This was his job. This was his life. What else could he do?
Micah’s focus returned full force to his manager when Stu clapped a hand on his shoulder, excitement animating his features. “Listen, kid, sorry to bother you with business tonight, but I knew you’d want to hear this immediately. Santini saw that Aleck film you did and wants you for the lead in his next film. No read-through or anything. Just yours if you want it.”
The floor gave out underneath Micah. A Martin Santini film? He’d been dreading the next movie on his calendar—a sappy romantic comedy—but Santini? That was exactly the kind of thing he’d been working toward, where all the years of sacrifice and sweat and solitude had been meant to take him.
He didn’t know what to say—his words fell out jumbled. “Really? Wow! That’s…incredible.”
Lulu’s eyes gleamed with proud tears. “You know what that means, Micah? Santini is almost a guaranteed Oscar nom.”
“I know, Mom. I know.” He was speechless, breathless. He leaned back against the wall of the dark alcove, needing the support. “What’s the movie? I haven’t even seen a script.”
“Epic Western revenge film. I’ll have the script sent to you ASAP. Shit load of fighting sequences. He wants you in New Zealand the minute you finish the romance thing to start training.”
Something in Micah’s chest tightened. “New Zealand?” His romance was being shot in L.A. on a soundstage. And many of the other projects he was looking at were near home as well. Not that he minded going out of the country. New Zealand was just so far from…
He couldn’t think her name. She had nothing to do with this conversation.
“You know Santini,” Stu said. “He loves filming in New Zealand.”
“They have great studios there,” Lulu added, still beaming. “And cheaper than a lot of alternatives.”
Micah nodded, hoping the anxious feeling could be loosened with the motion. Maybe he wouldn’t be gone long. “What’s the production schedule like?”
“Three to four months prep and another four months filming.”
“Right.” Eight f**king months. It was a lifetime. His next project was scheduled to be over in two months. When he left for New Zealand, he’d have been with Maddie for less time than he’d be gone.
If they were staying together, anyway.
He couldn’t shake the cold chill that had settled over him since Stu had said the words New Zealand. He knew this was coming—it shouldn’t have hit him like a ton of bricks. It was just that he hadn’t expected to have to decide about where things were going with Maddie so soon. He didn’t think he’d have to make such a deliberate choice. Because taking the part could effectively end him and Maddie.
And hadn’t he known that would be the outcome all along?
No, they could work it out. If they talked about it, if they made a plan…
He couldn’t think about this right now, not with Stu waiting for an answer on a critical career decision. Not with his mother looking at him with expectant excitement in her eyes. “When do I have to decide?”
Lulu’s eyebrows shot up. “Why do you even have to think about it?”
Stu also looked surprised, but at least he tried to hide it. “He’ll want an answer soon. I can probably buy you a couple of weeks.”
Micah ignored his mother. “Thanks, Stu, I’d appreciate that.”
“Micah, why do you have to think about it?” Lulu’s surprise had turned to confusion. He’d always been open with her about his plans and projects. She knew how much he admired Santini, how this film could change his entire life. Of course she wouldn’t understand.
And Micah couldn’t explain it. How could he? She’d left her marriage to pursue her career. How would she understand Micah’s hesitation over a woman he’d been seeing for a handful of weeks?
Stu seemed to sense the conversation Micah needed to have with Lulu was personal. “I’ll leave you to discuss this. Just let me know, kid.”
“Thanks again, Stu.”
Stu had barely stepped out of earshot before Lulu was questioning her son again. “Micah, why—”
“I just do.” He ran his hands through his hair, trying to come up with a reasonable excuse to give his mother. “It’s a long time out of the country. And I was looking at that Soderbergh project.”
“Soderbergh is nothing compared to this offer. This is Oscar material, Micah.”
“Soderbergh could be Oscar.” Now he dragged his hand over his face. Maddie. That’s all he could think of. Maddie. How hard it was not to give that as his defense, his every excuse. Maddie, Maddie, Maddie.
Unable to keep her name off his lips, he said, “There’s also Maddie’s film. Her movie is brilliant. And I want to be involved in more than just acting.”
“That’s the great thing about working on investment projects. You give your money and you’re done. You don’t have to be present for it.”
Micah turned to study Lulu, searching for some clue as to how he could explain his conflict. “But I really want to be here to see it picked up. I’m invested in it.” It would help if he thought he could be honest with his mother. If he could have just told her how he felt about the woman in the other room, maybe she’d understand.
“Micah Drew Preston. Are you sleeping with her?” Or maybe she wouldn’t understand. “Is that what this is about?”
He cringed at his mother’s questions. “That’s not what this is about, Mom.” Yes, he was sleeping with Maddie, but that wasn’t what his New Zealand hesitation was about. Not entirely, anyway. What he had with Maddie was so much more. Wasn’t it?
“You were a mess after that Nikki woman. I can’t believe you’d get yourself involved in another situation like that.”
“Maddie is nothing like Nichelle.”
“I’m just so surprised, Micah. I know you’re considered a lady’s man, but I’ve never seen you make career decisions with your Peter.”
“Jesus Christ, Lulu. I am not making any career decisions tonight. I need some time to think about it, that’s all. And, frankly, I’m really uncomfortable talking about this with you.”
Lulu’s face bunched up and he feared she might cry. God, please don’t let her cry. “But you always talk to me about your film projects.”