First Comes Loathe (Blue Collar Bensons #1) - Lilly Atlas


MICHAELA FIGURED SHE would either vomit or pass out cold on the floor.

It was a toss-up which of the mortifying acts would happen first, putting a quick and final end to her dreams.

She shifted back and forth as she stood there gnawing her lower lip. No had said anything yet and she’d been standing there at least a full minute. Every person in the room seemed busy with whatever tasks they had to complete.

Should she start? Launch into the scene? Or was she supposed to wait for instructions? Maybe she should have asked one of the other girls sitting in the long line outside the audition room for some advice, but she’d been going for confident and experienced, not the unsophisticated noob that she was.

“Name?” A man had a placard in front of him with the words Casting Director on it. He didn’t even look up from a clipboard. The man looked like he walked straight off the cover of GQ in trendy black jeans, a metallic button-up with rolled sleeves. Black nail polish, an eyebrow ring, and perfectly gelled hair completed the look.

“M-Michaela.” She cleared her throat. “Michaela Hudson,” she amended in as strong a voice as she could muster with her legs shaking and insides bubbling with anxiety. Standing in an audition room at a real Hollywood studio for the first time made her high school audition nerves laughable.

A bright light flashed and she blinked and jumped back. “Wh-uh…” She ran a damp palm over her shoulder-length and newly blond hair. The hair she’d spent more time perfecting that morning than ever before.

“Sorry, casting photo,” a tall, thin woman said from behind a camera.

“Oh, uh, sure.” Michaela blinked a few more times to get the spots in her eyes to disappear.

Stand tall, look them in the eye, and be the star I know you were born to be.

Her mother’s words rang loudly in her ears as the urge to shrink in on herself and curl into a ball grew with each passing second. Her very first memory was standing on a chair in her mother’s kitchen around age four, holding a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and thanking the stuffed animal Academy for the award.

All through Michaela’s childhood, her romantic of a mother had been in awe of Hollywood. The glitz, the glam, the magic of being loved by the entire world. Michaela had fallen hard for the allure of movie star life as well. Acting was the only thing she’d ever wanted to do. Not just acting, but excelling at it. Becoming a star. Living in one of those jaw-dropping mansions in the Hollywood hills where she’d never have to wonder where her next meal would come from or how her mother was going to pay her medical bills. They’d live the ultimate life without any cares, concerns, or hardships. How could anyone have a moment of unhappiness when they had the entire world at their feet?

Even before her mother had passed away six months ago, Michaela decided their dream would live on, so she’d done it a few weeks ago. Moved from a tiny spec of a town in West Virginia to big-city Hollywood to begin her career as a starlet.

“You waiting for an engraved invitation?” the casting director barked, again not so much as glancing her way. “You may have all day, but I don’t. Get started.”

“Yes, sir.” Michaela closed her eyes, inhaled a shuttered breath, and launched into the short scene the talent agent instructed her to memorize. The one she’d practiced no less than eight hundred times over the past four days—in front of the mirror, while eating, sitting on the toilet, when she should have been sleeping, and even while waiting tables at the coffee shop. She’d kill to have the opportunity to act this captivating scene on a real set.

Three lines in and one heartfelt attempt at sophistication, the casting director dropped his pen and finally gave her his eyes. His gaze stayed focused on her as she ran through the scene, pouring every ounce of her soul into the cheesy dialogue. From the same table as the director, another man without hair and skinny as a rail with thick, square glasses read the male parts in a bored tone.

Michaela gasped and pressed a hand to her chest in response to rejection from her fictitious love. The more he spoke, the more she fell into the character. Before long, she’d fully immersed herself in the role, feeling the character’s personality wash over