Today’s tease is from my currently nominated Rone Award book THE HAUNTING OF WILTON JUNE ( you just knew I was gonna get that award in there, didn’t”cha? LOL)
Hotshot movie director Wilton June is in pre-production for a new movie. The moment he sees Maison Toussaint he decides it’s the perfect setting for the film and wants to rent it. The one stumbling block? The owner isn’t sure she can let her ancestral home be used in a movie.
Botanist Jerica Toussaint needs cash – a lot of it – to keep her home up to code and her herbal healing business alive. June’s financial offer is oh-so-tempting, as is the director himself. But the house has a secret Jerica’s guarded her entire life. Can she, in good conscience, rent it to a man who may expose it?
Convincing Jerica to trust him with her home – and her secret – is no easy feat and after a time Will realizes he needs to convince her to trust him with one more thing: her heart.
“I understand you want to film a movie in the house.”
“That’s an unusual request. Don’t you usually film one in a studio or on a soundstage?”
“I could, but I’d have to construct a prop house. Your home is absolutely perfect for the storyline of the film
and it’s already standing. It would be cheaper in the long run to use an already standing structure.”
“What about my house makes it absolutely perfect, to use your words? Ms. Gordon told me you looked at six other properties similar to mine. Surely any one of them would suit your . . . needs.”
Will couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a grown woman blush. Her cheeks turned apple-red as she spoke and he’d be damned if it weren’t the most alluring thing he’d ever seen.
“True, but when I saw your house it spoke to me. Screamed at me, in fact,” he said, grinning.
“Sc-screamed?” Jerica swallowed and a fine tremor started in her folded hands. “What do you mean . . . screamed?”
Will grinned and leaned back in his chair. “The movie I’m set to make is a modern-day love story about two people who try to solve a one-hundred-year-old murder which occurred in the house where the heroine lives. Your house is perfect for the time period, aside from being huge, which is another plus, because of the size of my film equipment. After I walked through it with Ms. Gordon yesterday and got the lay of the land and the room sizes, I’m more convinced than ever it’s the house I need for my film to come alive.”
Her shoulders dropped down from where they’d been hugging her ears. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out why his explanation calmed her nerves, but the response encouraged him. Leaning forward, he told her, “I know it’s a huge imposition to have people and equipment in your home, but I can assure you, we’re all professional. And my crew is only ten people plus me. And the actors, of course. I have an extremely well-oiled machine of people I trust and who are tops in their fields. I promise nothing will get broken or damaged, and we won’t move a thing unless we ask first.”
She tossed a quick glance at the lawyer who caught the move and nodded.
“Should Miss Toussaint agree to your filming in the house—and that’s still a big if—we would ask you to sign a separate waiver stating you’ll take full responsibility for the costs of any damage.”
“Not a problem,” Will said.
“Now, about the use-of-location rider,” Gavin said, taking a stack of papers from a briefcase at his feet. “The fee mentioned seems a little low since the house will not only be inhabited by you as a resident but your film crew as well—”
“The crew stays off-site. I’ll be the only one actually living in the house at the time of filming.”
“Even so, the recompense paid to Ms. Toussaint, we feel, should be higher. After all, the film will be seen, potentially, by a large audience.”
“That’s always the hope.” Will grinned.
“People may actually want to come and visit where the movie was filmed. You can see where this may pose a problem with security for Ms. Toussaint. A higher fee would enable her to employ security if needed. This is, after all, her home. We want to ensure her safety.”
Will’s gaze raked over Jerica Toussaint’s face. “Of course. What price were you thinking?”
When Gavin named an amount twenty-five percent higher than the offer, Will hid his surprise, then did a quick mental math shuffle. He could swing the payment increase if he cut the budget a bit somewhere else.
“Okay. Consider it done.”
Surprise galloped around the table, but it was Jerica Toussaint’s wide-eyed face Will settled on.
“Anything else?” he asked after noting the glances between lawyer and client.
Genevieve spoke up for the first time. “The sixth-month rent clause is ironclad. If you decide to leave, for whatever reason, before the lease expires, you won’t be issued a refund.”
“Understood. And I’m prepared to write you a check for the full amount today, as soon as you agree to sign the lease,” he told Jerica.
When she took a corner of her mouth between her teeth, the sexy little dent in her chin winked at him. In a hot second, the lower half of his body went on high alert, and he was thankful the desk hid him from the waist down.
Her indecision was obvious in her body language and once again he wondered why. The payments were high—higher now since he’d agreed to the use-fee increase. She should be overjoyed at the income, especially since the place had stood empty for the past two years.
But she wasn’t, and if he had to guess, she was conflicted about accepting his offer.
Will wanted the house, now more than ever, so he pulled out all the Wilton June charm tactics he could muster, the ones his mother accused him of only using to his advantage.
She wasn’t wrong.
If you like the snippet I hope you’ll read the book, and if you have already, please consider voting for me in the RONES!! Voting ends at midnight this friday!.