Page 41 of Wicked Burn

Beneath it she wore a sexy bra, panty, and garter belt ensemble. That part of her attire was for later . . . with Vic. The thought made her stomach flutter with excitement as she headed toward the front door.

She smiled warmly when she let in the two women standing in the hallway. They were both tall and striking, and wore identical broad grins on their faces.

“Well, let’s not stand on ceremony,” the younger of the two said as she stepped forward and gave Niall a hug. “I’m Meg Sandoval, and this is my mother, Ellen. And you’re Niall, of course. Any woman who can make my little brother smile on an opening night deserves a hug, don’t you think, Mom?”

“Absolutely,” Ellen Savian stated matter-of-factly. “She’d deserve one anyway, for taking us out to dinner.”

Vic had inherited both his mother’s eyes and her direct manner, Niall realized as Ellen studied her closely and unabashedly for a moment.

“Well, my goodness, you’re pretty! Isn’t she pretty, Meg?”

“Mom,” Meg scolded, “you’ll embarrass her. You’ll have to excuse us, Niall. We’re just a couple of country bumpkins.”

Niall laughed at that as she led them down the hallway. “You hardly look like bumpkins to me. Won’t you come in and have a drink before we go to dinner?”

Certainly Vic’s mother and sister were refreshingly blunt and honest, but what Niall had said about them hardly seeming like bumpkins was the absolute truth. Their height, handsome figures, and striking features afforded them a natural elegance that most women would have killed to possess.

Niall genuinely enjoyed getting to know Meg and Ellen during dinner. She discovered that Meg was the high school principal in a small town near Vic’s farm and that she loved art. She was, in fact, a member of the Chicago Metropolitan Museum and had attended three of Niall’s special exhibitions in the past. She was thrilled when Niall offered to give her and Ellen a private tour of the museum the following day.

Ellen Savian charmed Niall with her combination of keen intelligence and unapologetic small town ways. She refused to be embarrassed by her curiosity on any topic, and that included asking Niall point-blank what she thought about her son, and telling the waiter at dinner that she hadn’t yet had her full requirement of calcium today, and could he please bring her a tall glass of whole milk to drink along with her wine.

“And a cup of ice, too, if you don’t mind,” Ellen had added before the waiter walked away. “Meg always tells me you’re supposed to drink red wine at room temperature, but hot wine is about as appetizing as cold pizza, if you ask me,” she told Niall with a confidential nod of her head.

“Have you ever been inside the Hesse?” Meg asked Niall after dinner when they entered the crowded theater lobby.

“No, I haven’t,” Niall said as she glanced in admiration at the handsomely renovated historic building. “They just reopened it last year, didn’t they?”

Meg nodded. “Vic gave Tim and me the nickel tour the last time we visited him,” she said, referring to her husband. “Do you want me to show you and Niall around, Mom, or would you rather wait for Vic to do it?”

“Oh, you do it,” Ellen said with an impatient wave of her hand. “We won’t see Vic until the curtain opens, and he’ll be too distracted to be any good to us during intermission.”

They were descending the elegant, winding staircase following Meg’s tour when Meg paused abruptly on a step.

“Well I’ll be—”

Niall’s eyes flickered down the stairs to find the source of Meg’s sudden discomposure. Her gaze landed on one of the most famous faces in Hollywood.

“Meg! Oh, Ellen . . . you’re here, too! How wonderful to see you both.”

“Jenny.” Meg acknowledged the stunning woman with a nod as she neared.

“What are you doing here, Jenny?”

Jennifer Atwood’s full, sensual lips widened into a smile at Ellen’s blunt question even though Niall got the distinct impression that she was fighting the urge to frown. Niall had never seen a movie star up close before, and was amazed to see that Jennifer Atwood was impossibly more gorgeous in real life than she was on the big screen. What interested her more by far, however, was Jennifer’s connection to Vic’s family.

“I don’t think you two have met my wonderful husband, Max Blake. Max, meet Meg Sandoval and Ellen Savian,” Jenny said as she swept her hand toward a man who looked perfectly prepared to join Jennifer on the glossy cover of a magazine. “Max is a producer. I’ve told him about Vic’s wonderful work. Max thinks Vic’s plays would adapt marvelously to the big screen.”

Ellen snorted, but Meg took a more diplomatic approach. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Max,” she said as she shook his hand. “I have to tell you that I sincerely doubt Vic will be interested in doing a screenplay. I would have thought you knew that, Jenny,” Meg challenged gently.

Jenny chuckled as though recalling the adorable, ornery antics of an old pet. “So Vic is still playing the rebel against Hollywood? God, you’d think he was an old hippy the way he rebels against anything that even hints of the ‘establishment.’ ”

Max seemed to notice Meg’s stiff, offended expression even if Jenny chose not to. “To each his own, I say,” he said with a dashing grin. “I can’t tell you the number of times a day I fantasize about thumbing my nose at the establishment and escaping to the country like Savian did.”