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Dating You / Hating You(8)
Author: Christina Lauren

“I don’t know what you did to deserve me,” she says, stepping around my desk and lifting a steaming paper cup from just beside my keyboard.

“You are a goddess.” The smell alone sets off some Pavlovian response and I already feel more alert. “I didn’t leave myself enough time to grab another on my way in. I’m buying you lunch today.”

She points to the twelve o’clock on my paper. “No, you’ll be buying Alan Porter lunch. Possible new client. Remember?”

My posture slumps. “Right.”

She grips me by the shoulders and leads me to my desk. “Today is packed, but you might as well get it over with.” I drop into my chair and watch as she walks to the window and yanks open the blinds. “Happy Monday.”

Chapter three


“Evie, I need to see you for a minute.”

I look up to see Brad’s shadow already disappearing from my doorway.

“Sure thing,” I say to my empty office, pushing back from my desk.

The sounds of phones and the clicking of keys greet me as I walk down the gray-carpeted hall. The layout is long and narrow, with smaller individual offices bordering the exterior walls, and larger offices or executives on each end. The assistants don’t sit outside their particular agent’s office, where it would be convenient to grab them should the need arise. No, they—along with the interns—sit in an inner ring of long tables creating a shared workspace. That way everything feels like a team effort, rather than individuals cast adrift without support. That’s how Brad feels about the arrangement, at least. To everyone who actually has to work, it’s a giant pain in the ass.

My relationship with Brad Kingman has always been delicate. For starters, though he didn’t know me at the time, Brad was an agent at my first real, postcollege job, almost ten years ago. He wasn’t always the nicest guy and had a reputation for some shady practices, including client poaching. Not illegal, but definitely not encouraged, either. He would keep track of actors just coming off a failure and quietly suggest to them that their agent should shoulder some of the blame, that more should have been done to protect the actor. He would find a client he was interested in representing and stop by a shoot while they were on set, explaining that he was there visiting another client and then acting surprised to hear that their agent had never been on set before. Brad was a master of planting seeds that in the end did most of the dirty work for him. He did this repeatedly on the set of a movie called Uprising and, funnily enough, ended up signing the lead actor a mere two months after shooting wrapped. Only one month after that, he was put in charge of Features at P&D.

While that’s not how I do business—and I would never admit this to anyone—I did learn a few tricks from him, the most important of which is: don’t forget for even one second that the moment you leave your house and step out in Hollywood, people are paying attention.

Brad only learned we had worked at the same agency years later, after I’d been hired at P&D. And I’m sure it’s because he knows I would have heard a few inside stories—or learned a little too much about how he does things—that he keeps me close. Not as a confidante or friend, but close enough to hold under his thumb.

“Go on in,” his assistant, Kylie, tells me.

Kylie seems smart and reasonably good at her job, plus she puts up with Brad all day, every day. Her bullshit tolerance must be off the chart.

Brad Kingman looks a little like the miracle baby produced by Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken. Good skin, stark blue eyes, and severe bone structure. Sitting here in this office, surrounded by awards and celebrity photos and framed by a sweeping view of the Hollywood Hills, he’s the portrait of success.

He reaches for a paper clip and his custom-tailored shirt stretches across the type of chest and arms you can only get from a lot of time at the gym. A green smoothie sits on the corner of his desk, and despite my annoyance at being here, I inwardly smile. That kale sludge is his version of junk food; no wonder he didn’t notice the dog-food bar.

“Have a seat,” he says, and I do, waiting while he takes the next few minutes to finish scribbling something in a black ledger before securing the entire booklet with a thick leather band. Not like he couldn’t have done that before he called me in. “Listen, kiddo, I need you to throw in a team token.”

I remind myself to count to three before I answer. Team token is one of my least favorite Bradisms. It’s his stupid catchphrase for a favor. But if he makes it about being a team player, there’s no way to pass without looking like the bad guy.

“For what?” I keep my expression neutral.

“I want you to give John a little help building his list back up.”

I look up, confused. John Fineman is a very well-established colleague in Features. “Brad, he’s been here longer than I have.”

“I’m aware.” Brad leans back in his chair. “But we all know he’s lost two heavy hitters this year. Now he’s in the middle of a divorce and a little distracted. Maybe throw him a pass once in a while. Something you hear, someone you have a hunch about. Keep him busy. Teamwork.”

Keep him busy? A few years ago, John was paid the lion’s share of a six-figure commission that I earned on my own, simply because the call was forwarded to his line when I was out of the office at a meeting. John called Kylie to let her know we’d signed the client on to the project, and she mistakenly started the paperwork assuming it was his.

He never corrected her.

When I raised hell, Brad’s compromise was to give me a little more money in my bonus and a lecture about team tokens. And yes, John has lost two clients this year. But he lost them because he’s a backstabbing jerk who got caught gossiping nastily about one client to another client, not because he’s a little distracted. When I needed a few days to help my mom during Dad’s knee surgery, Brad suggested I hand over some of my clients so I wouldn’t feel “overwhelmed.” He certainly wasn’t offering to have someone assist me, not that I’d have accepted anyway.

“I’m fine helping if that’s really what he needs,” I start, tone cautious, “but—”

“Evie.” Brad sighs, pushing away from his desk to stand with his back to the wall of spotless glass behind him. “You know I don’t like to bring this up, but you needed a team around you when you dropped the ball on Field Day.”

I stiffen. Here we go.

Field Day was one of the biggest box office flops of recent years, and I was the agent representing—and pushing for huge money for—the lead actor whose sign-on resulted in the entire project being greenlit. Think Waterworld and Gigli and you’ve got the right idea. It was so bad that both the film and my client won armloads of Razzies and became standard gossip rag fodder for the masses. I’ve actually heard someone use the phrase, “It totally Field Day’ed” as a metaphor when a film royally underperformed.

My in-house legacy, ladies and gents.

The worst part is that I was crushing it before that all happened. I was the top-performing agent at Alterman my last two years there, and I’m still in the top twenty percent at P&D. But with Field Day, my reputation—and confidence—took a major hit. I can’t seem to shake the sense that it’s the first thing everyone in the business thinks about when they meet me.

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