Hi guys! We have Poppy Dennison popping in today with her upcoming release When He Was Bad, we have a brilliant guest post, a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway where you can win your own copy of When He Was Bad, so guys, check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
When He Was Bad
Lights, camera… wardrobe?
Coconut Cove is television’s newest hot sensation. The glitzy teen drama set in the beach lover’s paradise of Key West is the talk of every gossip rag eager for dirt and hookup news on the hot young actors—like Levi Phillips, who plays the show’s resident bad boy.
Levi’s attraction to costume designer Whit heads into high romance when Whit orders Levi out of his clothes—in an attempt to save Levi from heat exhaustion, of course.
Sassy Whit knows just how to dress, and undress, Levi, and soon the sexy duo are steaming it up offscreen, which is no surprise to their friends and castmates.
But love in the public eye is complicated, and rumors pose challenges that can threaten careers and love….
Thanks for having me on MM Good book Reviews today! I’m really excited to be here to tell you a bit about Levi and Whitney! Don’t tell my other characters, but I have a serious soft spot for these two!
I might possibly be dating myself, but do you guys remember the original 90210? You know, the one with Luke Perry and Jason Priestly? I remember being absolutely shocked when I learned that Luke Perry was actually 24 when he played Beverly Hills high schooler Dylan McKay! (And the actress who played Andrea was 29!)
It’s a pretty common occurrence for actors playing high schoolers to be in their twenties (Any Teen Wolf fans around? Dylan O’Brien and Tyler Posey were both in their early twenties when the show started and they were the youngest of the cast!) I’ve always found that age discrepancy to be really interesting. Does it add extra responsibility to the actor? If you’re playing a teenager but aren’t one in real life, do you have to behave differently in public? Can you still smoke and drink and act your age if you have young and impressionable fans?
MJ O’Shea and I decided to explore those ideas in Coconut Cove. Levi has some secrets in his past that won’t exactly play well with his teenage image, even if his character is the town badboy! Whitney is the show’s costume designer and he’s not willing to put up with Levi’s crap, bad history or not. Levi feels a responsibility though, both to Whitney and the rest of the cast and crew not to tarnish their images with his mistakes.
So what do you think? Should actors who play teens be held to a different standard?
ROBBIE STEPPED onto the porch of the dilapidated bungalow he shared with his mother, being careful to skip the second step because it creaked. He opened the screen before unlocking the door and stepping quietly inside.
It was pitch-black outside. Several of the streetlamps were out, and no one had bothered to replace them. Not that they would on this part of the island. Robbie didn’t live in the prettily painted houses of Coconut Cove, where the sun shone brightly, reflecting only the beautiful, clean, and fit for tourists.
No, he lived farther out, away from the million-dollar houses and perfect white-sand beaches.
“Robbie? That you?”
His mom sounded tired. She coughed, and a billow of smoke poured from her mouth. “Ma, you said you weren’t going to smoke in the house anymore.”
“I know, baby. I’m sorry. Needed the pick-me-up today.” She sat at their tiny two-person kitchen table dressed in faded scrubs. He thought it was ridiculous that they made her wear them to clean the fucking hospital rooms.
Robbie sighed and slipped his leather jacket from his shoulders. “Why are you still up? Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”
She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I just got up. Picked up an extra shift at the hospital, so I’m working a double today. And why are you just getting home?”
“Was at a party with some friends. At the beach.”
“Oh, that’s good. You still wearing your daddy’s jacket?”
Robbie shrugged and slung it over his shoulder. “I think it makes me look like James Dean.”
His mom laughed and pushed herself to her feet. He knew the James Dean reference would make her smile. She loved the old Hollywood heartthrob. “You shouldn’t stay out so late, Robbie. You’ve got to do good in school, get out of here.”
“I will, Ma. I’ll take care of everything. Don’t worry.”
She patted his cheek as she went out the front door. Robbie locked it behind her and thumped his head against the frame.
WHITNEY SIGHED, the sound lost over the noise of the dryer tumbling away the latest load of sweat-soaked T-shirts he had to clean, then iron, then file in the correct spot. Who knew being a wardrobe designer came with so much laundry? Well, he did, actually, but the perks were worth it. He eyed the racks of designer clothes, organized by character, with an unhealthy amount of glee. Ninety percent of them weren’t his style, but just having them here, knowing he’d ordered them, that he would get the chance to order lots more. Yeah. Glee.
The timer on the dryer hadn’t dinged, so Whit went back to one of the many tabs he had open on his laptop. There were definite perks to this job. Speaking of… he rapidly keyed in a few strokes, opening a designer’s site he’d forgotten to check. His squeal of excitement would have shattered eardrums, if anyone were around.
“What the hell, Whit?”
Oh. Someone was around. “Hey, Levi.”
The actor stumbled into the room and collapsed into one of the overstuffed chairs Whitney had purloined from storage. The house—well, mansion, really—they used as their base of operations for Coconut Cove had been furnished with lots of bright, tropical-patterned furniture. What the design team didn’t want to use in some random set, they’d cast aside. He’d called dibs on a couple of chairs, because he could.
He focused his attention back on the actor who’d stopped by. Running his mind through the day’s call list, Whit realized he didn’t have a wardrobe change on the books for Levi. Actually, the actor didn’t look so hot. Well, he looked too hot. Overly hot. As in temperature, not looks. Well, in looks too. Hell, everyone on the cast was insanely hot. Not the point.
“Levi? You okay?”
He really didn’t look so good. Whitney rushed over to Levi’s side and found him paler than he should be. He was also sweating profusely.
“Fuck, Levi. Talk to me.”
“Just tired. And hot.”
“Oh hell.” Whitney ran to the little fridge he kept in the corner of the room and grabbed as many bottles of water as he could carry. Then he hurried back and dropped them on the floor in front of Levi. He opened one and handed it over. “Here. Drink this. Now.”
Levi complied as Whitney knelt in front of him and began unlacing the black leather boots Levi wore as Robbie, Coconut Cove’s resident bad boy. He noticed absently that Levi had carried in the black leather jacket Robbie wore as his signature piece and dropped it on the floor by the chair. He would have bitched at the carelessness if he weren’t so worried.
“What’re you doing?” Levi asked after he lowered the bottle. It was half-empty. Good.
“Taking your clothes off.”
“Oh yeah?” Levi lifted his eyebrow wickedly.
Whitney tsked absently. “I need to cool you down.”
“If you’re taking my clothes off, the opposite’s gonna happen, Whit.”
“Just focus. You look like you’ve got heatstroke.”
“You don’t want my body?”
Anybody would. With his sleek skin, rippling muscles, and long lean frame, Levi Phillips was gorgeous, and Whitney lusted after him as much as anyone.
But at the moment, he was more worried about the man having a seizure. “I want your body out of these clothes before you pass out.”
“You don’t care about me; you’re just worried about your precious clothes. I’m not going to ruin your fuckin’ wardrobe.”
“Shut up. Drink.”
Whitney reached for the snap of the jeans Levi wore—heh, Levi wearing jeans. He never got tired of that joke—only to have Levi slap his hands away.
“Cut it out, Whit. I’m fine.”
Whitney was really starting to get worried. Levi’s pupils were dilated, his face was flushed, and his skin was hot to the touch. But scaring the actor wouldn’t help, so distraction was the best method of attack.
“You’re right, I’m worried about the damn clothes, you selfish piece of crap. Do you know how expensive these jeans are? No, of course you don’t. More than I make in a week.” Not really, but Levi wouldn’t know that. “So get ’em off right now. Stop arguing with me, or there is a really uncomfortable outfit in your immediate future. Something really itchy with fur and beading.”
“Can’t be worse than a fucking leather jacket, jeans, and boots in ninety degrees.”
“Hi, not the writer,” Whitney quipped. “Now strip.”
Levi complied, pushing to his feet to shuck the jeans down his legs.
“Oh come on, Whit.”
Levi huffed in annoyance but stripped it off and dropped the shirt on Whitney’s head. “There. Now will you leave me alone?”
“Nope. Drink. And sit back down before you fall over.”
Levi dropped back into the chair with a sigh. Whitney scooped up more bottles of water. He tucked one behind Levi’s neck, then pushed his head back onto it.
Levi yelped. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Shut up. Don’t move.”
He then tucked a bottle between Levi’s legs and put a hand on his chest to keep him still.
“I’m going to kill you,” Levi grumbled.
“No, you aren’t. Drink.”
When he’d done what he could do, Whitney grabbed his phone and called the production assistant, Amy.
“Hey, Ame. It’s Whit. I need a medic in the wardrobe room, please. Levi has some heat exhaustion going on here and needs to be checked out.”
“No, I don’t,” Levi bitched. “And take this bottle out of my crotch.”
“Do not move, Levi.”
“Sure,” Amy said into the phone. “I’ll have them there in five. Is he okay? Nausea? How’s his pulse?”
“I haven’t checked his pulse. I stripped him down and have water bottles on him. He doesn’t seem disoriented, but he’s really cranky and hot and his pupils are blown.”
“Well, the cranky doesn’t worry me. I’d be more worried if he was being agreeable, but the rest sounds bad. Thank you for knowing the signs. I have someone on their way now.”
“Stay with him, yeah?”
Amy was trying to keep her voice light, but she was worried. She was one of their mama bears, along with Lorelei and Eugenia, and his concern had immediately become hers.
“Why are you talking about me like I’m not even here?” Levi complained from the couch, his voice more of a croak than normal.
“Because you’re pretending to be a tough guy but will be throwing up or passing out in my wardrobe room if we don’t get you cooled down, and I don’t want to deal with the hassle. So shut up and drink your water already.”
Levi huffed but took another drink from the almost empty bottle. “I don’t remember you being this bitchy.”
“Yeah, well, you never scared the crap out of me before.”
He went to get another bottle of water from the fridge, shooting a quick text to Xara that he needed to talk to her when she had a chance. He had no doubt that Amy would let her know there was a problem with Levi, but he’d rather be proactive. Their director cared about her cast and crew. She wouldn’t be happy about this.
The medic, Wes, arrived within a couple of minutes, and Whitney received a reply from Xara saying she’d stop by soon. Amy appeared as well, no doubt to make sure Levi would be all right. Wes checked Levi’s pulse and temperature and then plucked the fresh bottle of water from Whitney’s hand.
“Drink this,” Wes ordered before looking up at Amy. “I need Gatorade or something, or I’m going to need to run him up to the hospital and replace fluids. Water ain’t gonna cut it.”
Amy turned and was on her walkie-talkie in seconds.
“I’m not going to the hospital because I got a little too hot,” Levi grumbled.
“The hell you won’t,” Wes volleyed back. “You’ll do as I say.”
Levi groaned but opened the bottle and chugged away.
Wes sent a glare Whitney’s way. “Why the hell is he wearing a leather jacket in this heat?”
Whitney’s hackles rose. “Because that’s what I was told to put him in.”
As much as he wanted to scratch Wes’s eyes out for the accusation, his ire would be misplaced. This happened on sets. In Coconut Cove land, it was approaching Christmas. Although it wasn’t exactly cold in Key West in December, Robbie wearing his leather jacket would be reasonable. Unfortunately, in real time, it was April. Not leather weather at all in the tropical paradise. Hell, he’d done a photo shoot for swimsuits in November once. The models wore bikinis in freezing cold temps. He’d had to have parkas on hand to keep them from freezing to death between shots.
He’d have to talk to Xara about Levi’s wardrobe. The jacket was an important part of Robbie’s storyline, but not if it made it impossible for Levi to work. Whitney bit his lip and grabbed the jacket off the floor. Maybe he could come up with something else.
“You know what, even with replacing electrolytes, this isn’t gonna be enough. I’m gonna play it safe and take him to the emergency room. He’s dehydrated, at the very least.” Wes stood and grabbed his kit from the floor.
“I don’t need to go to the damn hospital. I’m fine. Just a little overheated.”
“You will go. Read your contract. You have to accept the counsel of the set medical team.”
“It actually stipulates that I can call in my own doctor to get a second opinion,” Levi stated smugly. “So bite me.”
Wes was suddenly unsure. “Yeah, but—”
“Please,” Amy begged the actor.
“No.” Levi smirked at her. “I—”
Whitney leaned over and put his arms on the chair. He glared at Levi, who seemed almost startled. “Listen, you goddamn prima donna. You will go get checked out and stop acting like a whiny diva bitch.”
Levi’s eyes bugged out before he cackled. “Takes one to know one.”
“Exactly. So go and make sure you’re okay so Xara doesn’t have to give you that look of hers when she finds out you didn’t go. Besides, I’m not above calling Lorelei and Eugenia.”
“Dammit.” Levi clearly realized Whitney had won this battle. Both the show’s makeup artist and hairstylist would mother Levi to death, and he well knew it. Whitney smirked, imagining the tag-teamed lecture they would give Levi if they found out he wasn’t taking care of himself. Hell, Whitney had received one of those patented lectures after they found out he’d fooled around with a reporter after their premiere party. He could still feel the tongue-lashing.
Whitney grabbed a pair of basketball shorts out of a reject pile, along with a somewhat matching tank top. He couldn’t send Levi to the hospital in his underwear, now could he? He kicked off his own flip-flops, knowing he wore the same size as the actor. He’d find something else to wear, but he wasn’t putting hot shoes back on Levi. He helped Levi slip on the clothes under Wes’s watchful eye, then turned to get back to work.
After Wes and Levi left, Amy looked over at him with a smile. “I didn’t think we were getting him to go, but you handled that like a pro.”
Whitney shrugged. “I know these guys now. How they tick. I’d never have taken that approach with Howie, but Levi hates the thought of being a diva. He never complains, even when he should.”
“I know. I try to keep an eye on him. I don’t know how it got past me that he was getting too hot. I really do try to take care of them.”
“Hey.” Whitney bumped his hip against hers and smiled. “You can’t watch us all, mother hen. And I know you were handling Prince Whines-A-Lot this morning.”
Amy sighed. “Why does Howie have to be a bitch about everything, Whit? You know he’s pissed at Dakota now for not giving him better lines? Like he writes the show just for Howie.”
“I heard. Dakota can handle him, though. Don’t worry about it. Now, why don’t you go get some cold water, Gatorade, and orange slices out to the set and make sure no one else is overheated.”
“It’s like they’re soccer players or something.”
Whitney chuckled over that. “Can you imagine Howie playing soccer?”
They both laughed over the imagery of the diva actor getting dirty.
“Okay, I’m off to the set for Operation Cool Down.” Her phone buzzed, and she pulled it off her hip. “Xara says she’s on her way,” she read from her text messages. “You okay?”
Whitney lifted the leather jacket again and eyed it thoughtfully. If he couldn’t think of something else, he’d have to talk Xara into not making Levi wear the damn thing anymore. It wasn’t worth it.
Add two parts sass and one part sweet and you have Poppy Dennison to a T—sweet tea that is. Raised by a gaggle of Southern women who love reading and have backbones of steel, Poppy was brought up to see the best in people but always speak her mind. Mix it all together, like Grandma’s famous cobbler, and you get a sassy, Southern lady with a quick wit and loads of charm, who will soften any blow with “Bless your heart.”
Her books reflect her small town roots, are filled with all the comforts of home, and come with side dish of spicy, because that’s the way she likes it.
Win an ecopy of When He Was Bad!
So what do you think? Should actors who play teens be held to a different standard?