Page 40 of Imperial Bedrooms

"But we're both writing this movie together, baby."

"No we're not," she cries, her face an anguished mask.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm only acting in it."

Chapter 12

And when I finally notice the red message light flashing on her cell phone on the nightstand I ask, one hand on her breast, the other one lightly gripping her throat, "Where is he?"

Trent Burroughs calls me and tells me to meet him in Santa Monica after a lunch he's having with a client at Michael's. On the Santa Monica pier Trent's wearing a suit and sitting on a bench at the entrance and when he sees me approaching he looks up from his phone and takes off his sunglasses and just stares at me warily. Trent mentions he finished lunch earlier than he'd planned with a skittish actor he manages, successfully persuading him to take a role in a movie for myriad reasons that would be beneficial to everybody.

"I'm actually surprised you came," Trent says.

"Why couldn't I meet you at the restaurant?" I ask.

"Because I don't really want to be seen with you," he says. "It would validate something that I wouldn't want validated, I guess."

I start walking with him along the boardwalk. He puts his sunglasses back on.

"I suppose I'm more sensitive about things than I thought," he says.

"I got your client an audition today," I say, in a good mood because of how Rain responded to me last night.

"Yeah," Trent says. "You did."

I pause. "Isn't that what you wanted to see me about?"

Trent thinks about it before saying, "In a way."

The empty Ferris wheel looms over us as we pass by barely visible in the haze, just a dim circle, and except for a few Mexican fishermen no one's around. Holiday decorations are still up and a dead Christmas tree wrapped in a garland leans against the peeling wall of the arcade and the faint smell of churros floats toward us from a brightly colored cart and it's hard to concentrate on Trent because the only sounds are the distant surf and the squalling of low-flying gulls, the psychic calling out to us, the calliope playing a Doors song.

"This isn't about Blair?" I suddenly ask.

Trent looks over at me as if he's shocked I would ask that. "No. Not at all. This has nothing to do with Blair."

I keep moving with him down the boardwalk toward the end of the pier, waiting for him to say something.

"I want to make this quick," Trent finally says, checking his watch. "I've got to be back in Beverly Hills by three."

I shrug and put my hands in the pockets of the hoodie I'm wearing, one of them forming a fist around my phone.

"I guess you're going to stop this with Rain Turner, right?" Trent asks. "I mean, the audition's this afternoon, right? And then it'll be over?"

"Stop ... what, Trent?" I ask innocently.

"Whatever it is you do with these girls." He quickly makes a face, then tries to relax. "This, I don't know, this little game you play."

"What are you talking about, Trent?" I ask, sounding as casual and amused as possible.

"Promise them things, sleep with them, buy them things and then you can only get them so far and when you can't get them the things that you really promised ... " Trent stops walking and takes off his sunglasses and looks at me, mystified. "Do I really need to say this?"

"It's just a very interesting theory."

Trent stares at me before he continues walking, and then he stops again.

"It's interesting that you - what? Abandon them? Try to screw things up for them once they figure it all out?"

Something in me snaps. "I think Meghan Reynolds is doing okay," I say. "I think she benefited from using me."

"You don't really need to work, do you?" Trent asks. He sounds genuinely interested. "You've got family money, right?"

I don't say anything.

"I mean, you can't afford to live like you do just off screenwriting," Trent says. "I mean, right?"

I shrug. "I do okay." I shrug again.

"I know Rain Turner doesn't have a shot at that role." Trent keeps walking and then he puts his sunglasses back on as if it's the only thing that will calm him down. "I talked to Mark. I talked to Jon. You can keep f**king with her as long as you want, I guess - "

"Trent, you know what? I just realized this is none of your business."

"Well, it has, unfortunately, become my business."