Cameron Rheingold is the kind of guy who takes a book to a bar. He’s a loner by nature, but he has to engage with the community to keep his movie theater business afloat. When two young men stay after a Cary Grant film showing to chat, Cameron thinks he might have made some new friends—but their interest is more than friendly.
Josh is charismatic, and every smile is a little bit seductive. Keith is sweet and kind, with a core of steel Cameron can sense even when Keith’s on his knees. Cameron is willing to be the couple’s kinky third, but that’s it. He refuses to risk complicating things with his growing devotion, even if being with Josh and Keith feels more right than anything else ever has.
When the three of them are attacked by the killer roaming La Vista, Cameron must decide what’s more important: pretending the assault never happened and he’s the same loner he used to be, or coming clean to Josh and Keith about how much he loves them, even if they can never return his feelings.
Three minutes until go time.
I relaxed the death grip I had on my index cards and took another look at the computer screen currently showing four of the theater’s security cameras. The lobby was almost cleared out and the theater was almost full. I felt dizzy.
I don’t experience anxiety as a jumpy heartbeat or damp palms. When I am most nervous, the color leeches out of the world, leaving me walking through a grainy black-and-white film. As a coping mechanism, it works well; I’m comfortable in that state, navigating the gray areas, finding a home between shadows and light.
One final breath. I double-checked that the booth was locked, accepted nods of support from my ticket taker and concessions staff, and made my way to the stage.
My earliest memory is standing on the stage between my parents on the night we opened the expanded concessions store, serving sandwiches and soups. I was four years old, holding my father’s hand, staring out at all the people. All I really remember is how high the stage felt and how loud the people were, but they told me later that I smiled and waved at the crowd. I can never be certain if my parents misremembered (projecting their general love of chaos on their young son), or if there was a time when my world did not drop into grayscale at the first moment of overwhelm.
I knew An Affair to Remember backward and forward. It was the obvious choice to start the Cary Grant Film Festival. I probably knew my speech even without the index cards. And it was short, so there shouldn’t have been a problem.
Then I tripped.
I tripped walking from the stairs to the microphone. Four steps. I’d carefully put the podium off to the side where I wouldn’t have to move it and it wouldn’t be in the way. Four steps from the point where I reached the stage to the point where I turned toward the crowd.
On the second step I tripped and my index cards flew everywhere.
People gasped, giggled, made other sounds of commiseration and nerves and gentle mockery, a distant, muted soundtrack to the white noise buzz of my brain registering that even if I could pick up all the index cards, I hadn’t numbered them.
It would be impossible to piece my speech back together.
I closed my eyes for a split second, wishing my dad were there to hold my hand. He’d squeeze it and say, What would Cary do, Cameron?
Cary would get off his knees and pick up the microphone. So I did.
A great many people. The first night of the film series hadn’t sold out, but it had come closer than any event I’d done in years. I tried to blur my vision so I wouldn’t recognize anyone.
“Hello. I seem to have had . . . technical difficulties with my teleprompter.”
Laughter. No one turns to Cam Rheingold when they need a joke, but I can do dry. At least a little.
“Welcome to the Cary Grant Film Festival. Each Saturday from now until mid-December we’ll show a film starring Cary Grant.” A few claps. I smiled, carefully not-looking at any of the faces. “Mr. Grant has been my absolute favorite actor since I was a child, and I’m so pleased to present to you Leo McCarey’s An Affair to Remember for our first film in the series.”
I’d had a whole mini lecture planned—about how the film was a remake of McCarey’s earlier Love Affair, and how most people agreed the latter was the better movie—but if I launched into it without my notes, I’d fumble. The sequence would be wrong, and I might potentially misstate my facts. I couldn’t take the risk.
“This is widely considered one of the greatest love stories of all time,” I said instead. “A story about how terrible timing is sometimes perfect timing, about the radical notion that two wealthy individuals might love one another so much they’d decide to work for a living, and of course, about the power and intensity and endurance of romantic love.”
More clapping this time. Perfect.
“Please enjoy An Affair to Remember. And do join me in the lobby after for refreshments. If I don’t see you then, I hope to see you next week, when we’ll be watching North by Northwest.” I bowed to the lights, caught a disturbingly distinct view of eyes and smiles and hairstyles, and quickly walked down the steps and out the long hallway to the doors while the intro started to play.
I pressed myself against the wall in the dark until the credits had finished and the picture really began. Then I escaped to my booth and watched it on the monitor instead of the big screen.
I’d promised myself I wouldn’t hide, but I had failed to factor in dropping my index cards. I needed the security of the booth, at least until the next particularly gruesome act of this event would begin.
Refreshments. Small talk. Perhaps I could redirect every conversation back to Mr. Grant. I’d certainly try.
To celebrate the release of One Life to Lose, one lucky winner will receive an ebook from Kris’s backlist! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 17, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
About the Author & Links:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.