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It was just a mater of keeping her cool.
Mia could deal with movie stars. After all, she was a concierge at Hush, which was one of the most glamorous hotels in Manhattan, so she met major celebrities all the time. She could deal with the press. Again, thanks to Hush, especially because owner Piper Devon was so hands-on about her hotel, and the paparazzi never got tired of the beautiful heiress. And she could deal with the cranky Belgians on the fifth floor who wanted everything New York had to offer without paying for a thing.
The trick was handling all three at once.
Mia straightened her small gold name badge, her Clefs d'Or pin, then her skinny black tuxedo skirt as she adjusted her mental attitude and her smile. "Of course, Mr. Weinberg. I'll be sure to let housekeeping know you would prefer eiderdown pillows. They'll be ready for you by six o'clock."
Mr. Weinberg of the infamous Weinberg Film Company looked at Mia as if she were more distasteful than his pillows and strode off, trailed by a posse of assistants, most of them talking away on their Bluetooth headgear.
Mia turned immediately to Bobbi Tamony, the star of Coming Soon. She was dressed in a spectacularly sparkly gown that had protective paper all around the bodice, slippers on her feet, and her hair, world-famous in all the tabloids, rolled in giant curlers.
"Listen, sweetie, I have to be on set in two seconds, so could you make sure there's a limo waiting for me around ten tonight? I should be done by then and I want to get the hell out of here."
"No problem, Ms. Tamony. It will be waiting at the back entrance when you're ready to go."
"Thanks, hon," Bobbi said, waving her hand distract-edly as she walked toward the front entrance.
It would have been nice to find a moment to breathe, but one of the Belgians moved from in front of the long, black lacquered reservation desk to her station at the far end. "We wish tickets for a big Broadway show, si vous ne vous occupez pas."
"Of course, Monsieur Michaud. Would you like to see a list of the shows that are currently available?" Mia responded in French.
He nodded, then glanced around the lobby. "When will these movie people leave? So much noise," he said. "Very annoying."
"I'm afraid they'll be here for the rest of your stay. They've reserved their rooms for the entire month of June."
He snorted as Mia gave him a printout of the most popular shows. Not all of them, actually. Just the ones she could get tickets for.
He perused the list for several moments and Mia took advantage of the tiny break to quietly jot down notes about the pillows and the limo.
"This one." Michaud pointed to one of the long-running shows that rarely sold out on the weeknights.
"Is this for tonight?" she asked, holding back a sigh when he nodded. It was already three-thirty. She'd started her shift at eight that morning, so he could have come at any time, but no. The only minute for certain guests was the last minute.
It took some time to get all the details taken care of, but Monsieur Michaud left on a bright note with the tickets and finally, Mia could relax.
Well, this was the job. She'd fought hard to get here. It had helped that she'd been raised all over the world in the best of the best hotels, that both her parents were concierges, and that she spoke five languages, including French. Still, getting this job at Hush when she was only twenty-eight
Unbelievable. Most concierges didn't even aspire to this level of hotel until they'd been on the job for at least fifteen years.
Maybe it had to do with how special Hush was, and the clientele the hotel catered to. In less dignified quarters, Hush was known as the sex hotel, but those more sophisticated understood that Hush was a haven of sensuality and luxury. A celebration of the mind, the spirit and most definitely the body.
She'd yet to meet a guest who hadn't left with a dreamy smile and a confident walk. Although these wacky movie people might be the first.
She got on the phone with the transportation department and set up Bobbi Tamony's limo with a driver she knew personally, then with Theresa, the housekeeping manager, to secure Weinberg's pillows, at least six from different suppliers. Neither of them had to mention that the Hush house pillows were some of the finest in the world. Everyone who stayed at Hush, at least the ones who thought they were Very Important People, had their own litmus tests for just how important they were. Sometimes it was the turndown service: the shades exactly three-quarters drawn, Godiva chocolates on the end table. Often it had to do with the liquor, particularly the champagne. Today it was pillows.
She answered a dozen successive calls, each of them sending her to her computer where she was plugged into a very exclusive and private Web site connecting concierges from every major hotel in the world. If she couldn't get her hands on something, one of her compatriots would, and eventually, all was well.
One thing about her jobthe day certainly sped by. She hadn't been able to break away today, not even for lunch, which meant she'd missed her opportunity to sneak down to Exhibit A, the nightclub in Hush's basement, and watch the filming. But the movie company would be here for the rest of the month. In fact tonight her friends Carlane, an assistant concierge at the Helmsley and Jenna, a concierge at the Algonquin, were coming to meet her for dinner, followed by drinks at Erotique, the Hush bar.
It wasn't kosher to spend much time there, at least for her, but they were dying to see Danny Austen, the star of the film. In all likelihood they'd get their chance. He was something of a lush and a major flirt, but he was sweet and he hadn't been too, too demanding.
A ruckus at the restaurant had her leaning over her desk to see, but it was only the paparazzi. Or one paparazzo. Gerry Geiger. Trying yet again to gain access to the hotel. Piper had hired extra security to deal with the photographers and for the most part it had gone well. Except for Gerry. He was the trickiest son-of-a-gun of them all. The new security guys were on the spot, and with a minimum of fuss, things were back to normal. Well, as normal as Hush hotel ever got.
Back online she grinned when she read a plea from the Vegas Hard Rock Hotel concierge, hoping someone knew how to get six bat hearts. Bat hearts had to be available somewhere, and she was going to do her best to find them. Find them first.
It was exactly the type of game she liked best. When most people thought of a concierge, they thought of service. But for Mia, it was all about the hunt. The more impossible the request, the more she was in her element.
She sighed happily as she set to the task. It was yet another day in paradise.
DETECTIVE BAX MILLIGAN was in hell.
Not just because his regular partner was in the hospital with a broken pelvis, but the mook had hurt himself washing his car, and he'd managed to do it before he'd done any of the paperwork on the Fitzgerald murder.
Bax took another sip of coffee, sighed miserably, then got back to it. Page after page of cop speak about a case that wasn't getting solved anytime soon. Damn it to hell, too many cases weren't getting solved and that was the only part of the damn job he liked.
He kept writing words no regular human would ever say, careful not to miss a comma because nowadays it was more about procedure and protocol than catching the bad guys.
Well, he'd had it. Three months from now, marked with bold Xs on his desk calendar, he was outta here. He was moving to ColoradoBoulder to be precise. At the ripe old age of thirty-six, he was going back to school to finish his master's, and maybe get his Ph.D. The long-term plan was to teach and write, the emphasis on writing. He'd find himself a nice little college and talk about books, all kinds, read until he couldn't turn another page. In Boulder, he'd have friends who didn't give him shit about his books. Who didn't think he was a pussy for talking about Dickens. Three more months filled with death and gangs and god-damned paperwork.
He'd even lined up a part-time job at the university library. Not a lot of money, but he'd been socking away his pennies for a hell of a long time, just waiting.
He could barely remember the impetus that had led him to join the NYPD. Probably reading too many Robert B. Parker novels. As he turned to the next page and began filling in the little boxes, he had to stop himself from reciting the old litany of his failures: Failure to recognize from the start that being a cop, let alone a homicide detective, was not for him. Failure to see that New York, which he'd loved the moment he'd arrived, had fallen from grace as he'd come to truly know the city. Failure to get the hell out at the first signs of disillusion.
He lifted his mug, but the coffee was gone. Seeking any escape he could from the forms on his desk, he headed to the coffeepot, past the rows of desks and all the chatter, past the men who loved the job, or at least tolerated the bullshit better. If Miguel had been here, at least he could have bitched to someone, but Miguel was a klutz and therefore out of commission basking in the attention of his wife and two kids.
Paula from vice was in the break room looking sharp as always. She was a tough kid, ambitious, and she'd never made any bones about the fact that she didn't give a damn about his predilection for books. Truthfully, he doubted she would have cared if his passion had been spiders or balloon animals. All Paula was interested in was a good time with no strings attached. Unfortunately, along with his deepening malaise about the job, he'd lost his old spark with women. Not that he didn't like them, he just wanted someone who could talk to him after. And not, for God's sake, about the job.
As for meeting other women, civilians, he always meant to get on top of that. Go to some lectures or book signings. But he never knew when he was going to get a call, and when he did finally make it home, he'd bury himself in a book, or, as was happening a lot lately, sleep.
"Bax, baby. How's it hangin'?"
"It's hangin' just fine."
She poured herself a cup of joe, then put the pot back on the burner. "I heard about what happened to Miguel. Bad luck."
"Clumsiness," he said, getting the pot back out to pour himself a cup.
"So, who you gonna partner with?" She leaned against one of the lockers, making sure her impressive breasts were given their due.
"Don't know. Don't care."
"That's right. You're leaving soon. Shame."
"Why a shame?"
Her red lips curled in a smile that had the subtlety of a wrecking ball. "Ah, come on, Bax. You know I've always thought you were a hell of a cop."
"Of course you have," he said, not believing her for a second. Not that he wasn't a good cophe'd never compromised on the job no matter what. He wouldn't start now, either. He might be leaving the force, but he'd go out with pride.
"Not to mention you've got the best damn ass in the precinct."
He sipped the coffee, surprised that it tasted pretty good. "My ass and I thank you for the kind words. But now we have to go back to our desk and get to work."
She sighed dramatically. "It just breaks my poor heart. Such a fine-looking man. Such a waste."
"You could have any man you wanted, and you know it."
"Not any man." The lips turned to a pout. "Not you."
"You're not missing a thing," he said, meaning it.
"Not a thing."
IT WAS JUST PAST TWO in the morning and Danny Austen was a no-show.
Jenna, Carlane and Mia had been hiding in the far corner at the big black circular bar at Erotique for over an hour sipping watermelon martinis and checking the door every five seconds. Before Erotique, they'd had a long, lingering dinner at Amuse Bouche, then they'd gone outside and hung out by the movie trailers. No luck finding DannyAusten anywhere.
"Can't you find out what he's doing?" Carlane asked.
"Call room service. Maybe he's upstairs."
"We didn't see him go by and that's hard to miss with all the uproar he causes. He's probably working," Mia said. "These movie people have such bizarre hours."
"I don't want to go home without meeting him." Jenna checked the door again. "I don't have another night off until next week."
"The movie's not leaving any time soon," Mia said.
"We'll catch him later."
"You don't get it." Jenna, who was in her early forties and one of the best concierges in the business, gave her a look. "I need to meet him now so he has time to fall completely in love with me before the shoot is over. Jeez."
"Oh, that's right. Sorry." Mia grinned. "I have to say, he's so much better-looking in person. So tall. And he's got these really wide shoulders and those little tiny hips that are so incredible. It's been very difficult to maintain my professional demeanor."
"Your what with who?" Carlane finished off her drink with a flourish. "Honey, you drool just like the rest of us plebeians. We're groupies, plain and simple. How pathetic that we're so enamored of a freaking movie star. He's probably a pig and a lout, but do we care? No."
Mia frowned as she looked around the bar. She'd changed from her black tux and pink bow tie uniform into black jeans and a white peasant blouse. She'd even put on fresh makeup, and for what? If they did see Danny Austen she wasn't going to talk to him. The last thing she wanted was to appear unprofessional. All she cared about was giving her friends a little treat. "There's nothing wrong with having fantasies. In fact, it's good for the imagination. Besides, I've practically forgotten what it's like to be with a real man. I mean, who has time for dating?"
"Well, you never look," Jenna said. "Honey you've got to lighten up. The world won't come to an end if you think about something other than the job."
"Hey, that's not all I think about."
Jenna raised her eyebrow. "Your mystery novel obsession doesn't count. Nor do your puzzle collections, your trivia books, or the fact that you'd rather dig up bat hearts than go ogle Danny Austen."
"Oh, come on. I'm not that bad. Besides, I do think about men. I just haven't met one who's worth the trouble."
"Mia, sweetie." Carlane signaled the bartender. "The right guy isn't any trouble. Unfortunately, most of the men in this city are deviants or married or gay or all three."
Mia sighed and they all just sat there for a moment, wallowing in the sadness of their pitiful love lives. "Okay," she said, finally. "I'm going down to Exhibit A to see if they're shooting. If they are, I'll try and get you two in to meet him, okay?"
"Please," Jenna said. "Give me something delicious to dream about tonight."
Mia hopped down from the bar stool. "I'm on the case. You guys hold the fort, and if he walks in here while I'm gone, call me immediately."
Both women saluted, and Mia strode off toward the elevator.
Amuse Bouche, the restaurant that was connected to the hotel, had closed at midnight. At twenty-till, there'd still been a line. The big draw, aside from the incredible food, was the outdoor patio. It didn't hurt that the film trucks were still there, although most of them were parked on side streets or in the underground garage, or that there was an even chance of seeing really famous people walk by. Just ask the paparazzi. Talk about people who never slept. They covered the hotel front and back 24/7. She often wondered when and how they went to the bathroom. They sure as heck didn't use the hotel's facilities.
She got to the elevator and hit the down button, feeling her martini, but not too strongly. She probably wouldn't have another. Maybe some water, just so she wouldn't wake up with a headache.