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Like an asshole. They might have had Red Bull and pot, but there was also a sangria bar, a tampon bouquet in the bathroom, and a pumping room cordoned off for nursing mothers. But until then? I groan as soon as the words are out of his mouth.
I scowl at him. Zip it. You remember how hard she took it when you screwed things up with Gwen. Gwen Talbot was the first girl I fell in love with, and my mom adored her. Where most mothers might try to convince their twenty-four-year-old son he was too young to get serious, let alone engaged, I could practically see Mom naming her grandchildren whenever I brought Gwen home.
But Gwen and I were never on the same page. She wanted a quiet life in Long Island with a house and kids. I was working for an agent and living in a crappy apartment in the city so I could go to every show and meet every influential person in theater. The pay was terrible and the hours were even worse, and we ended our engagement after a year.
Jonah loves to push this particular bruise and looks pleased as he sits there and continues to drink his coffee. Jonah with his Range Rover and money and dragon tattoos.
Jonah is an asshole. Just, the way she acted when you guys ended things. What a dick. Seriously, why are you here? Jonah drains his mug and stands, letting his chair slide noisily against the floor. He leaves both the cup and the chair where they are. Later, big brother. In TV-Literary, we represent an assortment of writers and creators, but very few actors. Most of those land in features. Becca rattles off my schedule: meetings at nine and nine thirty, another at ten over Skype, a staff meeting immediately after, and a possible new author over lunch.
That interview, it turned out, was with me. But despite our less-than-conventional beginning, things have never been weird between the two of us, or anything other than professional. Becca is amazing at her job, and in reality knows more about what goes on here than any of the partners do. Post-its stuck to my computer monitor. Give me an hour and check in again.
Possible new client. The sounds of phones and the clicking of keys greet me as I walk down the gray-carpeted hall. The layout is long and narrow, with smaller individual offices bordering the exterior walls, and larger offices or executives on each end.
No, they—along with the interns—sit in an inner ring of long tables creating a shared workspace. That way everything feels like a team effort, rather than individuals cast adrift without support. My relationship with Brad Kingman has always been delicate. Not illegal, but definitely not encouraged, either. He would keep track of actors just coming off a failure and quietly suggest to them that their agent should shoulder some of the blame, that more should have been done to protect the actor.
He would find a client he was interested in representing and stop by a shoot while they were on set, explaining that he was there visiting another client and then acting surprised to hear that their agent had never been on set before. Brad was a master of planting seeds that in the end did most of the dirty work for him. He did this repeatedly on the set of a movie called Uprising and, funnily enough, ended up signing the lead actor a mere two months after shooting wrapped.
Not as a confidante or friend, but close enough to hold under his thumb. Kylie seems smart and reasonably good at her job, plus she puts up with Brad all day, every day. Her bullshit tolerance must be off the chart.
Good skin, stark blue eyes, and severe bone structure. He reaches for a paper clip and his customtailored shirt stretches across the type of chest and arms you can only get from a lot of time at the gym.
A green smoothie sits on the corner of his desk, and despite my annoyance at being here, I inwardly smile. Team token is one of my least favorite Bradisms. John Fineman is a very wellestablished colleague in Features.
Maybe throw him a pass once in a while.
Something you hear, someone you have a hunch about. Keep him busy. He never corrected her. And yes, John has lost two clients this year. Here we go. Field Day was one of the biggest box office flops of recent years, and I was the agent representing— and pushing for huge money for—the lead actor whose sign-on resulted in the entire project being greenlit.
It was so bad that both the film and my client won armloads of Razzies and became standard gossip rag fodder for the masses. My in-house legacy, ladies and gents. The worst part is that I was crushing it before that all happened. But with Field Day, my reputation—and confidence—took a major hit. Brad seems to delight in the leverage it gives him postbomb.
But did I let that happen? He stuck up for me when others thought I should be let go. Because your failures are my failures. And your wins. It has to still be at least seventy degrees where we sit on the patio, but Daryl is wrapped in a giant beige sweater and wearing sunglasses even though the sun set nearly an hour ago. Los Angeles, man. On the sidewalk just on the opposite side of the green railing, a woman walks by in a pair of three-inch platforms and a silk kimono.
A car pulls up at the corner with an entire desert diorama built in its rear window. He knows all of our buttons. Steph nods emphatically, but I pop a piece of bread in my mouth and tilt my head, chewing. I open my mouth to tell both her and Amelia all about the party when I realize that if Steph is twentyseven, and Mike is twenty-seven, and Carter is the same age they are.
Six years. And twenty-seven versus thirty-three feels pretty significant. I thank the waiter when he puts my wine down in front of me, then turn to Steph. Daryl might know him, actually. Amelia and I exchange a skeptical look. I nod. You had fun. Why not call him? Would you give a second thought to dating a guy who was five years older than you are? She laughs. A younger agent. My brother, obviously, could not care less, and my parents. But Carter moving to Beverly Hills?
Sweaters on trees, Carter. I saw someone walking a goddamn peacock the last time I was there, and when I stopped for coffee? This weird little hipster place sold yarn, too. Coffee and yarn. Who the hell puts those things together? There are weirder things in LA than coffee and yarn. Of course he did. I met her at a party. This makes me laugh. Call him. Callbacks get shuffled around and ranked in order of priority.
A week is nothing. I gently remind clients of this truth on a daily basis.
I remind them that no news is good news. Could we exchange numbers and make plans to see each other naked? The crime against humanity. He knows me pretty well, apparently. Bonus points for being Harry Potter appropriate. But even I—a slovenly wreck of a man —know that that thing should be shot and put out of its misery. And for your information, I wore that same tie the day I had my scholarship interview, the day I took the SAT, and the night I got lucky with Samantha Rigby at freshman rush.
Quality items get better with age, and that tie is one of them.
Did you really call just to hassle me? Then I started thinking about that tie. Hi stranger. Not to be a total creeper but, do you know an agent named Elsa Tippett? I did work with her, at Bradford.
She was nice. And hi back! Elsa worked at Bradford for four years, overlapping with me for three of them before I moved to LA. Some of the grosser men called her the Bone Collector for her propensity to sleep around the office.
For the record: I never slept with Elsa, nor did I ever call her by that name. But the idea of her and Evie talking about me makes a nauseating hum take up residence in my blood. I turn back to the open script on my desk. I read. I check my phone.
Another minute ticks by. I glance at my phone again. Should I elaborate on my connection to Elsa? Say something else? Probably yes. Should I ask her out? Think, Carter. My phone buzzes again. I emailed confirming tonight and happened to mention your name. Apparently she has a few Carter Aaron stories.
Oh Jesus. Others, however. Heading out. Oh boy. Oh, God. This is like meeting a Penthouse letter in person. She joined the firm about a year after I did.
She may have. I am not one of those men. Ugh I feel faintly queasy imagining what yarns she is currently spinning.
Five minutes go by, then ten. Okay drinks are over. And yes her stories were really oversold. Also lol Evil Told you. And my phone autocompletes it. I was hoping for some dirt. I want to point out you called me sexy. Do you want to grab dinner next week?
Yes I do. So of course I immediately text Michael Christopher. Because of Carter? What am I doing with my life? And this is why the nerves are really starting to sink in.
Romance is the subject of movies and books and practically every song on the radio. My parents—who had me later in life—are nearing their seventies.
I may be a terrible married person someday, but I know for sure I would be an even worse cat lady. If you hit it off, you tell me every filthy detail tomorrow. It took him two days to realize that the people calling his desk and asking for Daryl did not, in fact, have the wrong number. A little smile plucks at me. So at least the view from my office door has greatly improved.
My assistant, Jess, is a godsend, and I would cut down anyone who tried to take her. Of tiny, nitpicky, really irritating eccentricities.
And the fact that Brad once outright fired an assistant whose heels clicked too loudly on the marble floors near the elevators.
Being an agent is about a lot of things— balancing egos, coordinating projects, managing expectations, and above all, making money—but one thing it is never about is how something makes us feel. And as Daryl and I each retreat into our own heads and I put on my headphones, something slowly dawns on me.
And although our texts have grown increasingly flirty, I wish it had occurred to me sooner that this might really just be a casual workbuddy dinner, because I have very clearly not come straight from work. Do I look too eager? Too high maintenance? Which would be fine because I like his personality a lot.
And when he smiles, charisma just pours out of him and onto the sidewalk. He wraps his arms all the way around me, and I shiver a little when I feel the solidness of his body against mine. I know relationships are work. My mom reminds me of this all the time, and of the balance it takes for two people to combine their lives into one. But initially, being with someone should feel like the best and most natural thing in the world. He smells amazing and holds me so tight, squeezing a little more just before letting go.
Straightening, he gazes down at my face. So not a buddy dinner then. They say we have more nerve endings in our fingertips than we do in our lips, and as we snake our way through the dining area and to our table I swear I feel every millimeter of contact between us.
When he lets go so we can sit, my entire body feels cold. My filter seems to have malfunctioned on the walk from the front of the restaurant to my chair. When the waiter makes a slight face but starts to write it down, Carter stops him.
Inside joke. Bad joke. The waiter turns to me. Your shoulders. Dodging calls from my parents. Texting a cute agent down the road. You know. He went to a party one of his first weekends in town and ended up taking some photos that were featured in Rolling Stone. From there it was Elle, then People. For some reason my parents think lightning only strikes once and I am destined to flop. But for some reason I think my friend Amelia has. Best sex of your life. I should clarify that. Work is good?
Carter washes his first bite of steak down with his beer and then sets the glass back on the table. But it has been suggested to be one of my less charming traits. The old knock-on-wood one is a favorite. I throw spilled salt over my left shoulder.
Carter wipes his mouth and sets his napkin on the table in front of him. You should see yours. Carter sips his beer, looking out through the foliage of the indoor-outdoor space to the sidewalk. He was the highlight of that novella for me.
So the book starts off pretty darn good. I liked Ruby.
My twenty year old self would relate to this woman. I've been the one to to fall hopelessly in love with a co-worker and acted a love-sick fool. To me, she was too cute. Niall's lack of experience with women and his awkwardness was also endearing to me as well. Niall and Ruby both work at Richardson-Corbett.
Niall is a VP in the company and Ruby is an intern, who is hoping to get into a graduate course at Oxford. For months she's been carrying a torch for Niall, but he's been completely oblivious. He recently divorced his wife of fifteen years, who happens to have been his High School sweetheart. Their marriage lacked any sort of passion and his ex always made sex seem like a chore.
She really did a number on Niall. He lacked confidence in his charms over the opposite sex. He was the complete opposite of his brother, Max. They both end up going on a month long business trip to New York City. There things heat up pretty quickly between the two. But Niall doesn't want to have sex with Ruby until he knows for sure that he's in love with her. Meanwhile Ruby's about to combust from sexual frustration. I was totally feeling for the poor gal. I don't think I could have been as patient as she was.
Once back home in London, things progress pretty quickly between Niall and Ruby, but then Niall goes and fucks it all up.