Ricochet Chapter Two


Matthew Lake stared at Daniel Mayfield, and Daniel stared back, tapping one finger lightly on his script as they waited.


“Where the hell is he?” Matt hissed. “I wouldn’t mind, but this is the third time this month.”


“You’ve kept count?” Daniel raised an eyebrow, and Matt bit on his lip, flushing.


“I count everything. I can’t help myself. I also know how many times it’s rained this month and how many times you’ve tapped your finger on that script,” he confessed.


“It can’t be easy being locked up inside your brain.” Daniel glanced at Petra, the show runner, who was standing to one side with a look of thunder on her face, bashing her finger repeatedly onto the keypad of her cell phone. “Wherever he is, I have a feeling Petra will have something to say to him when she finally gets him to answer his phone,” Daniel murmured.


“Poor Rick.” Matt felt a surge of genuine sympathy for his co-star. Rick was the most infuriating actor he’d ever worked with, but he also had the ability to lift a set just by setting foot on it. His huge personality brightened every room he was in, and he made the long hours and hard work fun, even on the days when they really weren’t.


A second later there were the usual loud clattering sounds and change in energy that signaled Rick had arrived, and he strode onto the set, still in his own clothes, waving his arms around apologetically.


“I’m so sorry, everyone!” he yelled. “Domestic emergency.”


“You mean you overslept?” Daniel asked smoothly.


“More likely a sub slept over,” Matt muttered, and Daniel stifled a laugh.


“I’m here now! I’m ready,” Rick announced to the room at large. The cast and crew loved him, for all his wayward ways and truly abysmal timekeeping, so Matt could sense that Rick was instantly forgiven – but not by Petra.


“It’s the third time this month, Rick,” she scolded.


“Who’s counting?” Rick spread his arms wide. “Well, except Matty, of course, but he counts everything.” He shot a grin in Matt’s direction.


“I’m counting,” Petra snapped.


“Three times in a month isn’t that many.”


“It’s only the ninth today.”


“Ah. Okay. Sorry.” Only Rick could somehow manage to look naughty, contrite and utterly adorable all at the same time. He was like a big, overgrown puppy.


“I want to see you in my office after this scene’s done,” Petra said grumpily. “And you’re not ready. Go and change your clothes, get your ass into make-up, and put your damn collar on.” She turned and stomped off, and Rick grimaced broadly at her retreating back.


“I’m in trouble,” he lamented to the room, with theatrical mournfulness.


“Yes, you are. Now go and get ready. Filming’s been held up for long enough because of you,” Daniel said tersely. Although he was the lead actor on the show he rarely threw his weight around, so if he handed out a reprimand it really stung.


Rick certainly got the message, and he hurried off to his trailer to get changed without the usual theatrics, much to Matt’s relief.


Matt paced around the set, going over his lines repeatedly in his head while he waited, hating the delay as it gave him too much time to fret about his performance in the upcoming scene. They were on the set of the gleaming silver and black command center that was the Collar Crime H.Q., crammed full of high-tech computer screens and gadgets – although it looked a lot more impressive on TV than it did in real life.


He was relieved when Rick returned a short while later, dressed in character as Agent Tanner, with a plain black collar fastened around his neck. He was six feet four of such ludicrous good looks that Matt wondered how anyone could have been put together so well and still be human. He had jet-black hair, tanned skin, a perma-stubbled jaw, and a pair of broad shoulders that looked fantastic in the tight tee shirts the show liked to put him in. His long legs looked equally good in the jeans his character habitually wore, too. His most beautiful feature was his liquid-green eyes; they looked out of place with his tanned skin and dark hair, but they had a depth and luminosity that the camera loved.


He ran across the set, sank gracefully to his knees on his mark at Daniel’s feet, and looked up at him through his thick eyelashes, instantly in character.


“Hmmm… don’t you look like the perfect sub,” Daniel commented, glancing at his script and then down at Rick again.


“I know. I’d fuck me, for sure.” Rick winked, and Matt rolled his eyes.


“Let’s get started!” the director bellowed, and Matt took his position and tried to get into character as the rookie young field agent, Ben Harris.


Ben came from a strict Lenkan family who had disowned him because of his decision to join the collar crime unit. They liked to keep their subs sheltered and arrange jobs and marriages for them inside their own community. An outcast from his own people, Ben was always searching for a place to belong.


Rick played Agent Alex Tanner, the wayward sub that Chief Christie had tamed during the first season of the show. He was a maverick ex-army ranger, who’d received a dishonorable discharge and was living by his wits on the streets when Christie had seen something in him and recruited him to work on the newly formed collar crime unit.


The unit was a specialist task force charged with investigating crimes involving collars, in cases ranging from domestic abuse and employee harassment to international espionage. Alex was famously naughty, getting into all kinds of scrapes that earned him a punishment from the tough, totally toppy Chief Christie every few episodes.


“So, what stupid stuff has Alex Tanner been up to now?” Rick asked, glancing at the page in his hand.


“Damn it, Rick – don’t you even know which scene we’re filming?” Matt snapped, his nerves frayed by the late start.


“As I’m on my knees, I’m guessing it’s one where Alex gets what he deserves. Again.” Rick grinned.


“If only life imitated art,” Matt muttered under his breath.


Rick shot him a wounded look. “Was there something you wanted to say to me, Matty?”


“Yes! You waltz in here, hours late, and you don’t even know what we’re filming. It’s not just Alex Tanner who deserves a punishment, you idiot.”


The room went silent, and everyone looked at him. Matt bit on his lip and started counting down from one thousand in his head, which usually calmed him.


“I know which scene we’re filming, Matt,” Rick said quietly.


“Good – so could we damn well start filming it, then!” the director yelled.


Rick was word perfect in his scene, which made Matt feel terrible about his outburst. They shot several takes, but each time he put in a flawless performance.


Right at the end of the final take, Daniel opened the prop file that was supposed to contain their mission for the week, while Rick and Matt looked over his shoulder at the contents as they’d rehearsed… only to find those contents had been replaced by a recent edition of Show Scoop magazine. The front cover showed a big photo of Daniel, sitting bare-chested in a hot tub, under the headline: Hot Tops in Hot Tubs! Take a look inside at our hot tub hotties!


Matt smothered a laugh, Rick kept a studiously straight face, and Daniel delivered his line without missing a beat. The director called “cut”, and Daniel immediately turned to Rick and delivered a mock spanking with the rolled-up magazine.


Everyone laughed, and Matt felt his bad mood fading as it always did in the face of Rick’s practical jokes. Ever since the Hot Tops in Hot Tubs edition had come out, Rick had been teasing Daniel about it mercilessly. He’d bought a dozen copies and it had become a running joke that he’d place them strategically around the set for Daniel to come across during filming. On one memorable occasion, he’d pinned the picture of Daniel in the hot tub on the noticeboard in the chief’s office, and nobody had even noticed until the episode aired. Matt had no idea how Rick had managed to smuggle the magazine into the file for the scene’s final take, but it had lifted the mood on set.


The crew dispersed for a coffee break, and Rick ran over to where Matt was standing. “Hey, buddy.” He hit Matt playfully on the arm. “I’m sorry I was late.”


That was always the problem with Rick; it was almost impossible to stay mad at him. Rick could be exasperating but there wasn’t an ounce of malice in him.


“Am I forgiven? Say I am. Pleeasse.” He got down on his knees, pressed his hands together in supplication, and fluttered his dark eyelashes outrageously.


Matt sighed. “You’re forgiven.”


“And am I still an idiot?” Rick asked, batting his eyelashes even more.


“Oh, you’re definitely an idiot.” Matt rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t stop the little grin curving his lips, and Rick was on his feet in an instant, laughing. He slung a heavy arm around Matt’s shoulders, tucked him into a neck lock, and then planted a big kiss on his hair.


“Yay! I hate it when you’re mad at me, Matty. Now… where’s the cookie table? I’m starving. No breakfast, and I expended waaaay too much energy last night – and this morning. Look… concave.” He grabbed hold of the hem of his tee shirt, pulled it up, and pointed at his ripped six-pack.


“Any excuse to show off how much you work out,” Matt said, laughing anyway because Rick’s good moods were always so infectious.


“You betcha.” Rick winked, running off towards the cookie table.


“Hey!” Matt called after him. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”


“Hmmm?” Rick turned back, in the process of cramming a giant chocolate-chip cookie into his mouth.


“Petra? She said she wanted to see you after the scene.”


“D’oh!” Rick slapped the side of his own head. “Thanks buddy. I dunno what I’d do without you and your memory. I wish you could learn my lines for me, too.”


“Yeah, well, we all wish you could learn your lines for you, instead of hiding them on crib sheets around the set,” Matt retorted, but Rick was already halfway out the door.


Matt watched him go, shaking his head. So much drama, for so little point – that was Rick all over.


He glanced over and saw that Daniel was reading a book, as he often did during a break in filming. With his bulging muscles and shaved head, Daniel looked like the last person you’d want to meet down a dark alley at night. Matt had been scared of him for his first month on the show until he’d realized that Daniel wasn’t remotely like the tough sub he’d played in the famous Insubordination movies, or the commanding Chief Christie on Collar Crime. People sometimes mistook his aloofness for arrogance, especially as he was such a big star, but Matt had soon figured out that he was just very shy.


Matt considered going over and talking to him, but he didn’t want to interrupt Daniel’s reading, so he pulled out his cell phone instead and saw that he’d missed a call from his dom, Emily. He’d been dating her for about six months, and they were good together. She was cool, calm and collected, and he liked how smooth their relationship was: no drama or bumps in the road. She always did what she said she was going to do and was where she said she’d be. He knew where he was with her, and that was the way he liked it.


The sex was pleasant, too. Not that she ever managed to take him down, but he liked serving her, and she liked being served. It was a perfectly smooth arrangement that suited them both well. He pressed for voicemail and listened to her message.


“Matt – it’s Emily. I see you’re in my diary for this evening, so I’ll pick you up at eight. Please don’t wear that red shirt; it does nothing for you. Don’t make me come up to the house to knock. Be ready on the porch.”


And that was that; all perfectly to the point, which Emily always was, and which Matt liked… so why did he feel like something was missing?





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