Bad Romeo
Author:Leisa Rayven

Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven





Dedication TK


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

[TK]



O nature, what hadst thou to do in hell

When thou didst bower the spirit of a fiend

In moral paradise of such sweet flesh?

Was ever book containing such vile matter

So fairly bound?

—Juliet, describing Romeo

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare





BAD ROMEO



ONE


TOGETHER AGAIN, TOO SOON

Present Day

New York City

The Graumann Theater

First day of rehearsal I rush down the crowded sidewalk, and a nervous sweat has broken out in all my most unglamorous places.

I hear my mother’s voice inside my head—“A lady doesn’t sweat, Cassie. She glows.”

In that case, Mom, I’m glowing like a pig.

Anyway, I never claimed to be a lady.

I tell myself I’m “glowing” because I’m running late. Not because of him.

Tristan, my roommate/life coach, is convinced I’ve never gotten over him, but that’s crap.

I’m so over him.

I’ve been over him for a long time.

I scurry across the road, dodging the unstoppable New York traffic. Several cab drivers curse me out in various languages. I merrily wave my middle finger, because I’m pretty sure flipping the bird means “fuck you” all over the world.

I glance at my watch as I enter the theater and head to the rehearsal room.

Dammit.

Five minutes late.

I can almost see the look of amusement on his bastard face, and I’m horrified that before I’ve even set foot in the room, I have an overwhelming urge to slap him.

I pause outside the door.

I can do this. I can see him and not fall apart.

I can.

I sigh and press my forehead against the wall.

Who the hell am I kidding?

Yeah, sure, I can do a passionate play with my ex-lover, who broke my heart not once, but twice. No problem.

I bang my head against the wall.

If there were a Nation of Stupid People, I would be their queen.

I take a deep breath and exhale slowly.

When my agent had called with news of my big Broadway break, I should have known there’d be strings attached. She raved to me about the male actor who’d also been cast. Ethan Holt—the current “It Boy” of the theater world. So talented. Award-winner. Adored by screaming fans. Handsome as hell.

Of course she didn’t know about our history. Why would she? I never talk about him. In fact, I walk away when other people mention his name. It was easier to cope when he was on the other side of the world, but now he’s back and tainting my dream job with his presence.

Typical.

Bastard.

Finding my game face isn’t going to be easy, but I have to.

I pull out my compact and check my reflection.

Goddammit, I’m shinier than the Chrysler Building.

I slap on some powder and retouch my lip gloss as I wonder if I’ll look different to him after all of these years. My brown hair, which used to be down to the middle of my back in college, now sits just below my collar, messy-layered and edgy. My face is a little thinner, but I guess I’m basically the same. Decent lips. Okay bone structure. Eyes that are neither brown or green, but a strange combination of both. More olive than hazel.

I snap the compact shut and throw it back into my bag, pissed I’m even contemplating looking good for him. Have I learned nothing?

I close my eyes and think about all the ways he hurt me. His stupid reasons. His crap excuses.

Bitterness floods me, and I sigh in relief. That’s the insulation I need. It brings my anger to the surface. I wrap it around me like iron and take solace in the aggressive simmer.

I can do this.

I pull open the door and stride in. Before I even see him, I can feel him watching me. I resist looking for him because that’s what I want to do, and one thing I’ve learned with Ethan Holt is to push down my natural instincts. Following my gut is how things got screwed up between us. It told me I could have something from him, when in fact he offered me nothing.

I head over to the production desk where our director, Marco Fiori, is having a discussion with our producers, Ava and Saul Weinstein. Standing next to them is a familiar face—our stage manager, Ethan’s sister, Elissa.

Ethan and Elissa are a package deal. He has it written into his contract that she runs all of the shows he works on, which baffles me, considering they fight like cat and dog.

I’d say that Elissa is his security blanket, but of course, why would he need one? He doesn’t need anyone or anything, right? He’s untouchable. He’s freaking Teflon.

Elissa gestures to a scale model of the set we’ll be using, as she talks about the stage mechanics.

The producers listen and nod.

I have no issue with Elissa. She’s a fantastic stage manager, and we’ve worked together before. In fact, a million years ago we used to be good friends. Back when I still thought her brother was born of a human mother and not spawned straight from Satan’s asshole.

They look up as I approach.

“I know, I know,” I say as I drop my bag onto a chair. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, cara,” Marco says. “We’re still talking production details. Calm down, get a coffee. We’ll get started soon.”

“Cool.” I dig in my bag for my rehearsal supplies.

“Hey, you,” Elissa says, and smiles warmly.

“Hey, Lissa.”

For a moment, my anger is tempered by a flood of nostalgia, and I realize just how much I’ve missed her. She’s so different from her brother. Short to his tall. Rounded to his angular. Even their coloring is different. Blond and straight versus dark and chaotic. And yet, seeing her again reminds me why we haven’t spoken for years. I’ll always associate her with him. Too many bad memories.

As I pull out my water bottle, my bag slips off the seat and flops loudly onto the floor. Everyone stops to stare. I grind my teeth when I hear a low chuckle.

Screw you, Ethan. Not even going to look at you.

I pick up my bag and throw it back on the chair.