Read an Excerpt
"Mac, Jeff Peterson is on the line. He said it's important."
The man behind the sleek, modern desk was already on the phone with another call. At the sound of his assistant's voice he sat back and momentarily stopped his note taking on a pile of official documents.
"Mr. Samuels? Sorry to interrupt. Can I put you on hold for a quick moment? Thanks." He frowned at the young man standing in the half-open doorway. "I'll have to get back to him. Didn't you let him know I'm on an important call?"
The young man nodded. "He was insistent. Said he had some crucial information for you, and if you didn't get it you'd probably kick his ass. Sorry, those were his words. And there's a Miss Daly waiting in reception. She doesn't have an appointment but said you're expecting her?" He ended on a question to explain his own lack of knowledge of the unexpected visitor. "I think she has to do with why Mr. Peterson is calling."
"I wouldn't be surprised," McCoy Sutton muttered, already pushing a button on his phone console as his assistant backed out of the office door, closing it behind him.
"Jeff, this is a bad time. I'm in the middle of…"
"Fifteen seconds, I swear. It's about my sister, Cherise Kim Daly. She's twenty-three, was voted Miss Something-or-other in Washington, D.C., has done a few commercials, and she wants to be an actress. Think Vivica Fox, but younger. I sent her over to see you. Did she get there, yet?"
"And you want me to see her because…" Mac began, his annoyance at the interruption held at bay because Jeff Peterson was one of his best friends.
"Because I know you can hook her up."
"Not with me. Not my type, and she's too young."
"Of course not withyou. This ain't about booty, Mac. She's trying to break into the business here, and I thought you could help her out a little."
"Jeff," McCoy began with more patience than he was feeling, "I'm not in the business. I don't have anything to do with the movie industry, the studios, the directors, or young women who want to be actresses. And, I'm in the middle of a deal." "You know a lot of people. Just introduce her to one or two and then you can cut her loose."
Mac looked at his watch. "Your fifteen seconds are up. You owe me, Jeff. Bye." He hung up the phone, shaking his head, but nevertheless amused by his friend's affrontery. He called his assistant. "Colin, tell Ms. Daly I'll be with her shortly. Offer her something to drink."
Shortly turned out to be close to an hour.
When McCoy was finally able to go out to the reception area, it was to find that Jeff Peterson's description of his sister had been on target, and Colin had fallen under the spell of the brown-skinned beauty, as was evident by the flush in his cheeks.
"Sorry to keep you waiting so long," Mac said, extending his hand to the very slender, tall and poised young woman who stood up to meet him.
Within the first few seconds McCoy had taken a complete assessment of Cherise Daly and determined that she had at least several key attributes necessary for success in Hollywood. She was tall and Hollywood thin, but with curves in all the places deemed to be important. She had a slightly exotic look, with hazel eyes and long wavy hair. Her features were less AfricanAmerican than they were kind of multiethnic other. Her skin color was the same as Halle Berry's—brown enough not to be confused for white, but light enough to afford Ms. Daly more opportunities. Mac doubted if all of Ms. Daly's assets were hers, but no one particularly cared anymore about authenticity in Hollywood.
She was totally aware of herself, and with a certain feminine coyness that Mac personally found too studied to be appealing.
"I'm sorry Jeff didn't give you more warning about me." Her smile was warm…and sexy.
Mac tore his gaze from her and looked at Colin who, clearly mesmerized by Cherise, was trying not to appear too dumbstruck.
"What's on my calendar for the rest of today?"
"A three o'clock appointment with Altair Construction over that renovation in Santa Monica, and there's that fundraiser tonight downtown. The dinner starts at eight."
Mac felt a soft light touch on his arm and turned to find Cherise regarding him with limpid eyes. "I know you're very busy. Jeff told me you're an attorney."
"But I'm not an entertainment lawyer," McCoy was quick to clarify. "I'm a commercial real estate attorney."
"But you know a lot of people. He said you did."
"Jeff was exaggerating," he said dryly.
"I don't want to get in the way or anything. Maybe I should come by another day," Cherise offered.
Mac pursed his wide mouth, listening to her practiced apology and offer of sacrifice. He rose to the occasion. "You're here now. Why don't I take you to lunch? You can tell me a little about your professional experience, and what you hope to accomplish in L.A."
Cherise Kim Daly's eyes lit up and, on cue, she tilted her head at McCoy and smiled. "I'm going to be a star, of course."
Savannah didn't even flinch when the young man with the stand-up wooly hair leaned over in front of her and planted his hands on her desk to get her attention. She also didn't bother looking up from the treatment she was reading for a coming-of-age story.
"What difference would it make?" Savannah asked, turning a page of the proposal.
"I would have sucked up to you," Tyrone James Sparks said bluntly. "I would have worshipped at your feet and asked for his autograph. I'd have asked to meet the man himself. Damn! Will Shelton's little girl breathing the same air as me."
"Taj, give it a rest," Savannah said, amused. "You know that stuff doesn't work on me."
Taj chuckled at his own failed acting and sat on the edge of Savannah's desk, not concerned that he was interrupting her work. "I didn't even know he'd passed until I saw this little tiny notice in the back of Variety. In the back! I thought we'd gotten over that."
Savannah finally glanced at Taj, who sat shaking his head at the parallel he'd drawn between the civil rights movement and her father's death.
"I'm sorry I didn't say anything," Savannah said with false regret. "So what was wrong with him?"
For a moment, an entirely different list of shortcomings popped into her mind that had nothing to do with what he'd died of. She shook the thoughts off. "Prostate cancer."
"Ooohh," Taj winced, as if he was suddenly equally afflicted. "When was the service?"
Taj stared at Savannah in disbelief. "You mean to tell me there wasn't a service for Will Shelton? Baby Girl, the man was a legend. You can't just put someone like that in the ground and then forget about him."
Savannah sighed and clipped together the pages she'd already reviewed. "I can see I'm not going to get to finish this today."
"It's after six anyway. You're off the clock," Taj reminded her.
"Yeah, but I wanted to get this done before leaving tonight. You've interrupted my schedule."
"You got plans? Maybe you and me can go for a drink or something."
"We've worked together for more than a year, and this is the first time you've suggested anything social, Tyrone. I'm flattered. Or do you just want to pick my brains about my father?"
"That's right," Taj said boldly. "I heard Will Shelton talk to one of my classes at USC. I didn't know anything about him at the time, but after that I tracked down every film he was ever in."
Savannah stared at Taj, at the memory that lit up his eyes with excitement. "I take it he impressed you."
"Look, it's hard out here for black folk. I'm impressed with anyone who had a foot in the door, know what I'm saying? Now, I know I'm going to make it. My music is the next wave. I'm working on a demo right now. I'm gonna pitch it to Def Jam when it's done. I know someone inside. Oh. Sorry to hear about your father passing."
"Thanks," Savannah murmured, putting her papers away.
"That why you came out here? You following in his footsteps?"
"I don't have the acting gene, and I was never interested if that's what you mean. I came to California because my father was dying. I took care of him."
"Oh, man," Taj shook his head. "I didn't even know."
Her cell phone began to chime and Savannah dug it out of her purse. "Hello? Yes, this is she. I'm sorry but the house is not for sale. It's been taken off the market…. It doesn't matter what the offer is, I'm really not interested…. I don't think I'll change my mind, but thanks for calling." Savannah hung up and quickly forgot the call. She frowned at her coworker who studied her thoughtfully through his glasses. "Was there something else you wanted to say?"
"How come you never said anything even after he died?"
Savannah stood up, thinking about the past few months since her father's death. She'd felt like she was living between two worlds. Her life, and his. She was still living in his house because she could think of no other place to go. But she still wasn't sure she'd made the right decision.
"I didn't tell anyone because that's the way I wanted it."
"You know I can't let you get away with that." Savannah couldn't help laughing at Taj's audacity. For someone who wasn't that tall, and certainly not distinguished looking, he had a certain fearlessness that always caught her off guard. In an odd way, she also couldn't help admiring him for it.
"Taj, are you threatening me? What are you going to do about it?"
"Baby Girl, I'm going to hound you until you tell me about the man. Sorry, but you can't keep him to yourself. He's like a national treasure or something."
"Will Shelton died months ago, Taj. No one's going to care."
"You buy me a drink and I'll tell you why you're wrong."
Savannah laughed again, as she rose from her desk and gathered her belongings. "A few minutes ago it was, "We'll go for a drink." What happened to the we part?"
He shrugged with a grin. "All my money's invested in my music. I'm a poor struggling musician." "Another time. I do have plans for tonight."
"Don't forget there's a meeting tomorrow morning. The Big T wants to know if we've read anything worth taking seriously."
Savannah was used to Taj's shorthand for their boss, Theodore Russo, all three hundred pounds of the head of development. "I know. That's why I wanted to finish that treatment I was reading."
She wrinkled her nose. "I've read better. I've read worse. See you in the morning."
"Where you headed? Maybe I'll tag along." Savannah turned out the light on her desk and headed toward the door of her office. "I have an invitation to see a juried craft show downtown."
Taj split off from her at the door. "See you tomorrow." Savannah had already pulled out of the lower-level parking garage and was headed toward the expressway when her cell rang again. She answered as she merged into traffic for the twenty-minute drive to the site of the crafts show.
"Hi, Donna. I'm on my way now."
"Don't rush on my account. I can't make it," the girlish voice on the other end announced.
"You're not coming?"
"I just found out the club is hosting a private reception tonight, and I've been asked to stay on."
"Why do they always recruit you at the last minute? Don't you deserve your own social life?" "Well, I could have said no, Vann, but maybe I'll meet some interesting folks. Forget the crafts show. Why don't you come on over? I'll sneak you in."
"I don't think so. You know those Hollywood-type things make me uncomfortable."
"It's not a Hollywood-type thing. I told you it's a private event. Most of the people are in banking and finance. Maybe I'll meet someone and get them interested in investing in my yoga studio."
"You know that's a long shot," Savannah advised her friend.
"It's an opportunity. Why don't you come? It'll be more fun than that crafts show."
"I'm already in traffic. I'm closer to the show then I am to you. Is Kay going to stand me up, too?"
Donna chortled. "At least I called. She said she had to have drinks tonight with someone from NBC. Kay's angling to do PR in the black community for one of their fall shows. I'm sorry this happened at the last minute, but you know how it is."
"Yeah, I do," Savannah said without rancor.
She had a sudden memory of her father calling when she was about eight to say he couldn't come to see her and Harris because he was about to leave for location on a film. It was a small scene, he'd told her, but he had lines, and that could lead to something else.
"Look, my exit is coming up. Call me tomorrow." Savannah hung up and moved to the right-hand lane to exit the expressway. For a moment she did consider forgetting about the crafts show as well, and just heading back to her father's house. But it was early, not quite seven, and she envisioned the long evening stretching before her in the quiet house. She could have dinner alone, then sit by the pool and read. Or she could go through the short stack of forms, notices and documents that had been arriving since her father's death, to tie up the loose ends of his business here on earth.
She was tired of dealing with death.