As Alan pulled the car out of the driving lot, Holly wanted to tell him about Ian’s offer but she hesitated. She didn’t really want to open that can of worms just yet. Telling Alan would just bring in a bunch of new factors. She’d been excited when Ian had made the offer but then Evelyn’s words had had a deflating effect. And what if she took Evelyn’s advice and pursued film roles? How would she and Alan handle working apart? Of course, she acknowledged, he’d agreed to stay on an extra year on Homestead so he could be near her but she’d known that couldn’t last. Even if she stayed on the show, he probably wouldn’t. So there was no harm in telling him…except she realized she was a little afraid his reaction would be similar to Evelyn’s, and right now she didn’t want that.
She turned her head towards the car window and decided that for now she’d let it lie.
“Are you nervous?” asked Alan suddenly.
“What?” She was momentarily confused. “Oh! You mean about Victor’s party and meeting the studio guy?” She shrugged. “Yes. A little. I don’t really how I’m supposed to act. But I’m awfully glad you’re here. Thank you for coming.”
He smiled. “Of course. I’m happy to.”
There was a thoughtful pause and then Holly asked, “Have you met this studio head before?”
“You said the name was Mal Grant? Yes, I know him. I’ve run into him a few times at functions and a couple festivals.”
“What’s he like?”
Alan shrugged. “He seemed nice enough but I couldn’t say what he’s really like. It’s so hard to tell about people anyways. And harder in this industry, everyone has some angle they’re trying to pull over. But he’s a really big figure in Hollywood. He has a lot of influence and can easily make a person’s career.”
Holly nodded and tried to keep her attention focused on the scenery outside the window, and not on the impending meeting.
They drove up into the outskirts of Los Angeles and into the hills. Holly couldn’t help but feel awed as they reached McCall’s house. It was positioned right on the tip of one of the hills and its view of LA was breathtaking, made the more impressive by the darkening evening and the mass of lights below. The house itself was very normal looking. There wasn’t a lot of glass or marble. It was very large, but almost old fashioned in appearance.
A valet met them at the entrance and took the car. Together they stood on the front steps, Holly starting to feel her nerves until Alan reached down and took her hand. He squeezed it encouragingly and smiled at her. They paused one moment. Just the two of them out in the night, the sounds of guests and muted talking coming from the house. It was peaceful and private and oddly touching. Then he leaned forward and kissed her, and led her inside.
The party was, as Victor had said, small. There was only perhaps twenty or thirty people there, most of them in the living room. There were cocktails and a couple of waiters moving about the room with platters of hors d’oeuvre, but there wasn’t any music and the whole thing had a much more relaxed air then any of the Hollywood parties Holly had been to so far.
She recognized a couple of the quests as very famous veteran actors and from Alan’s whispered comments she gathered a good many of the other people were quite powerful figures in Hollywood as well.
“That’s Xander Bakos,” he was explaining under his breath, nodding towards a man across the room. “His last three films were all nominated for best picture at the Oscars. His name on a producer credit carriers a huge weight. If he’s on board you can sure the project’s going to be green lit. And that over there is Paul Stack. He does freelance work for big magazines and papers. The amount of exposure he can bring a project or actor doesn’t even have a price.”
Alan fell silent and Holly turned to greet Victor.
“I’m really glad you could come. And Alan, it’s good to see you too.” Victor shook his hand and then turned back to Holly. “Why don’t you two come with me and I can introduce you around and then you can meet Mal. Alan you already know most of them, so I hope you bear with me for a bit. Come on Holly.”
Holly felt completely overwhelmed as Victor took her from one guest to another. Most of them seemed friendly, a couple interested as Victor mentioned her name, and she suspected he had spoken about her to them before. She sensed she was very much out of her league here but that somehow Victor vouching for her got her a temporary entrance into this group. Even Alan seemed to be a little nervous, or at least particularly polite, when talking with a few of the people.
At last Victor led Holly around to the far side of the room and over to a short grey haired man, with glasses and a beard, who fit more Holly’s idea of a professor than a head of a studio. Something about this amused her and she relaxed a little more then she had while meeting the others.
“Holly, this is my good friend Malcolm Grant,” Victor said. “Mal this is Holly Woods.”
Mal shook her hand. “Victor’s told me a lot about you. He’s quite a fan of yours.”
Holly shifted a little in embarrassment and smiled at Victor. “Well he’s been really nice to me since we’ve met. I’m definitely a fan of his as well.”
“And I think you already know Alan?” continued Victor with the introductions.
“Of course. How are you doing?” Mal and Alan nodded to each other.
“I’m good thanks.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen you since Cannes last year.”
“That sounds right.”
Mal nodded. “Well I’ glad you both could come tonight. You’re both working on television at the moment aren’t you?” He spoke more to Holly then Alan, so she answered.
“Yes. We are. We’re both in Homestead. Though Alan of course has a much bigger part.”
“I haven’t seen it,” said Mal, “But if Victor’s producing I’m sure it’s excellent. There are few men whose tastes I trust as unquestionably as his.”
Victor laughed. “Ha! Don’t you two believe that for a second. Mal doesn’t trust anyone’s tastes but his own.”
“I hear you have a film coming out soon?” Mal asked Holly. “Something Victor produced?”
“Your first one?”
“Yes it is. I’m quite excited.”
“And? Did you enjoy the filming process?”
“I think so. It was quite different from working on the show. There’s some fantasy aspects to it so there was some green screen work which was…difficult. And since we had more time than on the show there was a longer rehearsal period. Also we did more filming on location. So it was really different. Everything seemed bigger. I felt like I learning the entire time which was a little exhausting. But really interesting.”
Mal nodded. “Well I’m looking forward to seeing it. Victor has already assured me I’ll be invited to the premier. And I’m interested in seeing you work in it.” He waved down a passing waiter and took a glass of wine. “I unfortunately have to leave in twenty minutes and I promised Paul I’d give him a few words for an article he’s writing so I should probably go do that, but it was a pleasure to meet you Ms. Woods. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around. Alan, it was good to run into you again. And I’ll say goodbye Victor before I leave.”
He walked away leaving Holly feeling a little bemused. “Was that…good or not?” she asked, turning to Victor. “He seemed positive, but it was all so short.”
“It was definitely positive,” Victor nodded. “I’ve known Malcolm for years and he was definitely interested. He’s not decided yet, but he’s leaning towards you. And believe me: if you become one of his go to actors, you have a career.”