• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 1

Hannah Miller is trying to make it in Hollywood. When she lands a role on a new TV show already predicted to be a hit, she starts to think she's finally made it. But when she falls for one of her cast members, she discovers the darker side of fame.


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Cover image under license from Shutterstock.com. Cover design via Canva.com.


The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

I’m starving. The Craft Services table has already been raided by my co-stars and the crew, and all that remains is a plate of truly scrumptious-looking chocolate chip cookies. The sun has melted the dark chocolate chips and the surface is glistening. I’ll bet my last protein bar that the cookies are all gooey and will melt in my mouth like-


“Hannah, are you ready for your next scene?”


I spin around, away from temptation, to see Alison, one of the production assistants on The Hills Have Lies, headed my way.


“Oh, they’re ready now?” I walk over to meet her, smoothing down my top as I go. “I thought we weren’t shooting until three.”


“Crystal‘s in a rush,” Alison says and I can practically hear the eye roll she’s holding back.


“Hot date?”


“Who knows?” Alison shrugs. “All I heard was ‘get Hannah’s butt back here now’.”


I cringe. Getting on Crystal’s bad side is not on my to-do list for this month. This is my first major project and it could make or break my career as an actress. The show has already generated buzz in the media thanks to Crystal Witt and Cole Parker signing on and the showrunners have told us all to prepare for the attention we’ll be getting once the first episode airs. We even have a couple of classes scheduled for media training. I’ve been working for a couple of years now, but the minor supporting roles never drew much spotlight my way, so it feels like I’m just starting out.


“Finally,” Crystal says with an exaggerated sigh as we enter the sound studio where our indoor scenes are shot. It’s like I’m back in high school. Literally. The set looks almost identical to my old high school back in Minnesota.


“Sorry, I thought I had more time,” I mumble my non-heartfelt apology and keep my head down as I head over to the make-up artist for a touch-up. I’m supposed to be the mousy transfer girl from a small Midwestern school – not exactly a stretch for me – but they still need to pile on the makeup for the cameras.


“Time is money, Hannah,” Crystal says condescendingly, flipping her long, perfectly curled ginger hair over her shoulder. “If you don’t know that by now, maybe you’re not cut out for this industry.”


“Lay off, Crys,” a male voice drawls and I feel my skin heat up. I can’t see him from where I’m sitting, but there’s no mistaking his voice – or how he makes the makeup artist’s cheeks color. Maybe it’s just hot under these lights.


Cole Parker. He lives and breathes his character on The Hills Have Lies, and it’s hard to tell if he’s acting or being himself most of the time.


“Hey, Gunnar, how’s Georgie? Still working on his ‘good morning’?” Cole greets the dolly grip.


“No, we’ve moved on to ‘Georgie wants a cracker’,” Gunnar guffaws. “For some reason, he’s more motivated now.”


“Hey, Trish, looking stylish as always,” he compliments the makeup artist and leans in to check his reflection in the mirror on her roll-away table.


“Someone’s in a good mood,” Crystal remarks in a huff.


“Someone has to be,” he replies without looking at her. “Isn’t that right, Han?”


I can’t help it; the second he fixes those shark blue eyes on me, I feel a blush coming on. They’re just so intense. Anyone would be uncomfortable. Really. It has nothing to do with attraction.


I can’t answer him. Not just because I’m afraid I’ll be tongue-tied if I try to speak, but because agreeing with him – which I totally do, by the way – means taking a shot at Crystal. Landmine. Luckily, I don’t have to answer because one of the directors comes in and call our attention.


“Places, everyone. On the double, please.”


Trish clears out and Gunnar gets ready to move the dolly for our walking-and-talking scene.


“And… action.”

We wrap early and Crystal takes off half a second later.


“Where do you think she’s going?” Lauren, who plays my almost-best-friend on the show, leans in as we head over to our trailers.


“Audition?” I offer as my best guess.


“But I heard she’s signed on for three seasons. She can’t quit the show before it even airs, can she?”


“I guess that’d be up to Legal,” I say with a shrug. Losing Crystal would be a blow to the show, sure, but they’d still have Cole. And the cast and crew would probably be much happier without her bossing everyone around.


“Maybe they’d make you the lead,” Lauren bumps my shoulder and I shake my head.


“I’m not exactly front cover material.”


“Sure you are. You’d be perfect for a ‘corn-fed milkmaid schoolteacher girl-next-door’ cover.”


“Wow, that’s a lot of nouns,” I laugh.


“See? Schoolteacher,” Lauren points her perfectly manicured finger at me. I shake my head, still laughing, and open the door to my trailer. “Hey, do you want to go get some dinner?” Lauren asks, following me inside and flopping down on my tiny couch.


“Sure. But no dairy and no corn.”


Lauren laughs. “Deal.”


I look at her pointedly as she remains on the couch while I’m supposed to be getting ready. It takes her a moment to catch on.


“Right. I’m gonna go change and I’ll meet you out front in twenty, ‘kay?”


“See you in a bit,” I say and head for the tiny bathroom. Deciding it will take too long to dry off my thick, honey blonde hair, I pull it up into a messy bun before I hit the shower.


As I wash up, I can’t help but feel self-conscious about my body. Lauren’s description of a corn-fed milkmaid – while fairly accurate – just reminded me of how much I don’t look like a cover model. I’m healthy, yes, but the sad thing is that mine is not the body type hailed as the ideal. Crystal’s is. She has a slim waist, a noticeable chest, and curved hips. Not to mention her legs – practically made to wear skinny jeans.


I, on the other hand, have heavy breasts, a belly that doesn’t show so much as a hint of abs, and more junk in the trunk than most of my co-stars. I ran track in high school and running is still my main workout form, so my thighs and calves have plenty of muscles that won’t fit into skinny jeans. I’m grateful my character doesn’t wear them.


My character, ‘Kate-Lynn’, either wears baggy jeans or skirts that fall well below the knees. I can imagine she’ll go through some sort of transformation as the show goes on, but I haven’t seen it in a script yet. I just hope the showrunners will stay true to Kate-Lynn’s sweet, innocent character and not turn her into another doll like Crystal’s character, Michaela. I’m not sure I could pull that off.


Suddenly there’s pounding on the frosted bathroom window and I startle. Realizing it’s just Lauren’s way of letting me know she’s ready to go, I quickly turn off the shower and grab some clothes.

We go to Finnegan’s, an Irish pub that serves amazing burgers. I order the steamed vegetables. I can’t afford to gain a single pound and the barbecue sauce would probably add two all on its own. Lauren, inexplicably blessed with a speedy metabolism, orders fries with her Angus burger. Show-off.


“You should come to Zumba class with me,” she says and pops a fry into her mouth.

“Alejandro is amazing. You could eat like a horse and still lose weight.”


I roll my eyes and spear a piece of broccoli. “Right. Like I haven’t heard that before.”


“Evening, ladies,” Cole Parker’s voice drawls right behind me. The broccoli slips off my fork. “Celebrating getting off set early tonight?”


“Hey, Cole,” Lauren says and smiles up at him. “Want to join us?"


“Don’t mind if I do,” he says and pulls out a chair in between us. I don’t know why my heart is beating so fast and I can hear my pulse pounding in my ears, it’s not like Cole hasn’t hung out with us before. There’s absolutely no need to feel awkward or nervous around him.


“Hi. Can I get you something?” The waitress comes over before Cole’s butt even hits the seat. The blush on her cheeks says she probably recognized him the second he walked in the door.


“I’ll have the burger, please,” he peers at her chest for a moment, then adds, “Charlize.” She practically melts on the spot and I feel a bit better about being flustered around Cole. It’s a perfectly natural reaction to an attractive guy and once I get used to seeing him every day, the effect will wear off. Lauren’s worked with him before, so she’s already past the flustered state. In a couple of months, I’ll be just as indifferent to him as she is.


Lauren clicks her tongue as the waitress heads off to fill Cole’s order. “You just had to go and say her name, huh?”


“I’m just being friendly,” Cole shrugs.


“Right,” she rolls her eyes.


“You should try it some time, Lauren,” he says jokingly and she sticks her tongue out in response.


“You see the level of professionalism I have to deal with?” Cole says to me, hiking his thumb in Lauren’s direction. I can’t think of a single word to say, yet my mouth attempts to choke some out anyway. I quickly close it to avoid embarrassing myself.


“So, how are you finding the world of television drama, Han?” he asks, picking a curly fry off of Lauren’s plate. “This is your first show, right?”


“Yes.” I take a sip of my mineral water. “I mean, I’ve done some acting before. Mostly small stuff.”


“You were in Cruiseliner, right?” he says, squinting as if searching his memory. I can’t blame him, it was a straight-to-DVD horror movie and I was about 20 pounds heavier.


“I was,” I nod and spear the piece of broccoli I dropped before.


“Typical of you to remember a movie about busty co-eds getting killed off on a boat,” Lauren rolls her eyes.


“Gimme a break, I know she’s done other stuff, too.”


I’ve mostly done romantic comedies, always playing the role of one of the friends of the leading lady. And for the record, I wasn’t one of the busty co-eds on Cruiseliner – I was the chubby pledge who got her head chopped off thirty minutes into the movie.


“Your burger,” the waitress announces and sets the plate down in front of Cole. “Let me know if I can get you anything else.”


“Will do. Thank you, Charlize,” he flashes her a grin and I cover up a chuckle as Lauren feigns swooning. Cole ignores her and digs into his burger with gusto. I can’t help it; my gaze is drawn to the sauce slowly trickling down his hand. It looks so good. I lick my lips, completely focused on the burger, glistening with fat, and so when Lauren clears her throat and snaps me out of my trance, I’m horrified and quickly spear a carrot with my fork.


“What is that?” Cole asks and I look up to find him pointing at my plate of veggies.


“Um… food?”


“But it’s just a starter, right? You’re gonna have a burger, too?”


“Um…no.”


Cole groans and then he’s picking up a fork and knife and cutting his burger in half. He picks up the untouched piece and unceremoniously dumps it on my plate.


“No, I can’t-“ I start to object, but he cuts me off.


“You were eyeing my burger as if it was the last one on earth. I like to enjoy my meals guilt-free.”


“But I can’t just take your food.”


“Sure you can,” he shrugs. “I have every intention of finishing off Lauren’s fries. Friends share.”


“Like hell they do,” Lauren huffs and demonstratively stuffs her mouth full of fries.


Cole laughs and I can’t help but join in. The small-town girl in me can’t believe she’s sitting at a table with Cole Parker, once voted Male Model of the Year, and almost having a conversation. Maybe one day I’ll feel less like an imposter. Until then, I’m just going to have to fake it.


To be continued...

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