Play My Game (Stark Trilogy, #3.7)(8)

But while I have no problem with any of those ideas in theory, none are intimate or original enough for our very first Valentine’s Day.

No, I’m going with handmade—more or less—and personal.

Unfortunately, the “handmade” part has been giving me some trouble, and I’ve realized that I’m going to have to break down and ask for help.

Since that is at least some distraction from wondering about Damien’s present to me, I pick up the phone and call Sylvia, Damien’s personal assistant.

“Nikki! Hey, welcome back. He’s spending all day on nineteen with Preston,” she says, referring to the head of acquisitions for Stark Applied Technology. “But if you hold on, I’ll call down and let him know you’re on the line.”

“No, that’s okay,” I say. “I called to talk to you.” Sylvia was one of the first people to learn that not only was I the model for the life-size nude portrait that hangs in the Malibu house, but that Damien paid me a cool million dollars as a fee. When she told me that Damien had gotten off cheap, I knew she and I would get along fine.

And after she attended my bachelorette party at Raven—a local male strip club—any lingering wife-of-the-boss awkwardness was soundly swept away. Once you’ve shared the experience of having a half-naked cowboy’s package gyrating in your face, it’s hard not to be friends.

“What’s up?”

“You know the photographs that hang in the thirty-fifth floor reception area? The redwood and the bicycle and all the others?”

“Of course.”

“Damien told me they were done by a local photographer. Out of Santa Monica, I think. Do you know his name?”

“Sure, but can I ask what’s up?”

“Valentine’s Day,” I admit. “I’ve got this idea to do a photograph of me. Kind of artsy—I have a pose in mind. And then I’ll adjust the color on Photoshop and add a caption. I know I’ve waited till the last minute, but I’ve set up the self-timer a dozen times, and I just can’t get the composition right without me being behind the lens.”

“He’ll love it,” Sylvia says. “Perfect for the man who just acquired the very last thing on earth that he wanted.”

“What’s that?” I ask, completely confused.

Sylvia laughs. “Duh. You.”

“Oh.” I feel a blush of pleasure rising up my neck because the truth is, I know that she’s right.

“His name is Wyatt Reed, and I’m happy to give you his number. But I happen to know that he’s out of town. He’s on a shoot in Australia until March.”

“Oh. Well, damn.” I consider my options. “Do you know any other photographers? Someone in the PR department or—”

“I could do it.”


“I don’t take a lot of shots of people, but I’ve been into photography for years. Architecture, mostly. But if you show me what you’re going for, I’m sure I can make it work.”

“That would be amazing,” I say. And not only because she would be solving my problem. How cool that she is into photography, too.

“Listen, I’ve got a call coming in. Shoot me an email and let me know when you want to do this thing, okay?”

I agree and end the call just as Mrs. Crane—the receptionist for my shared office suite—buzzes me. “Ms. Archer is here.”

“Really?” I’m not expecting Jamie, but I can’t deny that I’m glad to see her. I’d called her last night to schedule lunch and gossip for later in the week, and then, of course, I’d given her the quick-and-dirty rundown on Damien’s scavenger hunt, the first clue, and my frustration.

“So?” Jamie asks as she bursts into my tiny office. She looks around—as if shocked that the decor hasn’t changed in the few weeks since she’s been by—then flops down on the little sofa. “Has the cupcake come yet?”

I shake my head. “Why are you here?” Her condo is just a few miles away, but she’s been staying in Venice Beach, and that’s way the hell and gone from Sherman Oaks.

“One, I am loving this scavenger hunt thing—I’m totally stealing the idea.”

“You can love it without driving to the Valley,” I point out.

“Which brings me to reason number two. Audition,” she says, then holds her hand up for a high five, which I happily supply.

“Seriously? What for?”

“Pilot for a new drama. I’ve actually got a really good shot according to Evelyn,” she adds, referring to Evelyn Dodge, one of my absolute favorite people who is now also Jamie’s agent. Jamie makes a face. “Of course with my luck that means I’ll get the job, I’ll kick serious ass, and the network won’t pick the damn thing up.”

“Sorry,” I say. “This is a no-pessimism zone. Only positive thoughts once you walk through that door.”

She rolls her eyes, then curls her feet under her, tilts her head back, and starts to chant.

“Jamie, what the hell?”

“I’m visualizing. Shut up for a second. I’m about to give my speech at the Golden Globes.”

I snort back a laugh, but I’m saved from having to think of a snarky comeback by the sharp buzz of the intercom again. This time, Mrs. Crane announces a delivery for me, and Jamie and I both spring for the door.

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