Tangled Hearts by Jenny Redford
Vanessa Flynn actually liked getting calls from her lawyer because it usually meant another contract was ready for a new project. But last week, Bill Roberts called with something he vaguely described as "an issue."
"What kind of issue?" she asked. "Is there something wrong with my contract for the new movie?"
"No, nope. It's just something that needs to be ironed out."
Bill's tone wasn't reassuring.
Vanessa felt a little on edge as she pulled her Mercedes into the parking lot for his office, making sure she was far enough away from other cars so she wouldn't get a ding in her door. Her car was several years old now, but it was the first big purchase she made with her signing bonus for the Project Lyonheart series and she treated it with extra care.
As soon as she walked in the glass doors, Bill's receptionist greeted her with a smile.
"Hi, Ms. Flynn! He's waiting for you."
Vanessa smiled and waved, walking past the few people waiting who either looked at her in awe because she was a movie star or disgust because she didn't have to wait to be seen. She tapped lightly on Bill's door and saw him turn in his big leather desk chair, a huge smile spreading across his face when he saw her.
"Vanessa!" He jumped out of his chair and walked over to give her a hug. "My favorite client."
He always had the same introduction and she always responded the same way.
He pulled away and winked at her. "Don't tell my other clients."
She smiled. "I never do."
Vanessa loved that Bill was a friend to her. He was her lawyer, sure, but he was actually interested in her too. Her life and her family and the latest projects she was working on. She would always ask him about his kids and his new granddaughter. It was just nice to talk about normal stuff sometimes, which was probably why he always started off their meeting with a chat session.
"So," Bill said matter-of-factly. "How is your boyfriend?"
"Bill, I broke up with Jimmy months ago, and I know you know that," she said. "Should I be concerned that you're asking me about my relationship status?"
He ignored her question and turned around to grab a large manila envelope from the table behind him. Then he set it down on his desk and folded his hands neatly over it.
"So we were auditing all your files, which we like to do if there's a big change or a major contract." He bowed his head a bit, looking at her over the rim of his glasses with a knowing smile. "We've done this a few times before for you so I don't know why we didn't find this until now."
He tapped his hand on the manila envelope, which made Vanessa nervous. "Do I dare ask what that is?"
Bill smiled at her awkwardly and leaned back in his chair. "Do you remember the series finale for The Class?"
Did she remember? It had been a decade since she did the show, but it was her big break so it still had a special place in her heart. And that finale! The network went all out and spent a ton of money to send them to Prague. She filmed the final scene — a wedding between her character, Stella, and Stella's high-school sweetheart Parker — right on the Charles Bridge in the heart of the city.
"Yeah, of course," she said. "That wedding is still one of my favorites in my entire career."
Bill slowly pulled an ornate piece of paper out of the manila envelope and handed it over to Vanessa. She recognized it immediately. It was the prop marriage contract that she and her co-star, Austin Briscoe, signed when they filmed that scene so long ago. The paper was written in a foreign language — Vanessa assumed it was Czech — but the signatures at the bottom were unmistakable. Right before they filmed the scene, Vanessa leaned over to Austin and said, "Let's sign it with our own names." It was a little thing that fans wouldn't notice, but it was fun to do after they had spent so much time together as friends and co-stars.
It was bittersweet to see this prop in her hand now. She loved that memory, loved so many memories of her time on that show with everyone, but things had changed in the decade since The Class went off the air. She had become a big movie star in a blockbuster franchise and Austin… Well, his career went a different way. He was such a great actor that Vanessa was convinced that he would've become a huge star, but it just never happened for him for some reason.
Bill cleared his throat, breaking her out of her trip down memory lane.
"Sorry, I got a little lost in my thoughts there," she said. "It just reminds me of some great memories."
Vanessa looked up at Bill with a smile, but he only stared at her from the other side of his desk. He was almost scowling at her, which was very unlike him.
"So you know what that is."
"Yeah, a prop from the final shot of The Class," she explained. "Although why you have it in my legal files is a bit strange. Did I give this to you?"
He turned the manila folder over and she saw it was addressed to him with his old office address and some stamps she didn't recognize. He held it up a little to read the top corner with the bifocals of his glasses.
"The postmark is a decade ago, just after the date on that."
His voice trailed off and he slowly set the manila envelope back on his desk.
"So why did someone send you this prop you from Prague?"
Bill took a deep breath and leaned over his desk. "That's not a prop."
Vanessa looked at him, trying to find some hint about what was going on. But Bill, a man who was often full of emotion around her, was a blank slate.
"I don't understand."
"It's a marriage contract."
"Why do you have a marriage contract we used as a prop for my show in a box in your office?"
"Again, it's not a prop." Bill took a breath as if he was trying to consider the next words very carefully. "I'm not sure what happened exactly. I have a call out to the old producer of your show. But what I've been able to put together so far—"
"Put together so far?" she asked incredulously.
He put his hand up to calm her down. "What I have been able to put together so far is that the local production company in Prague hired an actual magistrate instead of just an actor posing as a magistrate, and that magistrate thought he was actually performing a wedding and not something for a TV show back in the United States."
Vanessa was thankful she was sitting down because she felt like she was about to pass out from shock. If this was what Bill thought it was, if this wasn't some prop, if it was a legitimate legal document that had been shoved in a box a decade ago, it would mean…
"Am I married to Austin Briscoe?"