I laugh out loud. “That is wrong on so many levels.”

“Honestly, what’s the point of going to a Hollywood shindig if sex and alcohol aren’t part of the mix?”

“We have alcohol,” I remind her, as I refill her wineglass. “As for the sex, I’m sure there will be plenty of prospects.”

“From the C-list,” she reminds me.

I consider a moment. “Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Graham Elliott shows up.” Elliott is Hollywood’s latest mega-star. “Apparently he’s gunning to play Steele in a feature film that’s in the works, and he’s A-list all the way.”

“Not exactly my type, but that means Kirstie Ellen Todd is probably coming, too, right?”

“I doubt it. I saw online that they broke up.”

Cass makes a face, then sighs. “Well, at least I’ve got a shot at her again.”

“One, I’m pretty sure she’s straight. And two, there’s the small problem that you’ll never in a million years meet her.”

“Minor inconveniences, all.”

I shake my head, amused. “Confidence, thy name is Cassidy.”

“Damn straight. Oh, wow, check it out.” She slams back her wine, then uses the empty glass as a pointer. “Spotlights.”

She’s right. Twin searchlights are doing the crisscross-in-the-sky routine right in front of the old Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which is now the TCL Chinese Theatre. When I was growing up, it was Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and so mostly I just think of it as the Chinese theater in Hollywood with the hand- and footprints of so many movie and television stars.

Edward slides the limo into line, and we creep forward slowly until the rear door is even with the red carpet. The limo stops, the door opens, and Cass and I emerge to the flash and buzz of reporters. It slows down as soon as they realize that we aren’t celebrities, though I think that Cass’s killer legs probably kept them snapping a bit longer than they otherwise might.

In front of us, red velvet ropes separate the theater and its forecourt from the spectators who have gathered along this section of Hollywood Boulevard.

Cass squeezes my hand as we start to walk the red carpet toward the iconic pagoda-style entrance to the famous theater. “This is completely iced.”

I really can’t argue, and as we follow the path, I feel a bit like a celebrity myself. That fantasy is only accentuated as I glance around at the tuxedoed men and well-coiffed women who mingle in this open area, chatting with the press and giving tourists and celebrity watchers a chance to snap dozens and dozens of photos.

Wyatt waits at the end, and as Cass and I approach, he grins. I expect to pass by and join the mingling guests, but he ushers me in front of a banner advertising the studio that financed the documentary, and proceeds to do the full-on Red Carpet Photo Moment.

“Thanks for wrangling the extra tickets for me,” I say. “I owe you big.”

“No problem,” Wyatt says as he aims his camera at Cass. “Just another manifestation of my subversive, artistic personality. I’m all wacky that way,” he adds, making me laugh.

Cass and I link arms and follow the well-dressed crowd. We go first toward Grauman’s Ballroom in the adjacent multiplex where the VIP reception is being held prior to the screening in the original theater. I lean toward Cass. “Definitely iced,” I say, repeating her word. And I mean it. Right then, I feel pumped up, confident, and ready to conquer the world. Or, at least, to conquer Jackson Steele.

Uniformed staff stands at the door, offering us flutes of champagne as we enter the ballroom. “Wow,” Cass says, and I silently echo the sentiment.

The room is stunning. Huge, but not overwhelming. Golden light fills the space, but is broken up by a pattern of geometric blue images projected onto the floor and ceiling. A few corners of the balcony are highlighted in red, giving the room a festive, nightclub atmosphere. Two massive columns seem to stand guard over the space, and between them, a crowd gathers around a circular bar, the stacked wineglasses twinkling like colored stars in the clever lighting.

Behind the bar, a screen displays a montage of photographs—soaring skyscrapers, angular office buildings, innovative housing complexes. I recognize each as a Jackson Steele project, and those images are interspersed with sketches, blueprints, and construction shots of the Amsterdam museum that is as much the focus of the documentary as the man himself.

Cass drains her flute of champagne and makes a beeline for the bar. “I need a refill and you need liquid courage,” she says.

“I do not,” I lie, but she orders a glass of cabernet for both of us anyway.


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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