Off-Limits Box Set, p.1Ella James
Table of Contents
Off Limits Box Set
The Boy Next Door
I. Part One
II. Part Two
III. Part Three
IV. Part Four
Copyright © 2017 by Ella James
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Published by HEA Press
To Rebecca, for all the reasons
What would an aspiring writer wear? I never know. I’m kind of always tempted to go with a black pants suit, designer heels, and a sharp black handbag, but that’s too boring. I’m not a regular writer. I write children’s stories. Not books—films.
Bits of dialogue I write end up getting delivered by animated frogs and, on occasion, dancing rainbows. At the summer internship after my freshman year of college, I worked for Nickelodeon. I was sitting at the writers’ table on a show that hadn’t launched yet, helping make the pilot. Late one night, one of the animators needed someone to wear a long, stick-on tail and pretend to fall into a toilet—so he could train the camera on the person and then use it as a model for his animated monkey.
Yep, you guessed it. I was volunteered. I had to put on a giant rain boot and stick my foot into a toilet for about two hours, between the hours of two and four a.m.
I thought about that experience today—two years later—as I picked out the outfit for the first day of my summer internship at Imagine Luxe. I ended up going with a funky, sky blue, designer skirt suit, peep-toe heels, and a headband with a unicorn horn.
As I extend my hand to shake with a pretty, slightly older blonde girl, I wonder if the horn was too much.
“Hi Amelia, I’m Carrie.” She nods slightly, showing me the pointed ends of her pixie cut.
“Hi.” I give her my best I’m-not-insane smile, and she returns it.
“Great to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.” I get dumb and super unfunny when I’m nervous.
“I’m one of the writers—er, story artists—” she says, doing air quotes— “on your team this summer. Our team lead asked me to come meet you and give you a quick tour.”
“Thanks.” I can’t help tilting my head back again, casting a look around the vast, round lobby. The Imagine headquarters, near Broadway in downtown Nashville, is a giant, gold dome that looks like something right out of a children’s film. The ceiling is peppered with windows, streaming light into the lobby. Which is a good thing, because in the middle of the lobby, there’s a tiny grove of willow trees.
“As you can see, we have a geodesic building,” Carrie says. “The elevators are back this way,” she says, sticking her thumb back over her shoulder, so it points toward a set of elevator shafts. “There are a couple of financial offices on this floor, supplies on floor two, marketing on three, screening on four, and pre- and post-production on floors five and six, with executive suites on seven and eight.”
I blink. There is no way I’m going to remember that, so I just nod.
“Oh wait, I forgot, there’s a cafeteria behind the elevators. Do you see it?” She takes a few steps to her left, so we can see around the elevators. I spot a couple of awnings set up like a mall food court, with metallic-looking picnic tables scattered in the middle.
“They’re open at all times, and there are two little rooms off every studio with cots and everything. It’s weird, the way we work here. It’s really immersive. You’ll see.”
She waves me toward the elevators, and we walk under an array of sparkling, colored metal butterflies, strung from the ceiling.
“The layout here is kind of weird,” she tells me as we step onto the elevator. “Every floor is one big circle, as you can see. We’ll be getting off on five, where a lot of the studios are. There’s a vending area up there, plus two exercise areas, plus a butterfly exhibit. It’s for the animators working on Herald, the one that’s coming out in August—about the butterfly. It’s
I make a face. “Butterflies are kind of awful. Have you seen those things up close?”
She smiles, but I swear, I think her eyes bug out. “I’ll have to look.”
Perfect. So I’m going to be the weird one. Why am I not shocked?
“Anyway,” she continues, brushing a palm over her short, spiky hair, “I think you’ll like the team they’ve thrown together. Pairing summer writing interns with permanent staffer animators, and intern animators with staff writers, is something Imagine has been doing for a while now—way before the Disney merger last year. Our team’s lead animator is from Disney, actually. He’s here from Burbank, just for this. They take the interns seriously because, obviously, in just another…”
“Year,” I offer.
“In just another year, you could be working here fulltime. I’ve gotta be honest with you, too, I think our top dog, Sara Blaise, kind of likes to make the permanent staff submit to the whims of an intern. Keeps us humble.”
“So how does it work?” I ask as we step off on floor five. I blink at the brilliant purple carpet, which forms a ring around the elevators and spreads across a bridge that leads to the circular hallway Carrie mentioned.
“You’re technically the lead writer—story artist—yes, and hot guy from Disney is our lead animator.” She snaps her fingers. “I’ll remember his name. He is hot as hell. All muscle-y and tan, and I just love a guy with glasses.”
“Oh yeah.” I follow her toward the circular hallway, which is done in various textures of sharp white, so that the floors and walls gleam in the sunlight coming from the windows at the top of the dome. “So yeah, we work as a unit. Four writers, three animators, one or two assistants… I forgot the rest. We’re a small unit, since we’re only producing a single reel of film. Eleven minutes, if you didn’t know.”
“I worked at Dreamworks last summer.”
“Fancy pants.” She smiles, and I decide she’s trying to be nice rather than condescending.
“Oh, totally. I spent two hours once with my foot in a toilet bowl, serving as a computer model for a monkey.”
Her hand goes up to her mouth. “In that movie The Jungle Train?” She laughs.
“Actually, yeah. I was the model for Alicia, the little sister monkey.”
I laugh, too. “Right? It’s very glamorous, this line of work.”
“Oh yes. Especially when we have to be here at all hours, eat downstairs and sleep on the cots. You might say,” she quips, “it’s a barrel of monkeys.”
Okay, so this girl is just plain cheesy. I can roll with that. God knows, some of my lame jokes are no better.
I follow Carrie around the circular hallway of floor five, trying to pay attention as she points out the exercise rooms, a tiny hall of vending machines, a room for pets to poop in, and a row of super tiny thinking rooms, “Where you go if everyone else on our team is driving you nuts, and you need to think in silence,” she explains.
I’m more intrigued by the pet poop rooms.
“You can bring a pet to work, yeah. But only if you’re working in one of the bigger production rooms. We’re in a tiny room.”
“What kind of pet do you have?” she asks.
“I don’t actually have one.”
She gives me a weird look, and I can’t help laughing. “It’s the possibility,” I tell her.
“Yeah, yeah. No, I get it.” She lowers her voice. “Just wait until you see our lead animator. Possibility,” she whispers, winking.
“Mmm, I could use some good eye candy. Having a bit of a dry spell,” I confess, also in a whisper.
She grins. “Good, because here we are.” She nods to her right, where there’s a sleek, white door and a thin, vertical window done in pebbled glass—for privacy, I guess.
She gives two swift knocks, then pushes the door open, holding it so I can get a look inside. The room is rectangular, with light boards—lit-up desks—lining three walls and a giant screen stretched across a fourth. In the middle of the room, there is a giant, circular work station, kind of like a cubicle city. Wide, sometimes multi-stacked computer monitors rise up over the little semi-walls that divide work spaces. My eyes fly around the studio, taking in several new faces: three girls and two guys. I step inside and hold a hand up in greeting.
Then, from behind the circle of desks, an office chair turns slowly to face us.
And Dash is in it.
I moved to the woods of Chatham Hills when I was six.
During my preschool years, my daddy’s sculptures took the world by storm. Art museums courted him and fought for showing rights. The New York Times Magazine featured him on their cover, his red hair wild around his handsome face, his hands covered in clay. Even Saturday Night Live celebrated Oliver Frank, showcasing a parody sculpture of Bill Clinton on their Weekend Update segment.
Between the time I was born and the time I started kindergarten, my dad became a household name, rocketed to stardom by a stint as the host of a popular art-themed travel show on PBS; by his marriage to my mother, an award-winning author; and by his own pedigree as the son of a famous poet and a beloved landscape photographer.
By the time I started first grade, he had so many private commissions, he rarely slept. The night of Mama’s wreck, he’d fallen asleep at 3 a.m. in his studio at Little Five Points; I was sleeping in our Uptown penthouse, under the watchful eye of my nanny, Miss Arlen.
Three days after Mama’s funeral, my dad had Miss Arlen dress me, pull my hair into a bow, and walk me to the lobby of our building, where Daddy met us, wrapping one hand around my tiny, chubby one and the other around the handle of a suitcase I hadn’t noticed before.
After a stop at my favorite ice cream parlor, a superhero-themed joint I associated more with Daddy than Mama, we drove out of central Atlanta, winding our way through suburbs while my dad listened to the Rolling Stones and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.
Ice cream dripped onto my dress as I polished off my cone, but unlike my fastidious Mama, Daddy didn’t even blink. We exited in Sandy Springs, a colorful residential area where my father drove into a ballpark, idled his new Porsche Boxster under some oak trees, and pointed to a cement dais between some batting cages and a baseball field.
“This is going to be the site of a fountain someday soon, Amelia. One I’m making. How would you like it if the little girl at the center of the water looks like you?”
I clutched my Dora the Explorer cup and nodded slowly. “Yes,” I whispered.
Daddy made a circle around the parking lot and drove off again, still drumming the steering wheel as we passed golf courses, gated neighborhoods, strip malls, and a little shopping district. I could tell from awnings and signs that these were our sort of shops, the kind of boutiques where you could buy a floppy, polka-dotted shade hat or a rocking wooden frog instead of the regular horse.
This, I thought with a knot in my throat, was the sort of area my Mama would have loved. I rubbed my fingertips over the sequins on my sundress, wondering what she might have bought me had she taken me here. Probably a new purse, I decided. My eyes swam with unshed tears as I remembered the white, leather clutch she’d bought me just a few weeks ago, to match her own white Prada clutch.
“One for you, and one for me.”
I could almost hear her saying that. Tears dripped down my cheeks, and I looked out my window so that Daddy wouldn’t see.
He’d told me she wasn’t coming back, but I didn’t believe it. If Santa and Rudolph could fly around the world in one night and Jesus could come back from being pinned up on a cross, I felt sure my mom—a woman who once grew a lemon tree inside our sunroom, who sewed my injured baby dolls up faster than I could finish a TV show, who regularly pulled a penny out of her elbow or my nose—could come back from being dead.
Maybe I would have to keep it secret. I would find some kind of magic, even a witch spell, like how the Little Mermaid makes that deal with Ursula, and I would go to the little marble drawer where Mama was sleeping at the cemetery. I would find the key to it, and I would bring her out and make her move around and talk to me again.
Off-Limits Box Set by Ella James / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes