Title: Fair Youth
Author: M. Dalto and Laynie Bynum
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 06/07/2021
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, lesbian, trans, writer, Hollywood, wealthy, retelling
Billie tried to make a small town life as a doctor’s fiancée work for her, but the dream of trading in Kentucky for the glitz and glamor of LA and selling her screenplays was too strong to fight. Unfortunately, the devil hides behind every corner in the City of Angels and she finds nothing but cockroach infested hotel rooms and broken dreams.
Everything changes when she meets an enigmatic and illustrious fellow writer named Kit. Struck with attraction and intrigue, Billie begins to question not only her dedication to her past life, but also her own sexuality. Kit comes with amazing connections and Billie’s work is getting more recognition than ever, until a powerful studio executive sets his sights on more than just her screenplays. His infatuation could cost Billie her career and, maybe, one of them their lives.
Andy’s shaggy brown hair was still unbrushed and fell into his eyes as he loaded my suitcases in the trunk of his hatchback. “I just don’t understand why you can’t do your writing thing here. People work remotely all the time.”
He slammed the top down with more force than necessary and slid into the driver’s seat, leaning across the center console to close the visor mirror in front of me where I was trying to fix my makeup. It was a constant point of contention between the two of us, but despite the early flight, I didn’t want to arrive in Los Angeles looking like a zombie. Slightly annoyed and overly defiant, I reached in my purse and pulled out a little compact mirror.
“We’ve talked about this, Andy. I need to be where the people are. I need to make connections.” I tried to make my voice as nonconfrontational as possible, but the moment it left my lips, I knew he would take it as condescension.
He started the car and pulled out onto the main road where corn fields flanked us on either side. Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel to an imaginary beat to keep himself calm, he spoke evenly. “Billie, the wedding was supposed to be in a month. What am I supposed to tell everyone?”
I pinched the bridge of my nose and stifled a sigh. “The wedding isn’t off. It’s just delayed until I get back.”
This was the same conversation we had daily for the past month, going over and over the same answers he was fishing for now.
No, it’s not you.
Yes, I will come home.
It’s only for work.
Doing a crappy thing to someone you love was hard, especially when you were well aware how crappy the thing is. Having to postpone the wedding sucked, but staying in that small town, getting married and being tied down to a life of domestic bliss—always wondering about the what-ifs—I couldn’t do it until I at least tried to make my own dreams come true.
Marriage was a fine idea back when we were seventeen and thought forever meant anything past graduation.
It was a great idea when we were eighteen and all of our friends were breaking up with their own high school sweethearts while we were still going strong.
It was the perfect idea last year when, due to a pregnancy scare, we finally decided it was time.
My gut reaction was initially overwhelming happiness at the thought of starting a family, but with each florist appointment, each cake tasting, each dress alteration—I started wondering if I was ready. You didn’t see many struggling screenwriters with babies on their hips, much less ones without any formal education.
I finished my mascara and closed the compact mirror. “I have to do this, Andy.”
“At the cost of leaving behind everyone who loves you, apparently.” His voice was barely a whisper under his breath, but it was still clear over the hum of the car engine and the wind coming through his open window.
Even though he was right, the words cut to the bone. I couldn’t stay any longer. I couldn’t deal with the small-minded people of Avon, Kentucky or their even smaller dreams for one more moment. There were words inside me, and they were clawing to get out into the world. The universes in my mind begged to be put to paper and then to screen. I wanted to be where the action was. The city of angels was going to change my life, or at least that’s what I told myself as he walked me into the airport.
“This is as far as I can go, Bill,” he said as he set my bags down right outside of the first security checkpoint.
I looked up at him, all six-foot-four of him, with an apology in my eyes I could only pray he understood. Pride stopped me from saying all of the things I should have.
I love you.
I’ll miss you.
Please don’t grow to hate me while I’m gone.
Instead, I cracked a smile before wrapping him in a tight embrace. “I’ll call as soon as I land,” I promised into the fabric of his plaid shirt.
He smoothed my wavy hair with one hand while the other pulled me closer into him. “I’ll miss you every moment.”
I broke away. If I stayed, I knew I’d cry, and I was not the kind of person to cry in an airport.
As I grabbed my bags and headed through security, I turned around to look at him one last time. He stood still amongst the crowd of bustling, busy people moving around him, his eyes locked on me.
I blew him a kiss, and through the roar of the background noise, he yelled, “Break a leg, Wilhelmina Shakespeare.”
After hours on the stuffy, cramped flight, the sprawling, massive LAX airport felt like a city unto itself. Shops and restaurants peppered the walls, and it took nearly an hour just to walk out of the exit.
Before I left home, Andy told me to use Uber until I learned how to get around because traffic was hell. I pulled up the app, still unsure how it all worked, and requested a car.
Which I probably should have done earlier, since the wait for the car to arrive left me sitting outside of the airport on top of my drug-store-quality suitcase and staring at the people passing in and out. Bright neon lights started to come on, thanks to the four-hour delay we experienced at my layover in Chicago. Palm trees swayed back and forth among the divided pavement in front of me.
I expected Los Angeles to smell like sea breeze and big dreams, but in reality, it was mostly gas fumes and vapor clouds from a nearby smoking area under the concrete awning.
A red Subaru pulled up in front of me, and the driver rolled down the window. She looked at the phone in her hand and then looked at me. “You don’t look like a Billie.”
I stood up and grabbed my bags. “Well, it’s Wilhelmina on my birth certificate, but most people try to call me Willa when I tell them that.”
She motioned to the back door, and I opened it, sliding in with my bags beside me.
“Strange. Would have thought they would try to call you Willy,” she said as she looked at me in the rearview mirror.
I screwed up my face. “Maybe Willa isn’t that bad after all.”
“So, we’re heading to Pepper Place Hotel?” She turned around in the seat, her eyes looking me up and down, judging me with every cell in her body. “You sure?”
“What’s wrong with Pepper Place? It looked pretty nice online.”
“Oh, sweetie,” she said as she turned around and put the car into drive. “Welcome to Los Angeles. Where the pictures are fake and the people are plastic.”
Meet the Author
M. and Laynie have written both separately and together, and have hit Amazon bestseller rank both ways. M.’s work includes The Empire Series (Two Thousand Years, Mark of the Empress, and the accompanying novellas) published by Parliament House Press, and Cut to the Bone, set to be published by Filles Vertes Publishing in 2021. Laynie’s debut novel, Adeline’s Aria, was published in January with Fire and Ice YA. Together they have published Faust University, included in the Academy of Magic box set by Enchanted Quill Press and Escaping the Grey in the Prison of Supernatural Magic box set. When writing together they combine their strengths to create unique queer characters with sass and backbone in both the contemporary romance and romantic fantasy genres.