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Just To Be With You (Page 23)

On the way to the door, Tatiana picked up a stray hairband from the kitchen counter and, with a big yawn, shoved her hair into a messy ponytail. She’d always been a good sleeper, which had helped her out a great deal over the years when she’d needed to catch catnaps between scenes. But all the things she’d said to Ian—about falling for him and how could he have paid off his ex and that she wasn’t going to forget her feelings for him—had played on repeat in her head all night long, along with the way he’d carefully scrubbed his expression clean of emotion by the time he’d left for his meeting.

She didn’t much feel like smiling at the moment, but she made sure one was on her lips as she opened her door. “Serena, hello. It’s so nice to see you again.” She gave the positively gorgeous model a hug. “Hello, you must be Serena’s mother. It’s lovely to meet you, Genevieve. Please come inside. Sorry, I know it’s a little messy, but I thought it would be easiest for all of us if we met here rather than on a set or in an office.”

Serena’s mother looked positively gleeful as she said, “I’m so thrilled Smith suggested we meet with you to discuss this role. Serena is absolutely beside herself at the chance to prove herself on the big screen, aren’t you, sweetie?”

Serena nodded and smiled, but evidently Tatiana wasn’t doing as good a job of covering up her gray mood as she thought, because she said, “I hope you weren’t in the middle of something. We could come back later if we’ve interrupted you.”

Catching the horrified expression Serena’s mother gave her daughter, Tatiana replied, “No, this is perfect.”

Smith had asked if she could do him a favor by running through a couple of scenes with Serena and then giving him her opinion about the budding actress. It was a pretty important role in one of his upcoming movies, and because Serena was untried, he wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to regret his casting choice.

Tatiana had worked with models before and apart from the occasional exception, they were never all that great. They looked beautiful, of course, but looking pretty and expressing honest emotion weren’t always synonymous. She’d met Serena at a couple of industry events this year, and each time, she’d been struck not only by just how pure the model’s beauty was, but by how different she seemed. Quiet, and not overly interested in playing the game, the two of them had had a normal, un-Hollywood discussion about a book they’d both recently read.

“Can I get either of you a cup of coffee?”

When both women nodded, she went to fill three mugs. Tatiana had already had one cup too many this morning, but figuring one more couldn’t make her feel any more off-kilter than she already did, she topped off her own cup.

“Is this Smith Sullivan’s family?”

Serena’s mother was holding a picture Tatiana had taken and framed of all the Sullivans and their mates and kids together at Marcus and Nicola’s wedding. Telling herself it wasn’t fair that she felt as though her privacy was being intruded on when she’d been the one to invite them to her house for this read-through, she made herself smile again. “Yes, I took it when we were at—”

“Marcus and Nico’s wedding!” Genevieve exclaimed. “I can hardly believe there are so many famous people in one family. Not just a movie star, but a baseball star and a pop star and Chase Sullivan, who has won all those awards for his photography and Jake McCann with his pubs. Isn’t one of them also a billionaire?”

Genevieve didn’t seem to realize she’d breathlessly cut Tatiana off, but Serena looked mortified—just like any normal teenage girl would be when her mother freaked out over famous people.

Ignoring the billionaire question, Tatiana said, “Yes, they are certainly an exceptional group.” She brought over the coffee and made sure Genevieve had to put down the framed picture to take hers. “Not in the least because they’re all so nice.”

“And so incredibly good-looking, especially this one,” Genevieve said, pointing to Ian. “I’m sure your sister knows how lucky she was to snag Smith the way she did.”

Tatiana thought about biting her tongue, but if there was anything she’d proved during the past couple of days shadowing Ian, it was just how bad she was at it. “Actually, Smith was the one who did the snagging.” Really, she should shut her mouth before she said anything more, but she couldn’t stand the thought of this woman thinking that Valentina had done something to trick Smith into falling for her. “They’re very much in love, and his fame is the last thing in the world that matters to her.”

“Oh, I’m sure,” Genevieve said with a knowing nod. “Over the years Serena has worked with so many stars that we’re totally over it all, too. Aren’t we, sweetie?”

Serena made a sound that could have meant anything, but it was hard to tell if she was agreeing or disagreeing because she was staring down at the couch cushions as if she was trying to disappear into them.

Tatiana immediately felt bad about not letting Genevieve’s thoughtless comment roll off her the way she should have. She was just touchy from lack of sleep…and from not being able to stop thinking about Ian. Besides, she knew how hard auditions were, especially when they all knew that Tatiana’s opinion of Serena’s acting ability would likely weigh quite heavily into Smith’s final casting decision.

She smiled at the model. “Do you need anything else before we do the read-through?”

“No, I’m ready to go.”

Tatiana reached for the printout of the two scenes Smith had emailed her, and when Serena didn’t take one out, too, started to hand her the extra copy she’d made.

“Oh no, Serena doesn’t need that. She has it memorized, don’t you, sweetie?”

Working hard to push her irritation away at the way Genevieve kept speaking for her daughter, Tatiana said, “Great. So, why don’t we—”

Her doorbell rang again and she stopped in the middle of her sentence. She gave the two women sitting on her couch an apologetic smile. “I wasn’t expecting anyone, but if you’ll just give me a second, I’ll find out what they need.” Who could be coming to see her now that Serena and her mother were here? More than that, who even had her Seattle address apart from her family and manager?

Through the peephole, the sight of Ian standing outside her front door was the very last thing she’d expected…and the very, very best.

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