain were working with the same script.
Romance is an ideal. This is a love story. It explores the possibility of second chances and asks hard questions about duty, fidelity, life in the public eye, and the cost of being happy. Falling Stars is the beginning of a sexy, sensual, and emotional roller-coaster ride that reminds us that love, while not often easy, is always worth it.
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Sam hadn’t been on the lot in days. Not since that day. Had he been avoiding her, or was she just being paranoid? She’d gotten used to everyone being on set, hanging around like it was one, giant clubhouse. When he didn’t come back after they filmed episode six, a whisper of panic shot through her. The little voice in her head told her that he’d known how attracted she was to him – a married man – and it had made him uncomfortable. She needed to talk to him. To apologize, to explain, just to say…something.
“Ugh, don’t be stupid, Val. He’s got a life outside of work.” She gathered her purse and the sack of freshly-baked pepperoni bread that she’d brought for the viewing. And opened the door just as Sam appeared at the bottom of the hill.
He stopped when he saw her.
“Here we go.” Val got out of the car and closed the door, leaning on it for a beat longer than needed. She took a steadying breath before turning around.
“Hi.” He slowed to a stop a few feet away from her.
“Hi.” She smiled, her pulse suddenly off to the races.
They stood there for a moment, saying nothing. Just staring. Sam ran a hand through his hair. He had a sexy, sorta Robert Redford thing going on, white button-down shirt, crisp jeans and tennis shoes. It was like seeing yet another side of the man. A more relaxed version. It suited him.
“Haven’t seen you for a couple of days, everything okay?” The sun framed his body, giving him an unearthly aura. Val shielded her eyes.
“Yeah…yeah.” He dismissed her concern, moving slightly to block the glare. “Just been busy. Had some stuff to do. Things to take care of. Karen, the usual.” Sam shoved his hands into his pockets and the gesture suddenly made him seem, at once, very young and very male. Val blushed. He knew.
“Please, Valerie, don’t. You don’t have to…I mean, I know what you’re going to say and I’m-“
“Sorry.” They spoke at the same time.
“Wait, what?” Confused, Val walked toward him. Sam took a half step back. He looked like a man that wanted to melt into the asphalt and disappear. “What are you apologizing for?” He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. A pained expression flashed across his face.
“Last week, at the shoot, we…I-”
“I hear they loved it.” She cut him off. Things were awkward. Val didn’t like awkward. She gave him her best, talk show smile. He smiled back and seemed to relax a little. “If one more person tells me how hot it was.” Val rolled her eyes. Just go with it, Sam. Please.
“Yeah, well, it was pretty believable. I think.” Sam’s laugh faded. Her skin began to itch under his gaze.
“Oh yeah, totally.” She rushed to agree. “I mean, I’m sure it looked that way.”
Val had to look away. This was excruciating. She pretended to find something interesting up in the trees. Their co-stars had gone on and on about how, together, they’d made the scene sizzle. Carla and the network execs were convinced that the ratings would go through the roof once America got a glimpse of TV’s hottest new couple.
All Val could think about was going into Carla’s house to watch herself fall in lust with Sam onscreen, in a room full of people. As much as she dreaded it, another part of her wanted to relive that day. See if it was as amazing as her memories.
“Acting,” Sam said, snapping her back to reality. “Genius!” He grinned, pointing one finger at the sky in exaggeration.
“Wow, I haven’t heard that one in a long time. My dad loves those old SNL sketches.” She laughed, some of the tension melting out of her body. She was almost convinced that Sam hadn’t shared in her insane, lust-crazed delusions. It was merely acting. Really superb acting. And, of course, his natural, physical response to stimuli. That’s all. Lucky him.
Somewhere along the way, Sam had begun to study her. Memorizing the way she twirled her hair when she laughed, the curve of her neck, the way her silver jewelry looked against her copper skin. He gazed at her for a moment longer than was proper. She practically glowed in her off-white sundress. He loved her in those. Her arms were bare. The contrast between the color of the fabric and the tone of her skin brought back memories of the last time he’d seen her. The lace of her intimates sliding across his fingertips, her flesh soft against his lips.
She was absolutely gorgeous. So full of easy confidence and in the prime of her life. Plum. Succulent. He smothered the sudden impulse to kiss her.
In the quiet of Carla’s tree-lined street, Valerie was studying him too. He couldn’t interpret the expression on her face but something moved behind her eyes that made his heart pound loudly in his chest. He needed to stop this fantasy. It was getting dangerous and could threaten his career. Valerie had been nothing but a professional, but he was behaving like a schoolboy. He briefly closed his eyes and bit the inside of his cheek. Penance for his betrayal of their innocent relationship. Valerie stepped closer, a concerned look on her face.
“Hey. What’s going on?” She placed her hand on his shoulder and he had to fight not to jump out of his skin. Determined to stamp his budding infatuation down as far as he could get it, he swallowed before speaking.
“I’m alright. Really.” He smiled tightly. “You?” He licked his lips and she inhaled quickly.
He felt himself drifting in. Her hand tightened on his shoulder. That spark, that fire, it roared to life. How was he supposed to go inside and watch himself fall all over her on screen? Watch as she kissed him, caressed him. The others would know, if they didn’t already, how far down the rabbit hole he had tumbled. He’d be a joke. A laughing stock. Deservedly so. But it wasn’t like he could walk away now. Valerie tilted her head as if she had read his mind.
“Shall we?” Too loud, man. Unsure of what she was about to say, he’d panicked. Valerie stopped mid-breath. Sam gestured toward the door and she nodded slowly. Giving his arm one last squeeze, she let go and walked past him. “Here, let me.”
He took the parcel of bread from her, offering to carry it while she opened the door and they stepped inside. Into the lion’s den.
Xio Axelrod is an award-winning author of love stories, contemporary romance and (what she likes to call) strange, twisted tales. She also writes erotica and women’s fiction. Xio grew up in the music industry and began recording at a young age. When she isn’t writing stories, she can be found in the studio, writing songs, or performing on international stages (under a different, not-so-secret name of course). She lives in Philadelphia with one full-time husband and one part-time cat.