Chapter 1
October 11, 1988

The unsettling rumble could have been just about anything.

Or at least that's what he wanted to believe.

But the distinct sound of the roaring engine was getting louder as it approached in the darkness. It was as though its vibrations were shuddering right through him, causing his sudden shakes. But it was so much more than that. The culmination of his teeth chattering and his bony knees knocking together while his heart rattled against his ribcage was just too much for his little body to handle without trembling hysterically. The terrifying, bright light was soon to follow.

Alistair had been dreading this moment ever since the last visit. The minimal safety that the small tree house provided wouldn’t prevent his location from being discovered; it never did. The creature would be returning soon enough to do whatever it wanted with him. He just sat in the dark while curled up in a tight, little ball in the corner of the small, eight-by-ten room. With a hand over each ear, he violently rocked back and forth. If he could just shut his eyes and disappear into the darkness, then he wouldn’t have to endure what would soon transpire—again.

“No...No...No...No,” he whispered to himself, still shaking like a nervous, little puppy. “It’s just a bad dream; it’s just a bad dream.”

He thought if he simply said the words out loud, somehow, it would help him believe, but it never worked. He cried out for his parents, wishing they were there with him to fend off the monster. Deep down in his heart, though, he knew help wouldn’t be coming. Why should this time be any different?

He desperately wanted to tell someone what had been happening, but the odds of someone actually believing him weren’t good. After all, it had been continuously drilled into his head that he could not tell anyone. If he did, then he would disappear forever. He was on his own. This twelve year old would just have to find a way to handle it like a man.

The roar of the thunderous engine was unbearable, sounding as if it were right on top of him. The bright light seeped through the thin crevices between the wooden panels of the tree house, as though the arms of some kind of entity were reaching out toward him, making contact with sections of his body.

Making an abrupt decision, Alistair put his new plan into action. Having mustered up the courage he’d never had before, he scurried through the scary octopus arms of light while staying low on his hands and knees and made his way over to the door. As his heart pounded out a drum solo that would make Neil Peart proud, he grabbed both ends of the frayed rope. It was protruding through a small hole next to the makeshift door handle as it snaked its way around to a small opening in the nearby window. With his hands shaking while quaking in his Chuck Taylor high-tops, he finally managed to secure the flimsy, wooden door in place by tying a double knot in the rope. Then he tugged on it a couple times to test it. Feeling somewhat satisfied, he breathed a deep sigh of relief.

But before he could exhale completely, he heard what sounded like nearby footsteps rustling through all the fallen leaves he had strategically placed around the entire base of the large maple tree. The leaves extended out four feet in every direction, resembling a blanket placed around the base of a huge Christmas tree, in order to alert him of any potential intruder who may be lurking nearby. The only problem with that, though, was he didn’t have anything readily available if and when he actually had an encounter with a would-be foe. He hadn’t actually thought it through that far.

Hearing this, he scampered back on all fours to the safety of the far corner. Splinters were digging into both of his bare knees, but that was the least of his worries.

Trembling in the corner, he heard the door begin to rattle, as if a freight train had just blown through his backyard. This was followed by a loud groan—an obvious sign of frustration over battling a minor obstacle.

Retreating into the fetal position, he started the rocking again while squeezing his eyes shut, just hoping, if he could not see what was coming, then he couldn’t be seen, either. The next thing he heard was a horrendously loud cracking sound. Afraid to open his eyes, fearing they’d emit a light—like two headlights in the darkness—Alistair took a quick peek. Within the tremendously bright glare of the radiating light in the background, an enormously large silhouette stood tall. The image was like something straight out of one of his action-hero comic books—only this was no superhero. With all things being equal, he wished he hadn’t peeked.

The fragile door now lay in several scattered pieces on the floor, as though it were simply constructed out of Popsicle sticks.

Watching the silhouette grow larger and larger with each step, he covered his eyes with his scrawny forearm and prayed. But before he could finish, powerful talon-like claws grabbed both sides of his puny shoulders. Then, in one swift motion, the mammoth creature effortlessly picked him up and flung him over his shoulder, as if he were nothing more than a measly rag-doll. It was no use to fight; Alistair knew where he was being taken. At this point, he just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.

“I haven’t told anyone. I swear!” he managed to yell, while being carried out of the tree house, just hoping anything would help his cause. But he knew what the lack of response meant. The same as always.

That’s when he heard something he hadn’t expected—several more footsteps. This time, the monster wasn’t alone. A new fear swept over him like none other before, causing his whole body to go numb as his heart continued to race like a hamster on its wheel. Alistair didn’t know what lay ahead now. All he could do was close his eyes and just pretend like it was happening to someone else.

Chapter 2
September 14, 2004

“Cut!” The director barked through his megaphone. “Okay, everybody...that’s a wrap! ...The Harder They Fall is finally in the can. Thank you all. You are free to go.”

Finally. Chase was starting to think he’d never hear those words again—and he wasn’t alone. Typically, whenever a director had made this much anticipated announcement any time in the past, everyone’s immediate reaction was to break into a joyous uproar—like at a graduation, when everyone simultaneously tosses their cap in the air. This time, however, most everyone was collectively exhaling in relief, including Chase. They were completely spent after a grueling six month shoot in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

“You guys go on ahead,” Chase said, to six of his co-stars who were all trying to nudge him in the direction of the pending wrap party. “I’ll catch up to you later.”

“Yeah, yeah, we know the drill.” Trip Travers rolled his eyes at the others. “Jackson said we’d just be wasting our breath if we tried to convince you otherwise. C’mon, guys. Chase needs some quality me-time, so he can bask in all his glory in private.”

“Yup. You know me so well.” Before anyone else said something smart, Chase whipped out his Bluetooth headset and attached it to his ear to appear busy. Then he walked to the edge of the dock, lighting a cigar along the way.

The calm water appeared to be as still as ice. Several yachts skated off in the distance as the sun started its descent in the gloomy sky.

Despite the fact they didn’t necessarily know the actual reason behind it, Chase’s peers had come to respect his odd moments of solitude, especially when he requested to be completely left alone with his single celebratory cigar. He had traditionally smoked it alone after all his movie wraps. From a bystander's perspective, it would appear to be a very selfish and narcissistic act. It was anything but, though.

“Guess Who—ooo?” A female whispered into his right ear from behind as she placed her soft, delicate hands over his eyes.

Her alluring perfume was a complete giveaway, but Chase would have had a pretty good idea who she was, regardless.

“Gee,” he mumbled with a mouthful of cigar, “how many guesses do I get, Parker?”

Still wearing her character’s crimson, leather pant suit, hugging her every dangerous curve, she rubbed her ample breasts against his back and, in an inviting voice, whispered, “Come on, Chase, let’s go have our own private, little celebration. Nobody will ever know.”

Parker Davis, currently one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies, was a hot commodity. For the lack of a better word, she was a bombshell. Her long, dark blonde hair and those hypnotic, dark eyes were enough to cause any man to go weak in the knees. But when you included her incredibly natural hourglass figure, you would agree with the assessment that God had broken the mold with her. As if that weren’t enough, though, she was a five foot ten inch climb to heaven, which was enough of a reason for most men to find her intimidating. This particular feature of hers, though, was something Chase, standing six foot four, relished. And his imposing stature wasn’t just another Hollywood illusion, either.

At any rate, she might as well have been a cute, little brunette with dark eyes because that's all his tunnel vision would allow him to see these days. He only had eyes for the love of his life, Taylor.

Since he’d just had several loves scenes with Parker during the shoot, Chase had practically memorized every inch of her body, most notably her soft, kissable Victoria Principal lips. Let’s just say the director never had to twist his arm when multiple takes were required to get the scene just right. He wasn't about to cheat on Taylor, mind you, but there's nothing wrong with partaking in a little acting every now and then, even if that involves some of Hollywood's most desirable leading ladies. That perk actually helped him stay faithful; he managed to release any urge on the set.

Three members of the maintenance crew were talking amongst themselves a mere twenty feet away, sweeping up all the debris remaining from the last explosion. The last thing Chase could afford was someone spreading the typical tabloid gossip. Baseball...just think about baseball stats, he thought, just trying to maintain his cool and not gush like a pathetic little schoolboy.

Turning around to face her, he nonchalantly removed the half smoked cigar from between his lips, exhaled a mouthful of smoke, and then said, “First of all, Parker, never use the words ‘little’ and ‘private’ in the same sentence when you wanna get a guy into bed. Secondly, I’ll know, and that’s all that matters. I’m not that same hopeless guy I was before meeting Taylor. And I’m not about to do anything to screw that up.” Discreetly pointing to the maintenance crew, who had taken an immediate interest in their little sidebar, Chase lowered his voice to a loud whisper. “I mean, how would it look if that got out, huh? No—forget it. Don’t even bother answering, because nothin’s gonna happen. Nothing.”

Sulking, Parker stuck out her enticingly pouty lower lip and folded her arms across her chest, causing her to practically spill out of her top. “You are such a party pooper, Chase.”

After pulling her farther away, he looked deep into her sultry, bedroom eyes and continued in a loud whisper. “Yeah, I’m finally willing to commit to a woman, and now I’m a shit, how typical! Ya know what? I was interested in you way before me and Taylor sealed the deal, but you were engaged to that great catch who cheated on you, so I didn’t make a move.”

As he explained his position, she started to playfully rub her hand up and down his chest. He just hoped she wouldn’t feel his heart pounding uncontrollably with excitement while it continued pumping blood into his engorging manhood, which was now begging to be released from its cage while growing unrelentingly with anticipation. If he didn’t take control of the situation at hand soon, something would have to give—like his zipper.

Not sure how long he could resist her advances, Chase tried to casually adjust himself to a more comfortable position, then immediately brushed her hand away, glancing at her long, French tip fingernails—just imagining all the pleasurable pain they could do on his back—and continued whispering, “Look, Parker, all I’m asking is that you step off. I mean—Christ, I’m finally trying to walk the proverbial ‘straight and narrow’ here, like a woman supposedly wants from her man, and all I’m getting is temptation coming at me from every possible angle.”

Swinging her curvaceous hips as she slowly sauntered away, Parker casually flung her black handbag over her right shoulder and hollered, “You’ll be begging for it later, Chase Landers,” purposely loud enough for the maintenance crew, or anyone else, to hear her.

Thinking two can play at this game, he made his move. “Yeah,’re a hypocrite, Parker.”

Considering her ex-husband, a renowned film director, had inevitably destroyed their sacred marriage by cheating on her with a twenty-something, blonde vixen, body double—which she’d later discover was simply just the vixen of the month—she wanted to see if she still had what it would take to persuade a man to stray. The only guys she flirted with on the set were either married or happily involved. Parker could have any guy she wanted, and it was more than evident she knew it. But unless you’d been stranded on a deserted island for the past year or so, everyone knew that Chase and Taylor were practically considered Hollywood royalty.

Normally, after any previous movie wraps, a party was naturally scheduled. And this time was no exception, provided the shoot had ended on time. Since the majority of this shoot had taken place on the marina, a booze cruise had been scheduled for the original deadline. All the others he had participated in had proven to be worth every penny, not to mention a few livers to boot. A couple of the cruises had even been considered to have legendary status, as gossip spread fast in Hollywood. Even when the paparazzi wasn’t anywhere in site to witness the spectacle, word managed to make its rounds. It wasn’t Vegas, so what happens on a booze cruise doesn’t necessarily stay on a booze cruise, or even in the marina, for that matter. Some people had learned that particular fact the hard way. One of life’s many lessons.

Due to the unexpected length of the shoot, however, most everyone involved was no longer in the mood. They just wanted to get back to their loved onesincluding father-to-be Chase.

Chapter 3

After savoring the final puff on his cigar, Chase extinguished it with the tip of his sharkskin boot and walked toward the wrap party. While sidestepping the debris from the last explosion, he attempted to dodge the remnants of ash still floating in the air before adjourning under the makeshift circus tent, which was bursting at the seams with an overflow of production crew and cast members.

Chase’s co-star, Jackson Scott, who was still wearing his character’s orange prison jumpsuit, spotted Chase and filled him in on a current discussion. Walking Chase to the group while taking a swig from his full, red party cup, he managed to explain that Alex Embry—movie stuntman—had suggested they should get together for one last drink for ole’ time sake.

The moment he said this, Chase rolled his eyes and shouted over the crowd. “Yeah, right, a drink. We all know what that means.”

“Nah...You think?”

“Well, let’s put it this way: I’d bet your left nut it is.”

Jackson did everything he could do to not shoot beer out his nose while trying to stifle his laughter, but it was too late.

Alex stared at Jackson, clearly wondering what had caused a beer stain in the shape of Florida to suddenly appear on his jumpsuit. “What’cha guys talkin’ about?”

“Nothin’, don’t worry about it.” Jackson tried to compose himself while patting down the stain with the back of Alex’s silk shirt that he had just pulled out of his jeans, as if he were a bully giving a nerd a wedgie. “Hold still for a minute, will ya?”

“Hey, did you ask him yet?” Alex tucked the damp end of his shirt back into his pants, as if it were something that happened all the time; that it was to be expected. “Is he in?”

“Ask him yourself. He’s standing right here.” He took another swig of beer before cracking the empty cup in his hands while burping the alphabet up to the letter E. Then he flattened it on top of Alex’s head.

Chase played dumb. “Ask me what, Alex?”

“About boys’ night out?” He ran his fingers through his hair to rid it of any remaining backwash.

“I’m not familiar with that.” Chase folded his arms across his chest, acting as though Alex had managed to keep his interest—for the first time ever. “Please...Refresh my memory.”

During the shoot, Chase, Jackson, Alex, and a few of their co-stars, Anthony Toney and Rhen O’Reilly, to name a few, had evolved into what was notoriously known around the set as The Players’ Club. They normally got together to hit the town after long days on the set.

Typically, Alex was the first one to suggest the group go to a club, and it wasn’t just by chance, either. Since his job was always behind the scenes, Alex wasn’t as recognizable as the actual actors, nor did he have quite the pretty boy persona that the others were blessed with—although if he would just get rid of those horrendous hair plugs, it would improve his chances with the ladies tremendously—so he always insisted on tagging along, just hoping they’d toss him a few of their leftovers. Chase hadn’t participated in this tradition since making a commitment to Taylor, but he was always willing to help another guy get some.

In his single, swinging days, he wouldn’t have objected to such a suggestion; in fact, Chase would have been the ring leader. Right now, though, all he could think about was getting back home to Taylor. He wanted to spend as much quality time with her as possible before preparing for parenthood. There is no telling when they’d get some quiet time alone together after the birth. He had heard all kinds of rumors about the first couple months, where you get little, if any, sleep, and you are elbow deep in diapers, not to mention practically swimming in the spit-up and snot bubbles.

He didn’t care, though. After all, he wasn’t a young buck anymore; he’d had plenty of time to get all that irresponsible partying out of his system. In fact, he had enough to fulfill an entire fifty-three-man football roster’s system. But who’s counting? He was as ready for fatherhood as he’d ever be. Besides, it’s not like he was shacking up with just any girl he’d knocked up. Taylor wasn’t like any other woman he had ever known. First of all, she was all woman, sever years his senior to be exact, signifying a first for him in that he’d never dated an older woman—dated being the operative word. The day she had told him they were pregnant was one for the books because his reaction was totally out of character for him. That was the first time she had ever seen him cry. More importantly, though, that was the first time he had ever felt as if his life had significant meaning.

Don’t play dumb. You know what I’m talkin’ about. So...Whad’ya say, Chase?” Alex patted him on the back, like a teenage son would do if he were trying to persuade the car keys out of his Dad’s hand the same day he had passed his driver’s test. “You in?” He proceeded to rub Chase’s shoulders, as if buttering him up would make the difference in his answer.

“Look, Alex—normally you know I’d be your wingman, bro. But with the shoot taking way longer than first planned...I’ve gotta get home to Taylor. I’ve been gone a hellova lot longer than I ever expected, and I haven’t seen her in what seems like...forever. “ It was his turn to pat him on the back, like the father who shot his request down. “I’m afraid the answer is no.”

“What are you talkin’ about...forever? Didn’t you just see her during the two week break...after that storm had barreled through?”

“Well, as executive producer of the project, I wanted to stick around to oversee the renovation of the set.”

“You didn’t answer the question, Clinton. But nice try.”

“Uh, yeah, briefly...but she’s pregnant, dude. She needs me. And frankly, I’m tired of lookin’ at all your ugly mugs.”

“Yeah, we know why,” —Rhen gyrated his hips back and forth while making a slapping motion with his hand— “you wanna get back to her so soon, Chaser.” The others started to chuckle.

Given that Chase was finally in a committed relationship, they all respected him for making every possible effort to remain faithful to Taylor. They all knew how difficult it was in their line of work. But it hadn’t stopped them from ribbing him about it every chance they got. This was particularly true while the shoot had dragged on for one reason or another, including a pyrotechnic effects accident, costing two crew members their lives. In his tired state, Chase had made a minor oversight, placing his man’s man reputation in serious jeopardy.

They would never let him live down his mushy poem: Roses are red, my balls are blue. I can’t wait to make love to you he had emailed to Taylor—as well as the other seventy-some-odd people on his distribution list. They told him, when he died, they’d make sure the sappy poem would be put to good use as his epitaph. After all, what are good friends for? Becoming more and more agitated with every passing day, Chase had acted as if he were going through some serious withdrawals, which just gave them more ammunition with which to play.

Instead of simply walking into yet another ambush, though, he just played it off. “Okay, Rhen, I won’t leave, but you’ll have to help me release some of this pressure.” And he playfully grabbed Rhen from behind, pretending he was his prison bitch.

“So, Chaser,” Alex said, “when does Taylor’s expiration date lapse? I mean, it’s gotta be coming up, right?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, come on. You’ve been with her for, what, over a year now? That’s gotta be some sort of record for you. Your guys’ relationship has to be souring somewhat by now, right?”

“Real cute.”


“Alex, I’m gonna let that slide...once, ’cause I know this is your extremely weird way of trying to get me to change my mind. But it’s not gonna happen.”

“Come on, Chaser, don’t you miss all the strange out there?” Alex placed his arm around Chases shoulder while cupping his left hand around his ear, as if he were listening for the mating call of the wallaby. “Can’t you hear it calling your name? It’s gotta be killing you, man.”

“That’s what I used to think.”

“You don’t have to think it, man. You can have it...any time you want.”

“Been there, done that. And now I’m done with that.”

“Damn, man, do you know what I’d give to be you for just a day? Of course, I probably couldn’t walk upright for a week, but man it would be worth it.”

“Trust me: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, Alex.”

“With all due respect, Chase, I’d prefer to decide for myselfover and over.”

“Take it from me: There’s no point in going out for ground beef when you can have steak any time you want, and that’s what I have.”

Everyone burst into laughter.

“Damn, Chaser,” —Alex patted him on the back— “did you come up with that gem all by yourself? That was real...poetic.”

“More like real pathetic, if you ask me,” Jackson said.

“Whatever, guys. The only sounds I wanna hear are my baby’s cooing and crying.”

“Oh, God,” Rhen said, “if I have to hear any more of this gay talk, I’m gonna hurl.”

“I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but I have to agree with Rhen on this one,” Jackson said. “This conversation has done a complete one-eighty. So maybe it’s better if Chase doesn’t come with us. I’d rather remember him how he was before any of this baby talk started. It would be like watching Jordan coming out of retirement for the last time. It would just be too painful to witness.”

“Think what you want, guys,” Chase said. “It doesn’t change the fact that I’m no longer that guy. And you’re just gonna have to respect my decision, or we’re gonna have problems working together again.”

“Oh, come on, man, just one little drink,” Alex whined. “I just need a jumpstart and then you can leave.”

“Man, you’re whining like an addict, dude.” Rhen broke away from Chase’s strong grasp. “Let me have a little taste, just a little, please. Come on, hook a brud’a up.”

Alex placed him in a powerful headlock, giving him a nuggie on top of his shoulder length mop of dirty-blonde hair.

As Chase continued listening to Alex’s plea, he faintly heard his name being called. In the corner of his eye, he saw Gwen, his personal assistant, bouncing in her green blouse as she entered the tent at an unusually fast pace with a cell phone in her right hand. Clearing her blonde locks away from her face with her free hand, she approached the group, catching her breath. “Chase, Paige just called. She sounded really worked up and said to call her as soon as possible. But she hung up just before I could take a message.”

The only “Paige” he knew of was Taylor’s personal assistant. So he assumed she was just being melodramatic, like usual, although it provided him with the built-in excuse he was looking for to sidestep Alex’s earlier suggestion.

“Sorry, boys, but I really should return this call.”

“Oh, how convenient,” Alex said. “You just happen to be getting paiged on the phone? You don’t think you’re getting off that easy, do you, Chaser?”

The guys gave a halfhearted I-feel-sorry-for-you laugh at Alex’s weak attempt at humor.

“See, Alex,” —Jackson put his arm around his shoulder— “if you could just use that same quick wit with the ladies, then, you wouldn’t have to pay me rent for living in my shadow all the time.”

Ritchie Rutherford, a young movie extra, who was still sporting a fake gash on the right side of his freckled face, made an attempt at mingling with The Players’ Club, which he seemingly admired from afar. “That was a good one, Jackson, put ’er there!” He raised his hand, just assuming he would receive the obligatory high-five back.

But before Jackson had a chance to respond, Rhen chimed in. “Ritchie, many times do I have to tell you? When you raise your hand, you’re supposed to wait until you’re given permission to speak. And it’s Mr. Scott to you, pal.”

“Ouch! I could feel that one from over here, Rhen,” Anthony shouted, from the far corner as he sat in the makeup chair, attempting to peel off the fake, burnt flesh from his arms. At the same time, the makeup artist was carefully removing his skull cap.

Rhen’s remark prompted yet another round of high-fives amongst the exclusive group—excluding Chase. He wasn’t in the mood, nor did he find it funny. He hated it when others forgot where they’d come from during their long road to the top, especially when it came at the expense of someone who was experiencing the exact same obstacles they all had undoubtedly run into not so long ago.

Watching Ritchie lumber away like that affected Chase.

“Uh, Rhen,” —he squeezed his shoulder hard— “I was told you started out as a go-fer in the business, so you really don’t have room to talk, little man. Or, if you want, I can always dig up a few of your more embarrassing moments, pal.”

Hearing this instantly silenced the group. Everyone knew Chase was the big man on campus, not to mention he was practically a half-foot taller, with nearly twenty-five pounds of solid muscle on most of them, particularly Rhen. He had what was known as a Napoleonic complex. They admired the fact a movie star of Chase’s caliber was always willing to stand up for the little people. No matter how small a person’s role was on the set, he always treated them as equals.

“Aww...c’mon,” Rhen shouted, as Chase walked away, “I was just bustin’ Ritchie’s balls, bro. I didn’t mean anything by it. Don’t be like that.”

Before finding a secluded place to return the call, Chase caught up to Ritchie. Draping his arm around his shoulder, he explained. “Hey, Ritchie, don’t listen to anything they say, okay? They are all full of shit, especially Rhen. Just remember: It’s not about where you are; it’s where you’re going. Don’t forget that, all right?” And he playfully messed up Ritchie’s hair.

Blown away by his sincerity, Ritchie thanked him for his words of encouragement. And, like a kid basking in his triumph of finally being not selected last for a game of kickball, he strutted off holding his head high.

Walking away, Chase returned to the group. “I’ve gotta return this call. Just go. I’ll try to meet you there.” Pointing to Rhen, he added: “Jackson...keep an eye on him for me, will ya?”

“Sure thing, boss.” Jackson squeezed Rhen’s shoulder as if he were trying to put him to sleep.

“Get off me, man.”

Now that he had successfully ditched Alex’s little fieldtrip, Chase was ready to answer the call—but not necessarily Paige’s. Well, at least not yet. Carefully maneuvering his way through the rest of the assorted crowd, Chase briefly congratulated a few more of his co-stars, and, like a heat-seeking missile, made instant radar lock with the Kraft service table in the far back. The growl in his stomach had been calling out to him all afternoon.

Popping a few green olives into his mouth, he glanced to his right and immediately flinched when noticing an assortment of multicolored marshmallow cookies in two unsealed packages. As usual, his heart started pounding, like a wild animal desperately trying to escape from captivity. Ever since he was young, he’d always had this type of reaction to marshmallows, despite the fact he didn’t know from where it stemmed—or at least refused to go there again when his mind tried to take him down nightmare lane.

Making sure to keep his distance, acting as if he had just spotted rat poison, Chase quickly walked over to the nearby sandwich table, where he spotted Parker rounding the corner. Now, she may not actually be rat poison, but some people might consider her as the equivalent of the cheese in a mouse trap, including Chase, which caused him to remain on edge. She was beginning to make her way over to him. He wasn’t about to put his willpower to the test again so soon because, let’s face it, he loves cheese. So Chase slapped together a turkey, lettuce, and Provolone cheese sandwich prior to dashing out the tent, just seconds before she had a chance to set any potential trap.

Walking out to the marina, Chase instructed his cell phone to “call Paige” through a Bluetooth command. He wolfed down the remaining piece of his sandwich as he awaited Paige’s answer.

“Hey, Paige,” he mumbled, “what’s going on? Gwen said you had something urgent to tell me?”

“It’s happening, Chase!”

“Huh? Whad’ya mean? What’s happening?” He slapped his hands together to rid them of any remaining Rye breadcrumbs after taking his final bite. “Is it Taylor?”

“Yeah. Now, I’m no doctor or anything, but I’d say her water broke.”

“What? Are you sure? I mean—she’s not even into her seventh month yet.”

“Like I said, I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think this much fluid is supposed to come out of a human body otherwise. And I’m pretty sure Taylor doesn’t need to wear Depends any time soon. So, yeah, Regis...that is my final answer.”

“Alright, smartass. Are you sure you don’t need to use a lifeline?”

“No, but a life raft would come in really handy right about now. Sorry, Chase...that was uncalled for. I’m just worked up right now. I’ve never dealt with anything like this before.”

“It’s okay. I’d be freaking out, too. Where is she now? Is she at the hospital?”

“No, she’s in the bathroom. She said she’s not in any real pain yet, but we’ve called an ambulance. They’re supposedly on their way.”

Knowing Taylor had had a false alarm during his last trip back, a few weeks prior, Chase wasn’t as concerned as Paige seemed to be, primarily because that false alarm had ultimately turned out to be nothing more than Braxton Hicks Syndrome, otherwise known as false labor. In Taylor’s case, it was determined to be simply brought on by dehydration. So all they had prescribed for her was to increase her daily water intake. Talk about an expensive water bill. Nevertheless, Chase was pretty sure Paige’s assumption held—well...water; thus, he wasn’t taking this most recent news lightly.

“Okay, okay, calm down, Paige. We finally wrapped today, so I’ll just change my schedule and fly back tonight. Just stay with her, and I’ll be there as soon as I can, okay?”

“Hurry! I can’t do this on my own. I didn’t sign up for this shit!”

“Okay...Okay...Just calm down, alright? I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“You better be.”

He wasn’t in the mood to argue with her, so he just bit his tongue. “Paige, just try to take a deep breath and breathe. I’ll be there before you know it.”

“Okay, but this better not be like the last time.”

He knew what she meant, but he tried to ignore it. “You have my word.”

“Yeah, we all know how good that is when you’re on set.”

“I just told you we wrapped, so—”

“Thank God! They’re here now, I gotta go.” Click