The Leading Lady

by Megan Hussey

The Leading Lady by Megan Hussey

In her years as a prominent women’s network executive in the golden city of Hollywood, Charlotte Darwin never has seen anything quite like Dirk Lord; a gorgeous, talented star of her top show, he seems poised on the brink of superstardom. And even when the release of a naughty movie from Dirk's past threatens his career, Charlotte stands by him—causing Dirk to realize that it is the everyday, sensible, plus-sized, intellectual Charlotte, and not his fickle co-star and ex-girlfriend Lorielle, that stands as his true leading lady. Yet can Dirk convince Charlotte that their love is truer and more passionate than any big screen romance?

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Release Date: March 15, 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

~ A Pink Satin Romance ~



Chapter One  


Apart they likened a god and goddess, uniting in dance to embody and embellish an aura of ethereal radiance; creating together a spectacle of grace that seemed somehow otherworldly—and in all ways alluring and somewhat hypnotizing to the viewer, entranced.

As one, they managed the unattainable feat of personifying perfection.

Drat them. Did they have to rub it in?

Leaning back into the cushiony confines of her faux letter office chair, Charlotte Darwin reviewed the latest daily from the season two premiere of Dancing in Time, Dancing in Love; the romantic drama that had proven the centerpiece show of her televised schedule at Today’s Woman TV.

“Dancing in Time, Dancing in Love,” she repeated aloud, scrunching her nose as she winced visibly. “I got a bachelor’s in theater and a master’s in television production so I could bring ‘Dancing in Time, Dancing in Love’ to the masses. All things considered, I should lose both degrees at once. And be shot.”

Okay, so it was a schmaltzy, gushy, soap opera of a show; one that centered around two conventionally attractive people who kissed and danced. And, just for fun, solved minimally bloody and never overly complicated murder mysteries for good measure.

“Now what are the odds that every dance tournament they attend culminates with a capital crime?” she mused, stroking her round chin as she cocked her head in the direction of her flatscreen.

Of course, she knew full well as to why most viewers tuned in to this hit TV show—well, as much of a hit as an independent, mostly web-based cable channel could muster.

They loomed tall and proud on her TV screen; their flawless bodies intertwined in a decadent tango as their limber arms and lengthy legs entwined and twirled in a rhythmic sphere.

Her eyes roamed first to him, the young British actor known as Dirk Lord—somehow, they always did; widening as they beheld a man at once muscular and lithe, his dancer’s body firm and toned as he swept his partner up in two strong arms and twirled her with ease; his wide azure eyes staring into hers as his full, moist lips angled upward in a soft, lovestruck smile.

His thick, shoulder length ebony hair flowed like a pennant behind him as he drew his partner closer to him; pressing his muscled chest up against hers as their gazes locked between them.

And about that partner. She wore a red dress. And was really, really pretty.

Charlotte’s dreamy grin faded somewhat at the sight of Dirk’s dance partner; a tall, slender beauty known as Lorielle Woodward.

“Slender,” she scoffed, stealing a self-conscious glance at her own fully made form, clad today in a steel gray pantsuit. “If I ever want to stage a dramatic reenactment of our network craft services table, the one she avoids to the point to that she averts her eyes and crosses herself whenever she passes it, she’s nabbed the role of the toothpick.”

At the time of Lorielle’s casting, she had questioned as to why—on a channel devoted to the mission of showing real, strong women in realistic dramas and comedies that depicted everyday life—a known supermodel whose signature ice cold, look seemed to successfully drive away calories, cellulite and split ends in one flail swoop  should snare the lead role in a flagship show?

“Of course, I suppose it’s not terribly feminist of me to downgrade another woman because of her appearance,” she reasoned, running some self-conscious fingers through her messy mass of shoulder-length dark hair—even as Lorielle’s cinnamon tendrils lifted in a graceful arch above her slender shoulders, signaling the equally graceful dip of her lushly costumed body. “So it’s a good thing that she’s about as sweet and personable as a rabid boar with a wisdom tooth.”

Yet, she had to remind herself, Lorielle, as per her show’s ratings and a good volume of fan mail, was what her viewers wanted along with, apparently, her leading man.

The first few times that she had caught Dirk and Lorielle making out backstage on the set of their show, Charlotte had hoped that they were just dedicated thespians, eager to rehearse as much as humanly possible. Yet finally they’d come clean about the dirty, admitting to her that they were very much in love.

“How much, exactly?” she’d queried without thinking.

And since that day, she’d thought about it all too much.

Why does it bother me so much that Dirk and Lorielle are dating? She mused, gripping a nearby remote control and pausing the proceedings that played across her screen. If anything, our ratings have skyrocketed since they went public with their romance. They’re on the cover of so many gossip and entertainment mags, and fans are bombarding us with bizarrely written fan fic. Not sure why anyone would describe them making hot jungle love down the length of a buffet table and having a three-headed alien baby as a result, but hey—they do they.

Still and all, Charlotte couldn’t help but to think back to the day that she had cast Dirk as the lead in “Dancing in Time”. When the charming British stunner had demonstrated his dance skills by offering her a twirl around her office—a modest, white walled room he’d morphed into a ballroom through his very presence.

They’d needed no music as he’d swept her up effortless in two strong arms, pulling her closer than closer as his crystal blue eyes stared deep into hers.

She remembered his warm but solid hands massaging her back as she sank against him; all sense of professionalism draining from her psyche as she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders and inhaled his citrus tinged scent; literally dancing on air as he swept her across her office—before unceremoniously crashing into an inconvenient corner of her polished cherry wood office desk.

The pair guffawed as they tumbled to the floor, landing in a heap as—suddenly and quite without warning—Charlotte found her new leading man right square on top of her; his hard muscled body covering her own as the sleek waves of his ebony hair fell forward into her face.

“Are you quite all right, love?” he asked her, his smooth British accent appealingly whisper soft as he stared down at her in keen concern.

Looking back up at him with sincere eyes, Charlotte parted her pearl pink lips and pronounced, “Fuh fur fah fah fight.”

Crinkling his feathery eyebrows, Dirk frowned, concerned as he told her, “I didn’t quite catch that.”

With a sharp flourish, Charlotte turned her head, freeing her from the curtain of soft black hair that had covered her mouth seconds earlier.

“I’m kosher,” she assured him, all the while never letting loose of those blasted shoulders.

Dirk chuckled.

“Good to know, Love,” he purred, chucking her chin with nimble fingers. “So I suppose this means that I don’t get the role.”

Charlotte grinned, wiggling contented in big, warm arms as she focused intently on his chiseled face; one that, aside from those unbelievable eyes, also boasted carved cheekbones and full, moist lips.

“You get this role,” Charlotte assured him, feeling her cheeks flush beneath his appraisal. “And every role we have to offer at this here station, that you happen to want.” She paused here, pursing her lips in a show of keen contemplation. “The lead chef on our new cooking show? Sure. Even if you’ve never fried an egg. The lead in the Jimmy Cagney Story, although you look and sound like nothing like him and it would make absolutely no sense? The cactus on our nature encounter show? Sure, you’d look awesome in green...”

Dirk pitched his head back, letting loose with a deep, melodious chuckle that sent chills down her spine.

“I quite like you, Charlotte,” he said her name to melodious effect. “And I would love the opportunity to be your leading man.”

So fate took its course, with Dirk finally letting her up off the floor so he could sign his contract to appear in season one of “Dancing in Time, Dancing in Love”; and took its course again, when she’d been notified that supermodel Lorielle Woodward had agreed to be the show’s female lead.

“Their pairing has simply worked beautifully for the show,” Charlotte reflected aloud. “My only question is, when does another woman get to play the leading lady? Someone a bit older, a bit curvier, a bit more down to earth, someone a bit more like...I don’t know. Me, maybe?”

“Well personally, darling, I think it’s an amazing idea.”

Charlotte jumped in her chair as she realized that she wasn’t alone. Towering above her was her onetime dance partner, and current good friend at the station.

“Dirk, hello!” she greeted him, grinning as he leaned forward to touch her fair cheek with a whisper soft kiss.

A kiss that nearly landed her right square on the floor. Again.

“I do indeed believe that you should do your own show,” her friend told her, perching on that infamous desk corner that had literally proven her downfall. “Maybe you could start with a preview show, apprising viewers of all the great programs they’ll be seeing on our network next season. Then maybe try a sitcom—with your wit, it would be a smash.”

Charlotte smiled.

“You know, I appreciate you saying that,” she admitted, adding with a shrug of her broad shoulders, “all of my life, I’ve always been told that I worked best as a behind the scenes girl—never as a leading lady.”

Her eyes flew wide as Dirk took her hand in his; warmth suffusing his grasp as he leaned forward to whisper, “As my teen-aged nephew back in London would say, says who?”

Charlotte chuckled, all the while fighting a wave of emotion as the tall, muscular man who dwarfed his surroundings squeezed her hand in his.

Just then, he let it fall.

“On the subject of new shows,” Dirk began, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his smart grey sport coat as he averted his eyes to the wide bay window that bordered Charlotte’s corner office. “I have an idea for a special, one-off show that I think would draw big ratings to our network—not to mention, the broadcast of this show would mean a lot to me personally.”

Sitting forward in her seat, Charlotte nodded encouragingly as she told Dirk, “You know Dirk, I was thinking the same thing. I bet the viewers would love it if we did a bio of your life—maybe talked about your history as a child in the working-class neighborhood of Hull—the way you overcame and ended up starring at The Strand when you were twenty-five. And now, three years later, you’re starring in a network TV show here in the states.”

Hopping up from her seat, Charlotte circled her desk as a string of ideas took shape in her mind.

“We could fly your family over from England, to be a part of it all...”

“A good idea, actually,” Dirk interrupted, although his tone was strangely hushed as he studied his aquiline glance on the gold of the Los Angeles sun. “Except what I had in mind for the show, Charlotte, was not my past, but rather my future.”

Charlotte stopped in her tracks.

“Your future?” she repeated, arching her eyebrows to curious effect.

Dirk nodded.

“I would indeed like my family and friends—you included, of course—to be present for a big moment in my life,” he told her, announcing finally as he looked her straight in her eyes, “my wedding to Lorielle.”

Charlotte gulped hard.

“Your wedding?” she repeated. “Dirk, you’ve only been dating her for about a season—about a year,” she corrected, jerking herself out of her professional mode. “Are you sure it isn’t too soon?”

Dirk looked at her for a long moment, the uncertainty in her tone reflected in his eyes.

“I knew it from the moment I first saw her,” he revealed.

Charlotte snorted.

“It must be nice for hot people,” she said and rolled her eyes heavenward. “Y’all just keep your hot people radar antennae up at all times, so you can find each other.”

Dirk shuffled his feet.

“I was thinking I could fly my family in next week, on the day that we shoot the season finale of Dancing in Time,” he continued. “I could propose to Lorielle after we wrap, and the crew could film it. Then, next week, we could film our wedding on the set.”

Charlotte thought a moment, then nodded.

“It would be a ratings coup,” she agreed. “One that I’m sure my assistant director and production manager at Today’s Woman would be pleased to oversee.”

Dirk started.

“Well, Charlotte,” he murmured, “I was hoping that you would...”

Charlotte shook her head.

“As it turns out, Dirk, I’m going to be attending a Women in Broadcasting seminar that falls on the day of our season end taping,” she announced, squaring her shoulders as she took her place behind her office desk. “As a matter of fact, I’ll be one of the keynote speakers.”

Dirk smiled.

“Wow, Charlotte, that’s amazing!” he exclaimed. “I’m so proud of you.”

Meeting his words with a short, sharp nod, Charlotte turned to her computer and—with the click of a few buttons—accessed the contact information for Ginger Bell, her second in command at Today’s Woman.

“Thank you,” she said over her shoulder. “I’m sure that Ginger will do a beautiful job planning the proposal and wedding shoots, considering that she was once a producer on The Bachelorette.”

Dirk bit his lip.

“Well, she is a pro,” he admitted, inclining his head in her direction. “Any chance you could attend the wedding?”

Charlotte thought a moment, then shook her head.

“To tell you the truth, Dirk, your missus to be has never been kind to me—beyond, of course, showing the basic courtesy that one would show to the person who signs her checks. And barely even that,” she revealed. “I doubt seriously that she would want me at her wedding.” With this, she turned to him, gracing him with a faint smile. “Still and all, Dirk, I wish the two of you nothing but happiness. And I hope the shoot goes well.”

Dirk nodded.

“Thank you, Charlotte. And just remember the good ratings this will bring us,” he reminded her, continuing as he bit his lip yet again, “Although I must admit that I’m rather wary of the nasty fan mail and social media messages I might receive from jealous fangirls who are really into the show—and, or so it would seem, to me in particular.”

Charlotte gave him a long look before turning fully and finally away.

“Well, you’re bound to break a heart,” she admitted, shifting in her seat. “Or two.”


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