• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 12


The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

It’s a dirty, dirty slate. At least if my dreams are anything to go by. While I’m successful at keeping up the ‘just friends’ act on set and even off set at times, it all comes out at bedtime.

After a couple of weeks of intense work, I’m looking forward to my first mini-break in months.

Even if that break will be kicked off with an overdose on cast bonding on Catalina Island.


I considered not going, but Lauren talked me into it. Or, more accurately, badgered me into it.


And so here I am, trying to figure out what on earth to pack for a long weekend on an island off the California coast I’ve never been to. We’re taking a boat out and I have to admit I’m a little nervous about it. You’d think someone who did a movie called ‘Cruiseliner’ would have acquired her sea legs by now, but we never actually weighed anchor.


I stare at my piles of clothing on the bed and sigh. Then I give up and call Lauren.


“Should I bring one swimsuit or two?”


“Two. One for tanning and one for swimming.”


“I can’t do both?” I frown.


“Well, I usually wear my micro bikini when I’m tanning to minimize tan lines, and then something with a little more coverage when I’m swimming, just so stuff stays in place in case there are cameras around.”


“Probably a good idea. Okay, so what about evening wear? How does this work – do we dress up for dinner and eat together?”


“Well, from what Marsha told me, we’ll be going out to local restaurants for dinner, so just bring casual summer dresses, some cute tops and jeans. It’s only four days, not even a whole week, so no need to take the whole wardrobe. You don’t wanna pull a Crystal.”


“What do you mean?”


“Crystal brings a ridiculous amount of luggage with her wherever she goes – Google it if you don’t believe me.”


“Of course I believe you. Hey, when you talked to Marsha, did she say anything about roommates? Derek thought we’d be sharing, since it’s technically on Marsha’s and Greg’s tab.”


“Oh, right. I forgot to tell you… I told her you and I would be happy to room together, so she’ll stick Crystal with Sally. Phew, right?”


“Yeah…”


“Oh, and Tom and Derek are sharing a room, too, so I was thinking…”


A knot forms in my stomach. I know what she’s about to suggest, and I can’t say I’m overjoyed.


“Mm?”


“Well, that we’d switch it up. Tom’s already checked with Derek, and he said it’s cool if you two share a room.”


“I don’t know, Lauren… I’m not really comfortable with…”


“Oh, come on. There’ll be twin beds, not just one double. You can even put your suitcases on the floor between the beds if that’ll ease your mind. Please? Pretty please?”


I sigh. “Are you batting your eyelashes at me over the phone? I think I can hear flapping.”


“Will it help?”


I take a deep breath and tell myself it’s not a big deal. “Okay, fine. But only if there really are two beds in the room.”

“So… this isn’t awkward at all,” Derek says as we’re left standing out in the courtyard as Lauren and Tom disappear into one of the rented rooms.


The beachside inn we’re staying at only has four standard rooms and two suites, so it’s all ours for the long weekend. We’re under strict instructions from Marsha and Greg not to reveal our location until after we’ve returned to the mainland, so as to avoid being chased by paparazzi and fans. We are, however, encouraged to post photos and comments about the cast getaway without giving away details. Meaning we’re free to take photos of our feet in the sand if we don’t geotag them. How ever will I be able to resist?


“I know, right?” I sigh as we head over to our room. There’d better not be any paparazzi around, because if my parents find out I’ve shared a room with a guy they’ll blow a gasket.

As far as they know, I’m still a virgin and will stay that way until I meet a respectable, hardworking farmer to marry. Maybe they’d finally watch me on TV if I apply to Farmer Wants a Wife.


“Okay, I see one bed,” Derek notes, taking stock of the room.


He’s correct; there is only one bed, a queen-size. Lauren is so dead. Unless…


“Wait. Maybe the couch pulls out,” I say, frowning as I walk over to it. I pull on the navy-blue front and let out a sigh of relief when it does indeed pull out.


“Problem solved,” Derek announces and shrugs out of his jacket. “I’ll take the pull-out and you can have the queen.”


“That’s okay, you can take the bed. I’m fine on this.”


“No, no. A queen for the lady. It’s only fair. Besides, this model actually reminds me of the one I had in my first apartment. It wasn’t always practical. I mean, you’ve got a girl over, you’re making out on the couch and you realize tonight’s the night, and then you have to get all sensible about it – get off the couch, pull out the bed – thereby giving the girl some breathing room and time to get cold feet about the whole thing.”


“A pull-out couch doing double-duty as a chastity belt, huh? I’m surprised I haven’t heard about this problem before. Are there support groups?” I tease him as I put my jacket on the bed.


“You’re cute.”


“Sounds to me like those girls weren’t really ready in the first place, and your logistical issue saved them from making a big mistake.”


“Ouch.” Derek puts his hands over his heart as if I’ve just stabbed it.


“Hey, no, I didn’t mean that as an insult to you. I’m sure you’re very… um…” Great, now I’m blushing, too. This day is turning out fantastic. First I was green and white on the boat ride over here, and now I’m red. I’m the Italian flag – stick me on a pole and be done with it.

Okay, that sounds weird even in my head. I’d better not open my mouth right now; I’ve clearly lost my mind.


Meanwhile, Derek is grinning, clearly enjoying my discomfort. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. I’m very…?”


“Late?” someone says from the doorway, which we’ve left open. I turn to see Cole wearing aviator sunglasses, a crisp short sleeved shirt and chinos. He must have already changed after the boat ride.


“What for?” Derek questions.


“Lunch.” He doesn’t say anything else, just walks away.


“Well, that was rude,” Derek notes. “Do you want to get changed for lunch or…?”


I look down at my navy dress and my ballet flats before I shake my head in response to his question. “I’m good.”


“Let’s go, then,” Derek gestures for me to lead the way, and I do. Not that I have any idea where we’re going, but I figure in a place this small, we should be able to find the dining room soon enough.

“Welcome to the Paradise Inn,” a petite blonde woman in her 40s says as she walks up to the table we’re all seated at for lunch in the inn’s dining room. I’m pretty sure she’s the owner. She’s wearing a Jackie O cerulean dress, her pixie cut looks stylish and her makeup is flawless. I would consider myself lucky if I looked this put together in 20 years – heck, I’d be lucky to pull that style off now.


“I’m Charlene and I own this little inn together with my husband. We’re very happy to have you all stay with us this weekend, and if there’s anything you need, just pick up the phone and dial reception.”


“Thank you, Charlene. We’ll keep that in mind,” Greg says, smiling suggestively as he looks her over. As far as I know, Greg is single and always on the lookout for his next ex, but I didn’t think he was the kind to hit on married women. I guess I stand corrected.


“There are brochures on the reception desk that will tell you everything you need to know about the island, and if you’d like to book an excursion, don’t hesitate to ask and we’ll sort that out for you. For those who enjoy outdoor adventures, we have hiking, zip lining, golfing, kayaking, snorkeling and various ocean tours. Or, if you’re anything like me, you will love the beach and spa here at the inn. There’s also an arcade that my son swears by.”


“Thank you, we’ll make sure to stop by the reception desk after lunch,” Marsha says, sounding a little impatient. Maybe Charlene is a bit too bubbly for Marsha’s taste.


I look over at Cole to exchange smiles over our showrunners’ behavior, but he’s not smiling.

He’s not even looking up from his plate, and it’s empty. There is literally nothing to see there.


We didn’t get to talk on the boat ride, on account of Crystal being all over him, and the small matter of me focusing on not throwing up on the way out. I feel like we’ve been drifting farther and farther away as friends, despite insisting that’s what we are. It’s driving me nuts. It’ll be good to get away from it all for a while.


My tickets are booked for next week. I’m going home for the longest visit since I moved out four years ago – one whole month – during which I’ll probably spend every single day wondering if they’ll keep me on the show or write me off. I’m not popular with the viewers like the others are. What if Marsha and Greg decide they need someone different to really amp up the storylines?


“Hey,” Derek whispers in my ear as he nudges my shoulder. I startle, and the cutlery rattles as my leg knocks into the table.


“Sorry,” I mumble, not daring to look up from the table cloth to face any of the others.


“You’re cool. Sorry I startled you – you just looked like you’d zoned out.”


“I guess I had. Did I miss anything?”


“Nah. Hey, what do you want to do? Outdoor activities or are you more interested in sunbathing and seaweed and stuff?”


“I’ve never been much of a girly-girl. Raised on a farm, remember?”


“So… you wanna go zip lining?”


“Uh… like high up in the air? Farmer’s daughter right here – we like to stay close to the ground.”


“Oh, come on, it’ll be an adventure. Lauren’s going.”


I roll my eyes. “Of course she is.”


“And you can bet that Crystal and Sally won’t be straying far from the comforts of the inn,” he adds in a whisper.


“Nice blackmailing technique. Do they teach that at drama school?”


“School of life, babe,” he winks and I smack his leg with my linen napkin. Derek just chuckles and steals my napkin to wipe his mouth with.


“Hey, buddy, could I talk to you for a second?” Cole is suddenly standing next to Derek and I realize the others have started to leave the table, presumably for the reception desk.


“Uh… yeah, sure,” Derek says, clearly as confused as I am, and gets up. I look over to see Lauren waving at me from across the room, and so I go to catch up with her.


“So… you’re still cool with sharing a room with Derek, right?” she asks as we head out to the courtyard with a handful of brochures.


“Yeah. We found the pull-out couch. It’ll be fine.”


“You’re sure? Because I realized I was being selfish about all this, and if you’re not comfortable-“


“Relax, it’s fine,” I cut her off. She nods and we walk in silence for a moment. Something’s off, though. “What made you change your mind? I mean, when we got here, you couldn’t get into the room fast enough. Did Tom do something?”


“No. It’s just big brother getting in my head. Forget I said anything.”


“Lauren…” I frown, stopping by a marble pillar. “Big brother? I thought you were the eldest.”


“Nothing to do with family – just someone who acts like it sometimes.”


“Cole.”


Lauren sighs, clearly busted. “Yeah. He thinks I’m his responsibility or something. It gets on my nerves sometimes.”


“Why does he act that way?”


“It’s a long story, but Cliff Notes version? While we were working together, I was in a bad relationship, and he got me out of it. Let’s just say he doesn’t think I have the best judgment.”


“He’s worried about you being with Tom?” I frown. I’ve always seen Lauren as the stronger one of those two. Maybe Cole’s jealous and that’s why he’s so overprotective of her? Maybe Crystal was right to worry about Cole preferring Lauren to her.


“Oh, I’m sure he was at first, but he considers Tom a decent guy now.”


“Then why-“ I start, and then I trail off as the ball drops.


“I think you just answered your own question,” Lauren says knowingly.


“I should probably go find Derek before Cole gives him ‘the talk’, too,” I say, looking around the courtyard to see if they’re around.


“Hey, you know what I said before? About you getting your heart broken?”


“Yeah…” Oh, I really don’t want another lecture on staying away from Cole.


“I was wrong. Not about the heartbreak thing, but about it being one-sided. I’m pretty sure Cole is every bit as obsessed with you as you are with him.”


“I’m not obsessed.” Really, she’s being dramatic. I’ll admit to having a crush, even being a bit infatuated, but I’m definitely not-


“Really? So you’re not thinking about him on a daily basis, wondering what he’s doing, what he’s thinking, what he’s eating-“


“No! I already know what he eats. I see him eating every day on set.”


“Have you kissed him?” she asks bluntly.


“No. Of course not.”


“But something’s happened, hasn’t it?”


I look around the courtyard, making sure we’re alone and out of earshot from the others as we head over to my room. “It’s just little things, like little moments. I could just have imagined them.”


“But?” she prods.


“I admitted that I was jealous after those photos of him with Crystal, and he asked to come over. But I said no, and the next day, he basically told me to forget about it.”


I open the door to my room, relieved to see we’re alone as Lauren continues her interrogation behind closed doors.


“Wait- when was this?”


“The mid-season finale party.”


“Cole booty-called you?”


“No! You’re blowing this way out of proportion. It was nothing. We never talked about it again except to say we were friends.”


“And how’s that working out for you?”


“Peachy,” I snap, tired of the inquisition.


“Seriously, Han. I know Cole is dedicated to his work, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s spending time with Crystal just to drum up press for the show, but all the more reason for you not to get involved with him.”


“I know all this. That’s why we’re just friends.”


“And when he decides it’s not enough? Are you going to be able to turn him down then?”


“He’s smarter than that.”


“He’s a guy. Trust me, from what I saw today, it’s not his big brain that’s doing the thinking for him anymore.”


Lauren’s statement still hangs in the air when the door opens and Derek walks in, his face a little red and his jaw tense. He pulls up short when he sees Lauren.


“Oh. Hey.”


“Hi. I was just leaving. You and me – spa date in an hour,” Lauren points at me and I nod, numb. As soon as the door closes behind her, Derek walks over to the mini bar.


“What’s going on?” I ask tentatively, sensing that he’s in a bad mood.


“You tell me,” he says and pops open a beer. “Why is Parker telling me to move into his and Nick’s room?”


“Uh… male bonding?” I offer lamely.


“Is there something going on between you two?”


“What? No.”


“Because he’s clearly not okay with you and I sharing a room, and Cole Parker isn’t known for his strong moral code.”


“What did you tell him?”


“I said I’m fine where I am. So then he started in on how your reputation could be harmed. Like, seriously?”


“He’s just being overprotective because I’m the new girl.”


“I don’t know, Han…” Derek shakes his head. “I think he might be into you.”


“He’s just trying to be a good friend. Let it go. I’ll tell him to back off with the big brother act.”


“If you say so.”


“I do. So, this zip lining thing… When are you going to do that?”



To be continued...

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