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               From across the room, she saw his green eyes staring at her, piercing her flesh. In a moment, his face was obstructed by Rachel’s body, who was laughing at something a young, thin black man in a fedora had said to her. She watched the green-eyed man comb the parted brown hair that had fallen between his eyes with his fingers, his skin bronzed from the sun. She admired the tone of his skin color, it could never be pale like hers.

               Rachel canted forward with her wine glass between her lips to touch the man wearing the fedora's chest with her fingertips. When Rachel lilted backward with flirtatious laughter, Victoria saw the man was still looking at her. She felt warm, bathing in his gaze. Ronnie, who had come in from the pool looking pawed over, noticed right away the source of Victoria’s preoccupation as she adjusted the strap of her dress.

               “Oh," said Ronnie. “You haven’t met Tyler Bermount yet, have you?”

Victoria listened to her friend, not yet able to wrestle her eyes from the man’s gaze to look at Ronnie. Tyler Bermount, she thought, my, that’s an attractive name. 

               “Come on, I’ll introduce you,” said Ronnie, taking Victoria’s hand as she crossed the carpeted floor, with Victoria reluctantly following her.

               It’s not that Victoria didn’t want to meet this man, it’s that she didn’t want to meet him right away. She wanted the mystery she shared with this handsome stranger to linger and his desire for her to overwhelm him until he could not stand not to know who she was any longer. Victoria jerked Ronnie’s hand back before they had moved five feet; Ronnie turned sharply, knowing why Victoria had tugged her hand and spoke with piercing solemnity. 

               “Come on, he’s not going to stay here much longer, just meet him so you can give him your number.”

               “Why don’t you want him for yourself?” Victoria retorted with rival sternness. 

               “I know him through his brother,” Ronnie said. “He’s your type, for sure.”

Before they advanced, Richard Moogan appeared in a black and grey houndstooth suit.

               “Ronnie, you can’t bring tush like this into my palace without introducing me,” he said, bringing Victoria’s hand to his lips. 

               Moogan was a handsome man if short-statured, bronzed by the sun, and looking slightly more than his fifty-two years because of it. His charm suggested to Victoria that he slept with women more beautiful than herself, far better looking than women he could get if he were not a successful director or if his smugness didn’t work in his favor. 

               “You must be an actress,” he said to Victoria, “because you’re too short to be a model but absolutely at a level of beauty surpassing all of them. 

She smiled, forcing a look of enthusiasm.

               “I’m commencing a shoot Monday,” he said with a faintly risen corner of his lips. “It’s been delayed for two weeks because of a schedule conflict, but it’s definitely beginning Monday, I can use another girl.” 

               Victoria blushed, though she was piqued at his words, his attitude was expected given his profession. She’d heard such remarks delivered for the whole of her two years partying in LA.

               “I need a gofer. My last girl had to go suddenly, and I haven’t found a suitable replacement.”

Victoria was now properly angry at what she’d heard, but she masked it well. There was no sense in displaying anger to someone who could help her career if she navigated through his personality quirks.

                “Well, I’ll let you know if I come across the right woman for the job,” she said, smiling.

Moogan laughed. 

               “This one won’t do,” he said to Ronnie. “She’s too smart. Can’t have a clever woman fetching me coffee, she might poison it,” and all three laughed lightly. At the core of Moogan’s charm, Victoria was soon to learn, was that he rode the fence between earnestness and affectation on such a fine line that after a while of knowing him, it disappeared.

               Moogan served as the perfect buffer between herself and Tyler Bermount because he was important, so he served the double purpose of being a potential connection for her and generating a sense of urgency in Tyler Bermount to talk to her.

               “What do you do?” Moogan asked her. 

               “Well, I’m a director,” she said.

               “Oh, what have you directed, anything I might know of?” 

               “I’m currently in pre-production for my first film,” she said.

               “Ah, you’re working independently,” Moogan surmised.

Before she answered Moogan, she’d already looked back toward Tyler Bermount, but he was gone.


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