Holly leaned against the kitchen counter, chatting with Amy as she watched her take two cake pans out of the oven and set them on a cooling rack. Amy checked the recipe and shook her head.
“Honestly I don’t know what this cookbook is thinking,” said Amy. “If I followed this it would taste awful.”
“I don’t know why you even have it out. Have you followed any of the steps?”
“I greased the pan.”
Holly laughed. “Wow, I can see why it’s so important to have the recipe now.”
Amy nodded happily. She cracked some eggs and started separating the whites. “Besides, I’m done with the cake part. I’m on the icing now. And their icing recipe is terrible.” She got a box of coco out of cabinet and started whisking it in. “Oh I forgot! I saw your picture in a magazine the other day. It was pretty exciting. It was at work and I showed it to some of the dental hygienists. They thought it was pretty cool you were my roommate. Of course,” she admitted, “They didn’t know who you were exactly, but they knew you were Alan Ryder’s girlfriend and that got you major cool points. Or rather it got me cool points.”
“You got points for being roommates with an actor’s girlfriend?” Holly shook her head. “The world is a strange place.” She checked her watch and got up. “I’d better go get ready. Alan’s coming to pick me up soon.” She paused. “Does that make you cool as well?”
“Probably. I’ll ask my co-workers.”
Holly grinned and disappeared into the bathroom as Amy continued mixing. She then transferred the cake from the pans to a plate and began to ice it. She was just starting on the second layer when Holly reemerged, dressed in jeans and silk blouse.
“Hmm that looks good,” said Holly, glancing at the cake. “I wish I could stay home and eat it.”
Amy smiled innocently. “I do hope it’s good. Where are you going by the way?”
“Not sure. Alan was oddly evasive about our plans.” The buzzer rang. “That’ll be him. I’ll see later Amy.” Holly called up the elevator and took it down.
Amy waited until she heard the elevator start down and then pulled out her cellphone and dialed. It was answered quickly.
“Ms. Martin? It’s Amy.”
“Amy I’ve told you before, you really must call me Evelyn.”
“Alright, Evelyn,” said Amy a little awkwardly. “Holly’s just left.”
“Excellent! Did she have any idea what was going on?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Good. And the birthday cake?”
“Just finishing the icing now, and then I’ll put on the decorations and then come round with it.”
“You have the address?”
“Wonderful. I’ll see you there then in about forty five minutes?”
“I’ll be there.” Amy hung up and turned her attention back to the birthday cake.
Nikki brought her arm down over her head, cutting across the water smoothly. It had been an oppressively hot day, and while she’d been inside most of the time it had affected her mood. Though if she were honest with herself she’d admit she had been in a rotten mood the past couple of weeks. Clint had been pretty patient and she respected him for that, but it didn’t help that every time she stepped out there seemed to be paparazzi swarming. Clint had been able to warn her a few times it was coming but it still made things bad. Her father’s arrest had been in all the tabloids and all the gossip websites. Her brother had been calling trying to persuade her to come home, saying the lawyers thought it would help to present a unified front of family solidarity. But the thought of being home in the center of it all made her feel like throwing something very hard and very breakable…perhaps at the lawyers. Or her brother. Possibly her father. The paparazzi would do. It had been at that thought she decided she needed a swim. It was calming her down. Floating in the pool, everything else felt so far away.
She reached the edge of the pool and pushed off, swimming a couple of more laps before heading to the ladder and climbing out. She wrapped a towel around herself and a second over her hair and then slid open the glass door to the living room and entered.
She heard movement and then Vanessa stood up from where she’d been sitting, unnoticed, in an armchair.
“Vanessa! I didn’t know you were here. You should have told me. I would have gotten out sooner.”
“Oh no. I wasn’t in any hurry. I didn’t want to bother you and I spent the time answering some emails.” Vanessa brandished her blackberry to prove her point and then pocketed it. “So tell me, how are you? I’ve been worried sick ever since I heard about your father.”
“I’m okay,” said Nikki. She shrugged, not really wanting to go further into it. Vanessa seemed to pick up on that and switched topics quickly.
“Do you want to go change? I have some business to discuss and you probably don’t want to get water all over your carpet.”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.” Nikki was curious, and knowing Vanessa and her desire to undermine Clint, briefly considered calling him to come over. But right now she didn’t feel up to the clash that would inevitably cause and so decided instead to just go upstairs and dress.