Provocative Attraction. AlTonya Washington

Provocative Attraction - AlTonya Washington

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      Rook worked his fingers against muscles at his nape that had suddenly bunched. “I won’t force her to go along with this,” he said.

      Sophia appeared satisfied. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got no problems with forcing her.”

      * * *

      “Please tell me you’re calling from Malibu and not back east.”

      “I’d be happy to tell you that, if you want a lie.” Viva grinned at the sound of the familiar nasal voice on the other end of her mobile.

      Artesia Relis groaned. “Do you know what you’re putting me through here?”

      “You mean by visiting my parents for a little TLC?” Viva colored her words with the hint of a snarky undertone.

      “Funny.” But Artesia didn’t sound amused. “I mean leaving us here with Murray. You know no one but you can deal with him when he’s riled up.”

      Viva set down her tanned leather tote bag, deciding to finish the conversation with Murray Dean’s assistant there at her parents’ place, instead of outside amid steadily dipping temps.

      “What’s he riled up over?” Viva asked once she’d slipped into the Hails’ spacious laundry room. She heard Arty’s dramatic sigh—one she’d heard the aspiring actress deliver on countless occasions. Arty had perfected the gesture over the years and it’d become difficult to tell whether the sigh meant true distress or only mild irritation.

      “Well, if you don’t know, how the hell do you think I do? I only called because Murray goes back farther with you than anyone.” Arty let the sigh make an encore.

      “He’s been jumpy, snappish and hard to reach. I mean that literally and figuratively, Veev. Half the time, his clients are calling my line because they can’t get through to him on his cell. When they do manage to get in touch, they say he’s distant. More than a few of his top names are getting nervous and you know what happens when you guys get nervous.”

      “Yeah...” Viva was working the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. Folks jumped ship when they got nervous. “And you’ve got no idea what brought this on?” She played the angle, hoping to plumb information Arty may’ve cast aside.

      The practiced sigh made another appearance. “Hard to say... In this business, there’s always one thing or another to get pissy over but he did seem more on edge than usual after that meeting a couple of weeks ago.”

      “Meeting?” Viva peeked out of the laundry room to ensure her privacy was still intact. “Any idea what that was about?”

      “Not much. I didn’t even have it listed among his appointments. I can tell you they weren’t in the business.”

      “Meaning they weren’t actors?”

      “Not actors or anyone else connected with the business. They had an...official look about them.”

      “Cops?” Viva wondered if Sophia had sent investigators to get a feel for their suspect.

      “Not sure. I got the feeling their business didn’t skirt the right side of the law. Anyway...” Arty’s sigh sounded more natural then. “It was just a feeling,” she added.

      While Viva didn’t need the sharp assistant growing suspicious of her questions, she risked one more. “Do you think you’d recognize them if you saw them again?”

      “Sure I would. Veev? Do you think Murray’s okay?”

      “I’m sure he is, honey. Don’t worry, I’ll see what I can find out.”

      “Thanks. Oh, hey! Be on the lookout for that script and the delivery from wardrobe.”

      “Thanks for the reminder, Art. Hold down the fort and we’ll talk soon.” Viva ended the connection, waited a beat and then located the number to place a second call. She muttered a curse when she heard the voice-mail greeting.

      “Murray? It’s Viva. Give me a call, okay?”

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