He actually laughed. “Good point, Cass. Come on. Let’s dive into the shark tank.”
Following his lead, she took the two steps downward into the crowded, noisy room. She reminded herself that this was her chance to finally talk to some of the people who had avoided her. Little Bea. Dean Arnette. Sig Masters. And others. The problem was that Cassie was still a little unfocused, the life-sized mannequins of Allie, coupled with the recent news that she had a half sister and the murders of people associated with the film, crippled her slightly.
Pull yourself together.
Don’t miss this opportunity.
But the individual sets and mannequins bothered her. Each positioned lifelike doll seemed to be watching her with those glassy eyes so like her sister’s. Cassie had the unsettling feeling that Allie was here. Watching. If only in the form of the inanimate life-sized dolls.
Walking deeper into the room, Cassie felt swept into the sea of people. Actors, producers, grips, people who worked on the lighting and sound, the writers, and on and on. The press had been invited as well, of course, as this was an event to promote the movie. Posters from the movie abounded and an adjacent room nearby was showing clips of Dead Heat over and over. Champagne and cocktails flowed, and music from the score of the film had been piped in, barely audible over the hum of conversation. And then there were the staged scenes featuring Allie, as Shondie, in mannequin form.
Forcing her gaze from the sets, she walked through the throng, forcing a smile, murmuring a quiet, “Hi,” to those who passed, avoiding reacting to the curious glances sent her way. Because of Allie? Because she was with the husband she’d vowed to divorce? Because she’d recently been a patient in a mental hospital? More likely, she thought sourly, all of the above.
“See . . . this isn’t so bad,” Trent said, leaning down to whisper in her ear. She caught his gaze and realized he was teasing. Parties had never been his thing and no doubt this over-the-top circus with the paparazzi in the wings and gossip flowing like water, was, for Trent, a form of pure torture.
At a table of canapés, she stopped and again surveyed the crowd. Along with those she didn’t recognize were the people she’d worked with. Brandon McNary was holding court, his unshaven jaw fashionably scruffy, his dark hair mussed, a gray jacket, open-collared shirt, and jeans. Several women in their early twenties or late teens were hanging on his every word.
Oh, save me.
Cherise Gotwell stood nearby, sipping champagne and gauging the crowd, while Little Bea buzzed through the knots of people and Laura Merrick moved from one group to the next. Lucinda Rinaldi didn’t even bother forcing a smile as she wheeled through the throng; and the rumors that she was still going to write a book and name names, all the while suing everyone she could who was associated with the film, hadn’t died.
Cassie couldn’t blame her. Allie’s double’s injuries were real and severe, so why wouldn’t she make a few bucks because of it?
Like you, she thought, thinking of the screenplay of Allie’s life she’d barely started, taking advantage of the situation, the tragedy involving your sister and you don’t even know how it ends.
With an effort, she quieted the nagging voice in her head and spied Sig Masters. Despite the stigma of actually taking the shot that had wounded Lucinda, Sig had shown up and now was talking to one of the writers. Upon spying Lucinda rolling his way, he ended the conversation and headed straight for the open bar.
Cassie understood. Seeing Lucinda in the chair had to be tough for him. And yet he’d attended, knowing full well she might appear. Sig actually had more guts than Cassie had given him credit for. Or else he was a glutton for punishment.
She felt Trent’s hand tighten over her arm.
“You okay with all of this?”
“No,” she admitted, wondering if she should even have come. But the truth of the matter was that by not showing, she would have been making a bigger statement and here, at least, the people who had been avoiding her would have a tougher time ignoring her. She glanced up at her husband. “Let’s get a drink.”
As they headed to the bar, Cassie caught Ineesha’s eye. Wrapped in a conversation with Sybil Jones, the prop manager visibly started, her lips compressing, her eyes thinning. Obviously she wasn’t over Cassie’s intrusion at her gym workout in California. Quickly and pointedly, she ended her conversation and turned on her heel as Cassie approached.
“Wow. That wasn’t obvious at all.” Cherise watched Ineesha wend her way through the clusters of guests. “Don’t let her get to you.”
Cassie shook her head. “Never.”
“She’s just in a bad mood.”
“When isn’t she?”
Cherise giggled, then sipped from her glass of champagne, her green eyes dancing with mischief. “It doesn’t look like she got in her million steps today.”
Cassie actually smiled.
“I think her pedometer might blow up because she works out so much,” Che
rise said. “She’s probably racewalking her way to the hotel gym right now.”