More fool him.
As the director’s hands moved to touch her feet Gael retreated as silently as he’d entered, his rigid gaze firmly averted from the sleazy scene unfolding on the stage.
He was looking for a fairy tale where none existed. Just as he’d once—futilely and childishly—prayed for a family that included a father who didn’t wish him out of existence.
He should know better. No. He had known better—for a very long time.
Even before he exited the building he knew those dredged-up feelings would be crushed beneath the immovable titanium power of his ambition and success. Emotional needs and futile dreams were far behind him. What he’d done with his life since that time in Spain was what mattered.
Everything else came a very pale second.
CHAPTER TWO (#ulink_d12dea32-66c9-591b-af8f-1552b5e29e20)
SO WHY WAS he back here mere hours later, pulling up in front of Othello? And at a time of night when there was guaranteed to be no one around?
Gael had resisted admitting it all day. But, despite the stomach-turning denouement, something about the woman’s performance itself had stayed with him. Enough to make him pass a few precious hours re-reading the carefully selected script he’d searched through thousands for before settling on two years ago. Enough to convince him to put aside his personal feelings and revisit the actress’s flawless performance.
And it had been flawless. With a true visionary’s direction she would be able to pull off the project he had in mind for his movie launch without a hitch. Help him achieve the best possible premiere for what would be the world’s largest independent streaming entity.
The project wasn’t by any means the only thing sustaining the launch, but if done right the results and the benefit to the whole conglomerate would be incomparable. His partners were counting on him to get this right. He was counting on himself to make this vision come true.
That was why he was here, approaching the front desk with little more than a surname and a firm grip on his distaste.
The receptionist looked up, did a double take that would have amused him had his mood been anything but grim.
‘Uh...may I help you, sir?’ she asked eagerly.
‘You have a student—a Miss Beckett. She was performing in room 307 this afternoon. I’d like to speak to her, por favor.’
The enthusiasm dimmed a touch. ‘Do you have her first name?’
Gael frowned. ‘No.’
The receptionist grimaced. ‘I’m sorry, sir, I can’t locate her without a first name.’
‘You have a lot of students named Beckett?’ he enquired.
‘I can’t give out that information, or even tell you if she’s a student here or not. The thing is, she may not be. We hold outside auditions here from time to time. She may have come in with a director...’ She stopped and cast a slightly uncomfortable glance at him, probably due to his increasing irritation with her babbling. ‘Sorry, sir, but if you want to leave a card...or your contact details... I’ll see what I can do?’
The smile was re-emerging, and the flick of her hair was transmitting signals he didn’t want to acknowledge.
With reluctance, Gael extracted his card and handed it over. She glanced at it, her eyes going wider still as she gave a soft gasp. He watched, his cynicism growing, as realisation and an accompanying degree of avarice entered her eyes.
His former company, Toredo Inc., had been a serious player on the streaming media platform—a hit with students and young professionals long before he’d teamed up with Alejandro and the Ishikawa brothers to form Atlas. Since then, he and his partners had rarely left the media’s attention.
He and Alejandro had only finished their world tour scouting to find satellite partners to enter into a joint venture with Atlas a few short months ago. During that time they’d conducted numerous media interviews, which meant his face had been plastered all over the news for weeks on end. Anyone with a decent search engine knew what the Aguilar brothers looked like, and how much they were worth—and, if their search had been thorough enough, their relationship status.
From her expression, the receptionist was no exception. He watched her cast an amusingly exaggerated look round the deserted reception area before clicking on the keyboard in front of her.
‘I think you’re looking for Goldie Beckett?’ she stage-whispered.
The name brought to mind corkscrew golden curls and honey-toned skin. Surprisingly fitting. ‘Sí,’ he confirmed. The chances of the name being wrong were minimal. If it was, he could always resume the search.
The receptionist nodded. ‘I really shouldn’t be doing this...but she was practising in the music room until five minutes ago. You just missed her.’
Gael stifled a curse. ‘Did you see which way she went?’
‘No, but I know she lives in Jersey, so she may be headed for the subway?’
‘Thank you,’ he bit out.
She looked as if she wanted to continue the conversation. But Gael turned away, cutting short the familiar look that preceded a gentle but firm demand for something. A phone number. A favour for a friend. A personal favour. At any other time he would have been inclined to grant the mousy receptionist another minute of his time, even reward her for her help. He’d long accepted how things worked between him and the opposite sex. He gave when the mood took him. They took all the time—until he called a halt to their schemes and often naked greed.
But not tonight.
Not when an alien urgency rubbed under his skin, demanding he find the elusive Miss Goldie Beckett.
He rushed out into the street, already condemning the futility of his actions. This was New York City. Finding a single person in a throng of people on the sidewalk, even after nine at night, was insane. And yet his feet moved inexorably in the direction of the subway station. Behind him his chauffeur kept pace in the limo. Probably he was wondering what had possessed his employer, Gael mused.
He knew her name. All he had to do was pass it to his security people and let them find her. He’d witnessed her naked ambition for himself. All he needed to do to entice her was offer his name and the once-in-a-lifetime project he had in mind and she would come running. There was absolutely no need for him to pound the pavement.
He’d slowed his footsteps, thinking how idiotic he looked when he heard a scuffle in the alleyway.
Gael almost walked past. Unsavoury characters lurking in dark places were commonplace in cities such as this.
A husky cry and the flash of golden curls caught the corner of his eye. He stopped in his tracks, wondering if he was conjuring her up in his irritated desperation.
The alley was poorly lit, but not deep. His eyes narrowed as he tried to peer through the wisps of smoke pouring out of a nearby restaurant vent.
‘No, damn you, let go!’
The distinctive voice coupled with the decisive sound of clothing being ripped firmly altered his course, hurrying him towards the night-shrouded scene.
‘Lady, I won’t say it again. Give me the bag.’ A low, menacing voice sounded through the gloom.
A bold, mocking laugh. ‘At least you have the good manners to call me lady as you attempt to steal my property.’
‘It’ll be more than an attempt in a second if you don’t let go of the damn bag!’
The warning was followed by more sounds of a tussle. Then a muted scream, the distinctive thud of a body landing heavily and a hiss of pain.
Gael arrived at the scene in time to see a dark shadow loom at him, then rush past. The blocking move he threw out missed by a whisker, and the assailant was already rushing out of the alley. He had a split second to debate whether to go after the mugger or aid the victim. Gael chose the latter.
The vision before him scrambled upright from the grimy concrete. ‘God, no! Stop him! He’s got my purse!’
This time he caught the bundle that attempted to launch past him. Arms flailed in his hold. A firm, sinewy body twisted in his arms as he held her tight.