Trace's Forever is the last book in Lake Hope Series and let me tell you it was FABULOUS!! I am full of happiness and love from this story (the whole series if I am being honest). I am also sad that it is over with as I am not ready for it to end. These characters, this town, the love they all have.... the friendships that have envolved... I can not put it into words how much Mel Walker's Lake Hope series has touched my soul. Trace's Forever is probably my second favorite out of the series (Ryan's Kiss being the first). If you want aAlicia's Book Blog 5 Star Review
Alicia's Book Blog
Real Hollywood Romances are Unscripted.
They call me the billion-dollar box office kid and People’s most eligible bachelor, but everyone should know better. That carefully curated persona is a Hollywood fabrication.
Thanks to Forever being a box office smash, I’m returning to Lake Hope to film the sequel. The paparazzi is working overtime speculating that my on-screen romance with my co-star Kimberly Conrad is evolving off-screen.
On screen I’ll continue to play the romantic lead but off screen I’m a different person with a secret that would destroy the image so many have worked so hard to maintain.
I don’t relationships. I don’t do romance.
I wrote the words that convinced America that Trace and Kimberly are the perfect couple. My script for the movie Forever propelled the beautiful ones to an on-screen HEA. Of course, the emotions of the movie felt real to so many because they are – they’re mine. I carry a stupid crush for the most unattainable man in Hollywood. I’m invisible to him and I’ve fed all my words of love to Kimberly, the one woman who actually has the ability to steal his heart.
I can’t let this happen. It’s time to go off-script.
You can’t make this stuff up. But I can. Watch me.
Release date: April 30, 2021
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Trace's Forever: Lake Hope Book Five
The flashes of lights from dozens of cameras nearly blind me. Why am I surprised each and every time? After all, this is my fifteenth film, my tenth as headliner, and I’ve lost count as to the number of movie premieres. You’d think I’d have this down by now. You’d be wrong.
I follow my agent, Stan, up the red carpet. He’s dressed in an Armani suit, custom Italian shoes, and a five-hundred-dollar haircut, his Hollywood-best outfit he pulls out whenever we are slated to run the gauntlet of a press junket. Over two dozen interviews behind us today, one last commitment wrapping up now.
We sneak out of the theater an hour before the end of the movie, both having seen it countless times. We expected that there would still be a crowd waiting but hadn’t expected this size. It looks as if not a single soul has left since we entered the theater hours ago. A thousand screaming fans of all shapes and sizes clamor for our attention or, I should say, my attention.
My trained eyes ignore the paparazzi and float in the direction of the true fans. They are easy to spot once you know what you are looking at.
The paparazzi are easy to spot; they are usually dressed like the homeless yet carry cameras worth more than a Honda. That faraway, dead expression on their faces, their soulless eyes, and the theme song from Jaws playing in the background. Yeah, I’m not a fan.
Stan tugs on my elbows, directing me up the red carpet toward the idling limo waiting at the curb. I spot a thin girl who appears to be no more than sixteen unsuccessfully attempting to push her way toward the front of the crowd. She is easily tussled back, even on her tiptoes, too short to see over the crowd, but that doesn’t stop her from holding her phone above her head, blindly taking pictures in my direction.
I turn toward the line, the crowd surging forward, my name shouted from the lips of a hundred strangers.
“Trace, this way.”
“Smile for me, Trace, I’m your biggest fan.”
“Oh my god, he’s right there.”
I plant on what has been described by People magazine as my billion-dollar smile and step toward the line. I already sense Stan behind me, his objections lost in the buzz of the crowd. I walk directly toward the football-sized fan at the front of the line, who is tapping his phone like a drum kit. He’s easily capturing a hundred pictures of me in the time it takes me to reach him.
“Evening,” I say in his direction, and he lowers his phone, a frozen expression on his face as if he’s in disbelief that I am speaking to him. The crowd around him freezes in silence with a sudden interest in our conversation.
“Thanks for coming out. Hopefully, you’ve gotten enough pictures. Do you mind stepping to the side and letting the young lady stuck behind you through?”
The man’s feet remain locked in place. Thankfully, the group to his immediate left understands my request, pulling back and clearing a path. I step to the side and lean forward, catching the sightline of the young girl bouncing on her toes, attempting to see. I point at her, and the remaining people step aside. “Miss?” I wave her forward.
The crowd parts and sees this sprite of a woman for the first time. She, like football guy, is frozen with a look that says she can’t believe I’m talking to her. “Yes, you. May I ask you something?”
The pink streak in her blonde hair captures my attention for a moment, her familiar T-shirt confirming her fan status. She shuffles up to the velvet rope.
“Yes, Mr. Edwards,” she squeaks out, her voice cracking
I smirk at her use of my proper, respectful name. “Actually, I have two questions. First one, what is your favorite Trace Edwards’ movie?”
She bounces on her toes, the nervousness immediately evaporating, “Forever!” she shouts, and the crowd near her applauds. She points with both hands toward her T-shirt, the famous Forever logo draped across the beauty of sparkling Lake Hope. “I’ve seen it five times in the theater and fourteen times on cable.”
Like I said, I can easily spot the true fans. I turn toward Stan. He’s already familiar with what I’m about to do.
“Second question, what’s your IG handle?”
She blurts it out as easily as she would her name. I lift the velvet rope and beckon her under it onto the red carpet. “Thanks for coming out to the premiere tonight. What is your name? Do you mind?”
I lift my arm and wait for her consent to place my hand on her shoulder. Stan holds up my camera phone for a picture.
“I’m Melody,” she says and nods, raising her thin hand to meet mine on her shoulder, a prideful beam on her face. We both turn toward Stan and smile.
I whisper to her, “Are you familiar with the Forever…” I don’t finish the sentence as Melody releases my hand, her small hands shooting out, fingers forming half a heart. My hand mirrors hers, our two halves meeting. The famous Forever heart symbol is second nature to its fans. I match the movement and beam once again toward Stan.
Stan nods, his anxious eyes imploring me to hurry.
“Thanks for coming out tonight, Melody.” I’m not surprised when she leans in for a hug. “Check your Instagram in about five minutes. Something tells me it’s about to blow up.”
“Thank you, Mr. Edwards. My classmates will never believe this. You’re on your way back to Lake Hope, right?”
After a dozen years in the business, I’m no longer shocked to find out that the fans know my every movement. Tonight is the last premiere for my latest project, Lethal Agent. It’s a spy thriller, a genre I’ve mastered.
However, I’m headed to the airport to fly to Indiana and return to Lake Hope, the site of Melody’s favorite movie, Forever, my first foray into the romance genre. This impulsive choice on my part was easily one of my most successful decisions. It’s linked me to a new genre, earning me a new slew of fans, primarily female. The billion-dollar box office hit was easily my most successful film to date.
“Yeah, headed there now. We begin shooting in two days.” The buzz for the sequel to Forever is red-hot, and we’ve yet to film a single scene yet.
Her eyes sparkle with joy. “I can’t wait. I’ll be first in line.”
“It won’t be out for another year, but how about this.” She leans closer. “When it’s released, I’ll have a dozen VIP seats reserved for you right here. Invite your parents and your classmates.”
Her squeal nearly blows out my eardrum.
“Trace,” Stan implores and points toward the limo.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Melody continues as I wave toward her and work my way up the rope. I high-five a few of the fans as Melody races toward me and shouts, “Say hi to Kimberly for me. You two are perfect together.”
My paparazzi-ready smile returns, and I nod as a hulky security guard steps toward Melody and directs her back behind the velvet rope. The rest of her words are drowned out by the shouts from the crowd. Kimberly Conrad is my co-star in the Forever movie. Our on-screen chemistry has been stoking off-screen rumors for over a year now.
Stan taps my shoulder and points to the open limo door. He slips in, and I follow, the chauffeur slamming the door shut. The invasion of silence is a stark contrast to the crowd’s noise.
I write down Melody’s IG handle and hand it to Stan. He already has the photos queued up and forwards all the information to our PR firm.
They’ll take the steps of due diligence prior to posting. Another Hollywood lesson that no one warns you about. My profile is so high these days that I can’t simply take a picture and post it. Every element of a photo has to go through a team. Melody’s social media history will be searched and appropriately vetted to confirm she is who she claims to be, a teenage fan. The team will scan the backgrounds of the photos for anything else that might be off. Even T-shirts, slogans, symbols on baseball caps, and a hundred other little details will be scoured by the team prior to granting approval to post.
The internet is unforgiving and is forever. It’s a ridiculous but unfortunately necessary step. One slipup by a star with my profile would be chum in the water for an element that is always looking to cancel a celebrity.
“Our last premiere. You must be relieved?” Stan continues as he scrolls through his phone, a constant appendage.
“Twenty-two premieres, twenty-two cities, and nine countries—yes I’m relieved. Four weeks in Lake Hope should be the perfect cure.” I can’t help but smile.
I’ve shot movies all around the world, intergalactic space movies, thrillers set in Dubai, London, Paris, and South America, but a quiet, beautiful lake in middle America is easily my most favorite location. It’s not just the location but the town, the people, and the cast. Maybe it’s a romance genre thing, but I’ve never connected so tight with a crew as much as I did with the cast of Forever. Everyone from the technical crew to my co-stars, to the screenwriter, Jill Hanover, who is the brilliant author of the novel the movie is based.
“Mia Marshall has confirmed the truck rental and will meet you at the airport,” Stan says, scrolling through his phone. “You sure you just don’t want me to hire a limo and driver for you?”
I shake my head. Four weeks of filming is going to get intense. Last time I didn’t take advantage of the natural beauty of the area; this time I’m going to venture out and explore. For that I will need my own set of wheels.
Stan holds up his phone. “The PR firm has gotten back to us. They want to know if there any personal message you want to add to the post to Melody?”
I snicker at our conversation. “Tell them to add, ‘Looking forward to seeing you at the premiere of Forever 2’ and have them tag Kimberly as well.”
Stan’s chuckle fills the cabin. He knows the history between Kimberly and me. She’s the romantic love interest and co-star of the Forever movie. She’s back for the sequel, this time playing the role of movie wife, an extravagant wedding the centerpiece of the sequel. The paparazzi have had a field day pairing the two of us together in real life, the studio happily fueling the flames. The thrill junkie in me and Kimberly’s fearlessness both add to the flame.
It’s been over a year and a half since the release of the original Forever movie, and clickbait pairing the two of us together still receive over half a million clicks a day. That number is about to explode once again when filming begins.
“You’ve just made her day.” Stan continues tapping away with a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
I’m not sure if he’s referring to Melody or Kimberly.
A large 747 Southwest Airways jet roars in the sky above my car, my excited eyes tracking its descent.
“Thanks for coming with me to the airport,” I say and glance across to the passenger seat at my neighbor and best friend, Nina. Her dark hair hides her face as she stares out at the traffic on the highway. We’re only a mile from the airport exit.
“You’re welcome, Jill. It was the perfect excuse to escape the kids for a bit.” The corners of her lips rise with joy, just the thought of her two kids causing that reaction every single time. “When you decide to have kids, don’t bunch them a year apart. It’ll be a decade before I ever get another good night’s sleep.”
“Duly noted.” I nod with no clue as to when I will ever consider having kids. I must first find a man. With my world changing at warp speed in the last year and a half, I no longer rule out anything.
“You know I don’t mind coming with you and driving your car back home, but you do know you could have taken a taxi or parked in long-term parking. It’s really safe there. I know money isn’t the issue, not after the way your novel Forever has blown up.”
I nod once again, understanding her thought process. I’ve had versions of this conversation with nearly all of my close friends and family members over the last year. I am truly blessed. I released my debut novel, Forever, a little over two years ago in a desperate move to get away from a dead-end corporate job. A Hail Mary move, hoping I could supplement my meager earnings and upgrade my weekend splurges from ramen to SpaghettiOs.
The book wasn’t on anybody’s radar until serendipity tipped her hand.
A random reader carried my book through an airport and crossed paths with international Hollywood superstar Trace Edwards. For some reason, he noticed the book and asked about it. So intrigued, he offered up a signed autographed photo and a post to his Instagram in exchange for the book.
Who knew real men read romance?
He was so taken by the story he purchased the film rights, which I hadn’t ever considered.
The rest is history. The studio reached out to me to write the screenplay. We filmed in beautiful Lake Hope and released the movie a little over a year and a half ago.
No one was prepared for the reception. My little novel became the first billion-dollar romance movie in history.
Now I sit here two years after the release of the novel, headed to the airport to return to the scene of the crime. The sequel, Forever and Ever, begins filming in two days.
“Yeah, I know I can afford it, but why waste money. Two years ago, I was living in a studio apartment eating day-old discounted bagels. I now have a nice starter house right next door to you. Things are happening so fast, and nothing is guaranteed.” It’s a familiar refrain. I still pinch my pennies, worried that any day now this incredible bubble will burst. Fear races through my veins as I picture returning to a soul-sucking office job.
Nina points toward the exit. “Yeah, and in two years you’ll be living in Beverly Hills. Just don’t forget us little people,” she jokes, but I take her words seriously. I’ve been to a dozen movie premieres, have been on the back lots of Hollywood studios, sat across from the table from some of the industry’s biggest names. It is an easy seduction to get sucked in and lose sight of reality. I won’t forget where I’ve come from.
“I doubt that very much. Even if I did, I would keep my little starter house. It’s perfect for me.”
She twists in her seat to watch my reaction. I know Nina enough to know she is about to challenge me. “So, if Hollywood heartthrob Trace Edwards asked you to move to La-La Land with him, you wouldn’t?”
I signal and turn the wheel, hoping it hides the blush that I can feel forming on my cheeks. My heart begins to race. I’ve never said a word to another soul about my growing attraction for Trace. It’s ridiculous—I’m a nobody, and he’s the world’s most eligible bachelor. I decide to deflect. “Ha, like that’ll ever happen. Trace dates supermodels and beautiful actresses. He’s more likely to ask you out than me.”
She laughs and twists back in her seat. “We can all dream. I think every red-blooded woman over twenty-five has a fantasy involving Trace.” Her giggle causes a strange sensation in me, a sense of protectiveness.
“He is a really, really nice guy. I can personally vouch for that. This is one time the tabloids and press mill have gotten it right.”
“I envy Kimberly—did you see her on Entertainment Spotlight last night?” Nina pivots away from our ridiculous fantasies.
I lean toward her with renewed interest. Kimberly is Trace’s co-star from the Forever movie. Their movie romance has been hinted everywhere to have carried over to real life, but Trace has told me in confidence that it’s just smoke, something to keep the rabid fan base chewing on until the sequel debuts.
Nina drones on, “Kimberly had just wrapped a commercial shoot for a new fragrance coming next fall. They interviewed her, and she said she couldn’t wait to get back to Lake Hope and slip into the arms of Trace. Two months of shooting, kissing, and love scenes has that woman floating on air. Add to the fact that she gets paid to do all of this, and I think I want to come back as Kimberly in my next life.”
“Ha, ha.” A pathetic laugh escapes, and I turn the wheel toward the departure area. “Much of that is just to create buzz. I never realized how much effort is put in behind the scenes to keep a star’s name relevant. Frankly, I find it all exhausting.” I flatten my tone to hide my interest level of all things Kimberly and Trace related.
“I’d like Trace to make me exhausted.” She laughs at her inappropriate joke. “Although I don’t think that’s possible—remember what I said about the kids? No, seriously.”
I pull over to the drop-off lane and exit the car. Nina hops around the car. “Just put the car in the garage and lock it. I’ll be gone for several weeks.” I step toward the trunk and pull out my bags.
“Please tell me you’ve shipped some clothes ahead of time. No way you are going away for weeks and only have those two bags.” I slip my carry-on over my shoulder and pull up the handle on my roller bag.
“It’s summer. All I need are shorts, T-shirts, and a good pair of jeans.”
She shakes her head and pulls me into a hug. “If I were going to be in the presence of Trace for a month, trust me, he’d never see me in the same outfit twice.”
“That’s the difference between you and me. I’m not interested in Trace. Even if I were, there is no way I’m competing in the clothes department with his supermodel friends.”
I don’t know if it’s my logic or the gate agent eyeing us to move along, but Nina doesn’t argue further. “Safe travels, babe. Miss you already.” She climbs into the driver’s seat and begins to adjust the seat. “I already know the answer but have to ask anyway,” she shouts through the passenger window at me. “Did you at least treat yourself to a first-class ticket?”
I shake my head, my standard reply at the ready. “The rear of the plane gets there the same time as the front. What’s the point?”
She returns a knowing shake. “Sometimes a treat is because you deserve it, babe. And other times it’s showing the world how to treat you.” She blows me a kiss and pulls away.
I reach down and pull my bag. I did include one treat, one I didn’t mention. Buried deep in my bag is a daring dress I have no intention of wearing. A very non-Jill dress forced upon me by my Hollywood friend Amy, Forever and Ever’s director. The dress was a leftover gift from some studio-sponsored fashion show. They were going to be sent over to the wardrobe department to be cataloged, archived, and probably forgotten forever.
Amy and I share a fashion sense of simplicity, practicality, and functionality, but even she believes I’ve taken it too far. She insisted I pick a dress from the pile, any dress.
It’s a dress I would never purchase. With spaghetti straps, a dangerous exposed back, and a glimmer that will draw attention, it’s the complete opposite of what I normally wear. The color, grass green, was a selection made by my subconscious. I only realized later that it just happens to be Trace’s favorite.
Even though I can’t imagine any scenario where I will get to wear the dress this trip, I do know who I’d like to be in the room if I do wear it.
I know it’s silly, but I craft unlikely fiction for a living. Who knows?
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