The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson



And my mouth dropped open.

It was him. The man who had played Felix Morrison.

And Malec Shadowfire.

He was the actor Noah Douglas, star of my favorite TV show growing up, and he had recently starred as the villain in a billion-dollar fantasy franchise about fairies. He was at this awards show for his most recent role as a young husband and father whose wife was dying of cancer in a film that aired exclusively on InstaFlicks. The movie was really good, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember his character’s name. Toby? Charlie? Phillip?

I was staring at him. In a very stalkery way, so maybe he’d had a point earlier. My heart was beating so fast I was afraid it might break free from all the veins and arteries that were (I think?) currently trying to tether it in place.

“You’re . . . you’re . . .” My mind had turned completely off. Of course, when I was twelve years old I had daydreamed more than once about what I would say to Noah Douglas when we met. Of how I’d win him over with my wit and natural charm.

That was not happening. I was floundering badly and couldn’t even figure out a way to finish the sentence I’d started.

This was in large part because he was ridiculously, almost . . . animalistically attractive. He wasn’t conventionally handsome; his nose was a little too big, his lips a tad too full. It shouldn’t have worked, but for some reason on him his features came together in a way that made it hard to look away. He had dark-brown hair like mine, nearly black, and these intense, hooded light-brown eyes that made my stomach flip over and over.

What was I supposed to say to the man who had played Felix? And Malec? And that other guy whose name I still couldn’t remember?

“Whatever you do,” he said, his deep voice now so recognizable that I felt stupid for not having realized that it was him sooner, “do not call me Felix. Or Malec Shadowfire.”

OMG, Noah Douglas was a freaking mind reader, too. This was bad. Very bad. I tried to banish every impure thought I was currently having about him.

Then, that flare of annoyance was back. Just because I was female and of a certain age, did that automatically mean I should recognize him? That I totally did was beside the point. He shouldn’t have been egotistical enough to assume it. For all he knew, I could have been like . . . my mom. Who loved the theater and didn’t watch television or movies because they were “less than.” She wouldn’t have known who Noah Douglas was.

So why was he so certain that I did?

“Why do you think I’d call you by those names?” I asked.

He gave me a look of weariness bordering on contempt. “Because that’s what people always call me. But I do have an actual name. Use that.”

That devilish little imp inside me—the one who was still mad at Harmony for stressing Shelby out and at that woman who’d tried to stop me from eating and then stared at my scars—broke free, triggered into a frenzy by Noah’s very large ego.

And I told the biggest lie I’d ever told in my entire life.

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that, because I don’t even know who you are.”





CHAPTER TWO

“What?” he asked, and again, he was totally entitled to the disbelief in his voice. He waited a beat before saying with a scowl, “In that case, I’m Noah Douglas. An actor who is nominated for one of these awards, which is why I’m here. How about you?”

I looked around for the cameras. The host had come back out, and they had segued into giving Ralph Ramsey a lifetime achievement award. His daughter—and Noah’s recent costar—Lily Ramsey, was introducing her father. Both of those speeches were going to take a long time. I sighed. I was hoping that this segment would end quickly and I could make an exit and not have to sit here and keep lying to Noah Douglas.

“I’m a seat filler.” I decided that was all the explanation he was entitled to.

“A seat filler? What kind of job pays you to fill seats?”

“I don’t know, probably the same kind of job that pays you to pretend to be someone you’re not.” Like being an actor was so much better than being a seat filler. Pretentious, much? “Besides, it’s not my job. I’m helping out my best friend’s fiancé’s mother. I’m volunteering. You should know what that is. Don’t you celebrities love to volunteer? Because you sure do get a lot of pictures taken while you do it.” Not him, though. If he had a pet cause, I’d never heard of it.