Holly laughed, shaking her head vigorously.
“Come on Holls!” Frank insisted. “Just one! You’re supposed to get smashed on your twenty-first birthday! It’s tradition! Rite of passage!” He tried passing the shot to her again.
“No Frank!” Holly gently, but firmly, pushed his hand away.
“But it’s already poured! You’ve got to drink it.”
“Drink it yourself. I’m not doing shots. I want to enjoy this party. And remember it. Not be smashed.”
“Very wise,” said Amy. “However it’s not my birthday. I don’t have to remember it.” She took the glass and threw it back.
“A lady after my own heart,” grinned Frank. “I think we could do with another round.”
Holly looked around at the sound of her name and saw Evelyn waving at her from across the room.
“I’ll be right back.” She kissed Alan and crossed over to the far wall.
Evelyn was standing beside a tall, thin woman that Holly did not recognize and who looked oddly out of place in the surroundings.
“Holly dear,” said Evelyn, laying a hand on her arm. “So sorry to drag you away, but I wanted you to meet Eleanor here. She’s a good friend of mine.” Evelyn was beaming brightly and something about the way she said the last sentence caused Holly to shoot her a suspicions glance. “Eleanor, this is Holly Woods.”
“Happy birthday Holly.” Eleanor shook her hand.
“Thank you. And thank you for coming.”
“Holly and I work together,” said Evelyn. She sounded natural. Perhaps just a little too natural.
“Oh really? You’re an actress?” said Eleanor turned to Holly.
“Yes I am. I have a film coming out soon.”
“That’s exciting. I can’t wait to see it.”
“She’s also on TV,” said Evelyn. “We work together on Homestead.”
“Sounds like it’s been an exciting time for you,” said the woman, nodding thoughtfully. “I’m actually a PR specialist. Head of my own company. That’s how I know Evelyn.”
“Really?” Holly had a sinking suspicion she knew where this was headed.
“Yes. Do you have a representative? I know most of them in town, I’m sure I’d recognize their name.”
“No, not yet.”
“Oh? Really? That’s surprising. Well here,” she fished a business card out of her pocket and handed it over. “If you‘d like to talk sometime I’d be delighted. I’m sure I could help your career grow in a lot of exciting ways. After all so much about this business is PR.”
“Thanks.” Holly pocketed the card and then shot Evelyn a frown. “It’s good to meet you. But I’d better get back. I hope you enjoy the party.” She knew she was leaving a little abruptly but at the moment she didn’t care if she was being rude or not. As she glanced over her shoulder she saw Evelyn and Eleanor shake hands and then the latter head towards the exit. Holly let out a huff of annoyance and then ran smack dab into Peter. “Peter!” She blinked up at him in surprise for several seconds and then hugged him. “I had no idea you were coming! But I’m so glad you did!”
“Sorry I’m late. Are you okay? You look a little upset?”
“No I’m fine. I’m just…Evelyn just shanghaied me into meeting some PR friend of hers. She’s really been trying to push that lately, an agent, a PR firm, all these things, and I keep telling her I’m not sure what I want yet but she’s not listening and-” Holly shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. It’s my birthday and I’m not going to let it bug me.” She smiled at him. “I really am glad you came. Come on, Frank and Amy are over this way. Do you know Frank Anderson?”
“I think we’ve met a couple times.”
They reached the bar table the others were standing around. “Back,” announced Holly. “And look who’s shown up.”
“Hey Peter.” Amy gave him a friendly wave.
Frank did a bit of a double take and then grinned. “Peter Glades! This is fantastic! Very interesting to see you again.”
Peter glanced at him a little doubtfully but nodded a greeting.
“Where’s Alan?” asked Holly looking around.
“He went to get another round of drinks,” said Amy, “He’ll be right back.”
“So, Peter, I watched the YouTube video of your film commentary the other day,” said Frank brightly. “Love it.”
Peter shifted uncomfortably.
“I can’t tell you how often I would have loved to just rip some of my films apart,” said Frank dreamily. “And you- wow. You just tore it apart.”
“I didn’t actually make the video,” Peter argued.
“No, but it was your words. But wait a second!” said Frank excitedly, “Now there’s a brilliant idea. You should make your own version! Record the commentary yourself, it’d be even better!”
“What are you talking about?” asked Holly, curiously.
Peter opened his mouth to explain, but stopped abruptly. Alan had come over drinks in hand. “Here’s one for everyone,” Alan announced as he passed them out. He saw Peter and his hand jerked, sloshing some liquid over the side of one of the drinks. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s no big deal,” said Holly , “You just got a little on my hand.”
“Here.” Peter handed her his handkerchief.
“Thanks.” She wiped off the liquor and then tried to hand it back.
She slipped it into her purse. As she did so she felt Alan slip his hand, almost protectively around her waist and kiss the side of her head. She glanced up at him and smiled. Peter waved down a passing waiter and ordered a drink.
Frank was practically beaming for some reason, glancing between Alan and Peter and then over at Holly. “So, do you two know each other?” he asked brightly, gesturing between Peter and Alan. “Or do you need introductions?”
“We’ve met,” said Peter very curtly. Frank chuckled and glanced at Holly.
“I’m sure you have.”
Holly wasn’t entirely sure she understood all the subtext going on, but she was aware she needed to change the subject and fast. “What were you talking about earlier Peter?” she asked quickly. “About some kind of commentary?”
“Nothing interesting,” said Peter. He seemed to be having trouble taking his eyes away from Alan.
Alan took a very long drink from his glass and there was an awkward silence.
“Did I tell you by the way?” asked Holly, trying again, “My film-, sorry, our film,” she added for Frank’s benefit. “Is premiering soon?”
“Yes. It’s pretty exciting. Victor’s been doing such a great job arranging promotion for the film. It’s really exciting.”
“I actually feel pretty confident about it all,” agreed Frank happily. “I think we’ve got a real shot at a hit with it.”
“It’s going to be fantastic,” said Alan. “I can’t wait to watch it.”
“You’re coming to the premier aren’t?” asked Frank.
“Of course he’s coming,” interjected Holly.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” said Alan. He kissed her.
Holly noticed Peter shifting his weight, one hand tapping furiously on the tabletop. She realized with a jolt that Peter was uncomfortable with her and Alan. She wasn’t sure whether to be angry or not but she knew one thing, it had to stop or their friendship would have to be short-lived. It just couldn’t work otherwise.