"You can't be serious." Scott's voice rang hollow to his own ears, but this wasn't exactly a Hallmark moment. He was pretty sure they didn't make a card for when your mother was blackmailing you.
"I don't have a choice." Stephanie was pacing the short length of his dressing room, nails digging into her arms like her skin was crawling. The fluorescent lights set in the dropped ceiling showed the sores on her face in sharp relief. She was forty-seven, but she looked closer to sixty.
"You do have a choice: rehab." Scott sat down on the leather sofa, the only piece of furniture in the room besides a built-in dressing table. Back in the old days, before his mother/manager had run his career into the ground, Scott was an A-list child star--the youngest ever nominated for an Oscar. He'd had the biggest dressing room--and salary--of any actor on any picture he'd worked. Now, at twenty-eight, he was grateful to have this closet-sized room on the set of the daytime soap A Thousand Wonders.
Stephanie was trying to take even that away from him.
"We can get you in that same place that dried me out." Scott was no hypocrite. He'd done enough drugs by the time he was eighteen to float a small pharmacy. He and his mom used to party together. His friends--what few he'd had--thought his mom was the cool mom, the one who hosted keggers and pot parties. They weren't there to clean up the vomit after one of her benders or to toss a strange man out of the house because Stephanie was too wasted to remember the name of the guy she'd invited to share her bed. His mom's addiction was nothing new, but Scott was clean now. Had been for six years. He'd worked damned hard not only on his sobriety, but on rebuilding the acting career his mother's erratic behavior had nearly destroyed.
He wasn't going to let her screw him over again. Not without a fight.
"Rehab doesn't work for me. You know that." Stephanie pushed a lank, dirty-blonde strand of hair out of her glassy eyes. "All I need is enough of the good stuff to keep me going so I can wean myself off naturally. Those rehab docs ... they want you to go cold turkey, but who needs that shit? I'm already down to using half what I was. Couple more weeks and I'll be clean." Her bony fingers scrubbed over her face. "I don't see what the big deal is. You're loaded. You can slip me ten Gs without even feeling it."
Ten thousand dollars. Jesus. "Is that what you owe your dealer?"
"I'm square with him." She wrinkled her nose, and it was almost possible to see the beauty she'd been before she started using. "But it's getting harder for him to get top grade, and he's raised his prices. Besides," she actually smiled, "he knows I'm trying to get clean. He's helping me by making sure all my shit is pure so I don't need as much of it."
"I bet." Scott stretched his legs out in front of himself and leaned back. "So this guy at International Exposer..." The name of the trash tabloid left a foul taste in his mouth. "He contacted you for dirt on me?"
"I called him," Stephanie bragged. "Said I had a story for him if the cash was right, but didn't tell him what that story was."
Scott felt like hurling on the beige carpet, but he'd learned a long time ago not to show weakness with an addict. "Last time you got in a tight spot, it cost me a hundred and fifty thousand to bail you out." He clenched his jaw. "I told you then I'd never do this again."
"I earned that money." Stephanie's drugged-out eyes flashed, the first animation she'd shown since barging in ten minutes ago, demanding cash. "I've had you acting since you were three years old--got you parts other kids were gnashing their teeth over. You earned millions on my watch."
Scott couldn't argue with her there, but he thought it damned funny Stephanie only remembered the millions he'd made while she was at the helm. She always forgot the part about her squandering eighty-five percent of his earnings. If it hadn't been for the fifteen percent the State of California required studios to put in trust for child stars, Scott would be broke.
He watched her start pacing again. From the way she was jerking--little shudders rolling under the surface of her skin--he figured she was coming down. She kept looking at the door, and he knew from experience what that meant: she had a rock in her front pocket and wanted to get this over with so she could go outside and light up.
She wasn't the only one who wanted this to be finished.
"How'd you find out about me?" His voice was smooth and steady, and Scott was proud of that.