“I like the way you think,” she says, but I’m barely listening. My words have unexpectedly resonated with me. Because Jackson and I did click—fully and completely. And the reason we’re not together right now is entirely my fault.

“You haven’t told me why you’re here,” she says. “Personal or professional?”

“You know I’m working on the Santa Cortez project, right?”

“Of course.”

“Yeah, well, it’s hit a little snag.” I tell her about Glau, and about my hope that I can convince Jackson Steele to get on board. I don’t mention our past. Evelyn may be in the mood to overshare about her relationship, but I’m not feeling that chatty.

“You’re here to do the business mingle,” Evelyn says. “A time-honored tradition. I’m doing a bit of the same since I’m here.” She glances around the room, pointing out a few of the actors and actresses she has on her radar. “Well, there’s someone I didn’t expect to see.”

I follow her gaze and see Jeremiah Stark, Damien’s father. I glance at Evelyn with a frown. “Guess it’s a good thing Damien’s not here,” I say, then immediately regret my words, afraid I’ve overstepped my bounds. It’s no secret that Damien and his father do not get along, but as his assistant, I really shouldn’t be commenting on that. Even to a mutual friend.

Evelyn is completely unperturbed by my comment. “I’ve seen him at a lot of screenings lately—he’s determined to get a foot in the Hollywood door. But I’m surprised he thinks a documentary is worth the drive from San Diego.”

“Maybe he likes architecture.” In truth, I don’t really care. I like Damien. I don’t like Jeremiah. And I don’t want to waste more thoughts on the man.

“Actually, you’re right. He’s on the board with Michael. I’d forgotten.” She waves the words away as if they’re just a bother. “But speaking of architecture, where is the man of the hour?”

“I haven’t seen him since just after the film ended.”

“Do you know him personally?”

“A bit,” I say. “You?”

“Only by reputation,” she says.

“What reputation?”

Evelyn’s smile borders on wicked. “Just that he has one. And speak of the devil.” She gestures to the far corner of the room where Jackson stands in the red light from the balcony. The light meshes with the gold and the blue, giving that part of the room an even more surreal quality.

Apropos, I think, considering the entire night seems rather surreal.

Evelyn hooks her arm through mine. “Come on, kiddo. Let’s go land you an architect.”

He’s alone when we start out, holding a highball glass and sipping leisurely as he looks around the room, as if taking stock of an empire. He looks in my direction, then stands a bit straighter. For a moment, I think that he has seen me.

But it’s not me that he’s seen.

He holds his hand out, gesturing for someone to come closer, and as I watch, a redhead glides up to him, her hair crackling like fire in the golden light. He kisses her lightly on the cheek, and I am overcome with two equally powerful urges. The first, to run away. The second, to slap the look of unabashed delight right off her face.

“Do you know who that is?” I tug Evelyn to a stop beside me.

“Not a clue, which means she’s probably not in the business. Or if she is, she’s fresh off the turnip truck.”

“We should wait,” I say.

“We should go,” she counters. “You want the man to talk to you about business, don’t you?”

I nod.

“And you told me he’s already turned down your request for a meeting?”

I nod again.

“Then take a tip from Auntie Evelyn and talk to him while someone’s with him. He’ll either have to say yes, or risk looking like an asshole in front of his lovely young friend.”

Considering she has a point, we continue on, only to stop again when their discussion shifts from casual to contentious.

“The one corollary to my rule?” Evelyn says as we pause several yards away. “Don’t walk into a minefield.”

To be honest, I’m curious enough to do just that. I want to know who this woman is, why he kissed her, and what they are now arguing about. I’m imagining a lovers’ quarrel, and the thought is not a happy one. Not because I’m concerned about the quarrel, but about the lover.

I’m distracted from my thoughts by Wyatt’s approach. “Now there’s a great picture,” he says, lifting his camera. “Smile, ladies.”

Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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