The board meeting was going well. Donald had regaled everyone with a recap of the reception which was rather pointless since every single person in the room had been there, but after twenty minutes of that Grant had managed to shepherd them through some actual work. Everyone had seemed willing to follow his lead and for the first time he was beginning to feel as if everyone was falling into the places he wanted them in. Even Gloria had been unexpectedly easy to manage today. If things could just stay on track like this for a while, give the studio a chance to firmly get its feet on the ground, they would be impervious.
“Well, I think that concludes our business for the day,” Grant announced. “Unless someone else wanted to add something?”
There was a general shacking of the heads and people started standing up, gathering their belongings and pausing to have a few side conversations with one another.
Grant slid his tablet into his briefcase and stood up. Gloria had apparently made a beeline from her chair farther down the table and was now standing directly at his elbow. She was smiling. He resisted the urge to grimace. Her smile always reminded him of a predator of some kind, something sharp and quick. He began to suspect that the board meeting had merely been an illusionary calm. Gloria wouldn’t be so eager to seek him out if she didn’t have something up her sleeve.
“Gloria. Glad you could make it today.”
“Of course. This is still such a young studio. We need all hands on deck. And there’s always plenty of work for everyone.”
“Indeed. And speaking of work, I should get back to it.” He started walking past her.
“Don’t let me keep you. It can wait.”
Grant stopped and turned back. He knew wherever this was going he wouldn’t like it but Gloria was going to say whatever it was she wanted to say one way or another and he’d always preferred to face the music sooner rather than later. He briefly considered dropping the pretense of amiability but it sometimes it paid to keep things civil.
“What can wait?”
“You’re busy. We can talk about it later.”
“I want to talk about it now.” Grant hadn’t meant to sound so annoyed but Gloria was playing with him and they both knew it. A couple of people nearby glanced over at them, concerned. He faked a smile. “What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing really. I was just wondering how your working relationship with Frank Anderson is.”
“Frank?” Grant was genuinely surprised and he suspected from Gloria’s smile that she could tell. “Fine. He’s working on Cold Wars. I recommended the casting myself.”
“I thought so. That’s why I was so surprised.”
Grant remained silent. Gloria wanted him to have to ask, for him to wheedle out of her whatever she was talking about, but he also knew that she wanted to share it. He wasn’t going to dance to her tune just to make her happy. He waited. And as he suspected, Gloria cracked.
She stepped forward and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “It’s just that there’s so many rumors going around already, that I feel another one is dangerous. Which is why I was concerned when Frank told me. I mean don’t get me wrong I know as well as you do what Frank Anderson is like. I wouldn’t trust the man to tell me the time of day without lying but you know how gossip spreads in this town. Particularly when it’s not true.” She paused again, but eagerness didn’t allow her to wait for more than a moment to see if he would press her for information. “Which is why I thought I’d better warn you, just so you can talk to Frank. You see he’s got the most extraordinary story that you were the one who leaked Cold Wars and not Holly Woods at all.”
Grant kept his face still, aware that Gloria was now studying him intently, trying to gage his reaction. He got the impression that she was trying to learn something from expression so he kept it purposefully neutral. “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll be sure to have a chat with Frank. Like you said…we both know what he’s like.”
“Of course. I just wonder where he could have possibly gotten such an idea. I mean it’s absurd. Why would you possibly want to leak a film your own studio had put so much money behind? And that this studio is now putting even more money into in order to re-film? Hmm?”
“Well,” said Grant, deciding it was long past time to remove himself from this conversation. “As you say, Frank is the one spreading the gossip. I’ll ask him that when we talk.”