Chapter Title: Sterling Mitchell, At Your Service
Rating: PG (adult language).
Word Count: ~3,875 .
Characters: Patrick Westfield, Dave Fairley, Maraina Stratten, Lucia Stratten, Anna Mitchell, Sterling Mitchell,
Rating: PG (adult language).
Word Count: ~3,875 .
Characters: Patrick Westfield, Dave Fairley, Maraina Stratten, Lucia Stratten, Anna Mitchell, Sterling Mitchell,
Warnings: Unbetaed (possible grammatical errors).
Synopsis: A storm of change begins with one little potluck dinner.
“So basically we are in nest of vipers.”
“So basically we are in nest of vipers.”
Patrick Westfield was unmoved my the head bopping back and forth with apparent enthusiasm. Maybe if it was his lap, he’d be more interested. He looked at Dave, but his friend only looked moderately interested at the girl trying to inhale his cock. She must be inexperienced or simply sucked - badly. Heh, he made a joke. Who said he didn’t have a sense of humor?
He looked around the club. It was still early, there was no line at the door yet, but the dance floor was already almost full. In another hour, the place would be packed with bodies gyrating to music or bouncing off someone. He glanced back at the slurping girl. All he’d wanted was some food, but instead of listening to his instincts, he’d allowed Dave to dictate the night’s activities. This was not his idea of unwinding from a long shoot.
“I can deep throat,” the voice whispered in his ear, before soft lips nipped his ear. No, she was pretty much chewing on his lobe now.
He dipped his shoulder to dislodge the wanna be cannibal and turned to look at her. Young,, sexy and - his eyes dropped to her sequined chest - big. Everything he should want. Used to want. Despite the uneven lighting of the club, he could see the dark roots of her hair, the overly done, dramatic eye shadow and the neon lip gloss which plumped her already full lips. If she wasn’t trying so hard for ‘Bunny sexy’, she’d be downright stunning. He should try harder to be interested because only a dead man wouldn’t want what she was offering and he wasn’t quite there yet. Old yes, dead? Hell, no.
She took his perusal for approval and leaned forward. “These lips were made for sucking cock.” A confident hand slipped between his legs to cup him.
Her lips and tongue traced his jawline which probably felt like a Brillo pad since he hadn’t shaved in two days. He felt his cock come to life, but he wasn’t sure if it was for more or to shrink back into his body. She was manhandling him hard enough that a genie might indeed come out of his cock. He shifted and made a half-hearted grab for lush tits. That should get his brain into the act. She pressed closer.
“My Mom is going to kill me when she finds out about this.”
Patrick froze and pulled back. She was young, but not that young. The club was twenty-one and over only. So she had to be at least that, right? Visions of the scandal du jour danced across his head. An actor had been caught on security camera fucking the living daylights out of a girl that had turned out to be underage. That club had also been twenty-one and over.
“You were her favorite actor when she was in high school,” she continued. “She’s going to totally freak out and be so jealous.”
He could actually feel his cock crawl inside his body. Gently, but firmly he pushed her away. “This isn’t going to happen, darlin’.”
“I have that blue pill thingy, if you need help.” She started digging through he purse.
He put his hands over hers. “That’s a mighty generous offer, but an act of God couldn’t get me to the big show right now. Why don’t you help out your friend with Dave? I’m sure he’d appreciate it.” He patted her hand and got up.
“Later,” he threw over his shoulder at Dave.
“Where you going, Rick?” Dave asked even as his arm went around the new blonde that had sidled next to him and latched to his neck. “The night is just beginning.”
Patrick looked at his younger co-star. They’d been working together for over a year now and, to be honest, he didn’t know the other man that well. They’d hung out, but they weren’t really friends. Up till now, that wasn’t a big deal, but he was starting to realize that he didn’t have any real friends and at his age, that was pretty pathethic.
“I’m going to get some dinner,” he said, then glanced at the two girls with Dave.
“You can’t be seriously thinking about going over to Sterling’s? You’re not going to get laid there.”
Patrick smiled. “No, but he’s the boss and in this industry, it helps to mend bridges.” He pointed to the girls. “Just make sure they are over twenty-one. You don’t want to be the next Toby Fray.”
Dave froze. “Fuck. Ladies, I need interrupt this regularly scheduled fuck-fest to check IDs.”
“Meu amor, are you sure we are in the right place?” Lucia Barros Stratten asked her daughter.
"Yes,” Mari replied, then quickly glanced at the map her phone again.
“You don’t sound very confident there, Cara.” She glanced at the expensive homes they were driving by and tugged at her summer dress. “Are you sure we were invited to eat at this pot luck and not serve it? I don’t have extra clothes, you know.”
“He said ‘potluck dinner’ at his house. Nothing about catering.” She slowed the car next to a gated driveway and checked the number again. “He seemed like such a charming old man.”
Lucia sighed. “Did the charming, little old man punk your adorably naive ass?”
Mari chewed on her lip. “Maybe.”
“No time like the present,” Lucia said. “Hit the button.” She pointed to the call box. “At the very least, we’ll make some extra cash for catering this event.”
Mari nodded, opened the window and hit the button on the silver box.
“Is this how this works?” came out of the box.
“Um, hi. I’m Mari. Chuck invited-”
“How do I open this again?”
Mari looked at her Mom.
“Did the gate open?”
Mari looked that the closed gate. “Was it supposed to?”
“Where’s the open button?” Pause. Static. “Oh, well it wasn’t there before! Did it open now?
“Yes,” she said slowly.
“Good,” the voice said, “just drive on up.”
“Okay.” She turned to Lucia. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“We’re the main sacrifice for some satanic ritual?”
“Ma! This is Beverly Hills. Not Compton.”
“Compton is not that bad.” She looked at the expertly manicured driveway.
“Do you drive through it at night?” Mari waited. “Yeah, didn’t think so.” She rested her chin on the steering wheel and looked at the ornate door of the mansion, because that was the only thing the enormous house could be called. She felt like an idiot. “Maybe he’s a smooching relative living in the pool house?”
Lucia shrugged. “Maybe.”
“When life gives you limes…”
“Make caipirinhas,” Mari answered with a weak smile. “I could use a double. I’m so sorry, I thought this would be fun and-”
“Don’t worry, Cara.” Lucia patted her cheek. “It could still be fun. You might meet the love of your life.” She opened the door and stepped out.
Mari rolled her eyes. Her mother was an eternal romantic. Simply because she had found the love of her life at fifteen, she thought everyone else should as well. Especially Mari.
“With my luck, I’ll run into the horrible one-night-stand from last month.” Mari mumbled.
“What!” Lucia stuck her head back into the car.
“I’m kidding! Sheesh.” Mari shook her head and opened her door. “I’ve sworn off one nighters after that Herpes outbreak,” she said while climbing out of the car.
“Maraina Elisabeta Stratten!”
Mari laughed. “I love you, but you always fall for it. Every. Time. I can’t help it.”
“Because it’s not funny!” Lucia yanked open the back door of the well traveled SUV and carefully pulled out a large tray of the bolinhos. “Do I have to remind you that it’s hot and you need to be careful?”
“You just did.” She picked up her tray and headed for the door. She’d always made fun of her mom’s tendency to cook for a battalion when only a squad was coming over, but in this case the mountain of bolinhos would go well. Especially since it was starting to look like this event turned out to not be ‘just a little potluck dinner’.
Shifting the laden tray, she hit the door bell and eyed the ornate brass knocker decorating what was sure to be expensive wood, double doors. Her unease grew. Could she be more gullible? She was either punked or volunteered to cater a dinner without guarantee of compensation just because she fell for the charms of a wily grey fox. She turned to apologize to her Mom again when the door opened.
Mari froze on the spot. If the house hadn’t been a tell tale sign she’d goofed, the puzzled look in the face of the elegant woman who’d answered the door was the final nail in the coffin. It wasn’t the money that awed Mari. She’d served in plenty of events that dripped with it from imported water from some remote European village to gold encrusted truffles that had no discernible flavor. No, it wasn’t the expensive surroundings. It was the sheer grace emanating from the petite blonde. She could have made a burlap sack look like a Chanel by her presence alone, but instead it was a white textured peplum sweater and matching slacks that surely cost more than what Mari made in a week.
Mari envied that poise and elegance with every fiber of her being. She couldn’t help it. She was that shallow and had no problems admitting it - to herself at least. She wanted to be able to awe someone people just like this woman. She felt a non too gentle nudge from her mother.
“Hi,” Mari said with a smile. “Um, I met - Chuck this week during that horrible traffic jam on the 405 and -”
“Chuck, you say?” The voice was cool like an icy river and Mari prepared for the worst, but all she saw was a slight twitch in the blonde’s lips as she eyed both less than elegant women on her doorstep. She turned inside, “Sterling, darling. What have you been up to?”
The man that walked came up to stand beside the blonde was equally elegant and his button down light gray Oxford shirt and black flannel trousers. If it wasn’t for the twinkle in the brilliant baby blues and the wide smile, she wouldn’t have recognized the classy man in front of her for the charming rogue she had met on the freeway.
“Ahh, Mari of the Entrepreneurial Spirit!” He looked down at her hands then back up. “Are those my croquettes of truth?” Before she could nod, he took them away from her and turned to the blonde. “Mine. All mine and I’m not sharing it with those heathens you call acquaintances.”
She quirked a delicately shaped brow. “You mean your employees?”
“Employees is so gauche. I prefer your acquaintances that I just happen to have hired once upon a time.”
She paused and crossed her arms.
“I’ll share them with you of course, especially since I’m required by law, but once you’ve tasted these mouth-watering gifts from God. You’ll agree that the heathens are unworthy.” He turned and eyed the other tray and Lucia. “You must be Mari’s beautiful older sister.”
“Mother, but you already knew that,” Lucia answered. “Charming rogue, indeed.” She said to Mari and then turned to the blonde. “How do you put up with it?”
The woman shrugged. “Decades of practice.” All of them turned to watch Chuck as he maneuvered the tray onto his forearms so he could reach inside and grab a croquette.
“Wait, they’re hot!”
“You’re going to burn your arm.”
“Try to keep the crumbs off your shirt.”
Chuck looked at all of them and shook his head. “Women,” he muttered while he chewed. He turned and headed further into the hallway.
“Darling?” The blonde called out, but he ignored as he grabbed another treat. “Chucky!” The icy tone stopped him dead and he turned slowly, but the look in his eyes was anything but fearful.
He finished chewing and swallowed, then smiled. “Woman, you know that tone just turns me on.”
“Impossible man!” The blonde glared. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” She pointed to Mari and Lucia.
He smiled and bowed. “Sterling Mitchell, at your service.” He turned to his wife. “Now Anna, don’t leave our guests on the doorway. It’s terribly rude, you know.” He winked at Mari and headed down the hallway.
"I’ve known that man for over forty years and I know there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t wanted to kill him,” she said to no one in particular. “I’m Anna Mitchell and you must be the Mari he can’t stop talking about.”
Mari’s mouth hung open for several seconds. It would have stayed open if not for her mother nudging her back to the real world.
“Anna Mitchell. The Sterling Mitchell.” She closed her eyes and grabbed her face. “I’m an idiot.”
“Now dear, don’t be so hard on yourself,” Anna said. “If you were an idiot, you wouldn’t have impressed my husband and you wouldn’t be here.” She turned to Lucia. “I do hope that is more of your famous croquettes because he was deadly serious about not sharing. And it has been incredibly rude of me to keep you at the door, please come in. I’m Anna. Can I help you with that?” She nodded to Lucia’s bundle.
“Lucia. These are the bolinhos and that is daughter, Mari.” She stepped into the hallway and looked around. “If you could show us to your kitchen…”
“Nonsense,” Anna said, “those are the guests of honor and Sterling has been raving about them. You’re among friends and we’re all quite informal tonight.” She turned and looked at the still stricken Mari. “Sterling is a force of nature, Mari. You’ll get used to it because he won’t give you a choice otherwise. I should know.”
Mari’s nodded and sighed. “Just please tell me that Brad Pitt isn’t out there. I’d really like to avoid a fan girl screech if I can help it.”
“Heavens no,” Anna answered. “Brad is in France this time of the year.”
Mari sent her mother a pleading look, but Lucia just shrugged. “I don’t know what you problem is. He’s not my type.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Anna said. “But he is very pretty to look at. Most actors are.”She turned to Mari. “Don’t worry. No actors tonight. This is a war party, not a fawn party.” She motioned for them to follow her.
Mary looked at the tasteful decor that could be in the cover of any style magazine. Everything had a place and was expertly coordinated. She thought of their own living room with mismatched sofas and pillows and most assuredly middle class, lived-in decor. Money might not be able to buy everything but it sure helped make things look classy.
She stopped dead at the doorway to the backyard. She’d been in larger mansions before and none had really bowled her over before. Not like this. Maybe it was because all other times she’d been in uniform and there’d been a job to do. Now, it was as a bonafide guest and unfortunately, her middle class roots were showing because she didn’t know how to react to real life resort living. Her Mom, however, took all the luxury in stride, placing the croquettes where Anna suggested, then telling the attendant manning an exquisite array of delicacies how to properly serve them, before turning back to their hostess. Mari couldn’t help but envy that adaptability.
Mari glanced at the scattered guests and paused at the group sitting near the fire pit inside the pool. Really, who the hell has a sunken sitting area inside pool? Who even thinks of stuff like that?
“Are you terribly upset with me?”
“You played me.” Mari turned and faced the Sterling Mitchell, creator and producer of several extremely popular television shows, including the longest running, scripted show in history of television. The Hollywood mover and shaker who had broken more ground than any Southern California earthquake.
He had thee grace to look embarrassed, but not apologetic. “Only a little.” His mouth lifted with a rakish tilt. “I was following an instinct and I know that it’s going to pay off.”
Mari’s lip tightened and her forehead furrowed. “We spent five minutes talking during a traffic jam. You know nothing about me. Maybe I knew who you were all along and this is some long term grift on my part. Did you think of that?”
He quirked an eyebrow and she shrugged.
“It’s not impossible,” she grumbled. “I don’t know what you expect from me. I’m not part of this world. I don’t even know what to call you. Sterling or Chuck?”
“Sterling is a bit pompous, don’t you think?”
“Your wife calls you Sterling,” she pointed out.
“True, but she makes pompous sound hot.” He smiled. “Why don’t you stick with Chuck?”
She bit off a responding smile and nodded before crossing her arms and looking at that incredible pool. “Does anyone do a cannonball and flood that sunken conversation area?”
“What exactly does your husband want with my daughter?” Lucia turned a steely gaze to Anna. A sad little smiled crossed Anna’s lips.
“Nothing nefarious, I promise,” she replied watching her husband leading a somewhat reluctant Mari to the conversation pit. All of this would be for nothing if Jeremy decided that Sterling wasn’t up to the task of going against Robert and if he couldn’t get his friends on board with their mad scheme.
“Who are they?” Lucia asked, nodding to the two men Mari was being introduced to.
“Jeremy Rylon and Danny Wright,” Anna said wondering if Lucia would recognize them. By the the blank look in her face, Anna decided no. “Come,” she said directing Lucia to one of the tables. “Let’s sit and I’ll do the play by play for you.”
Lucia nodded and followed Anna to a nearby table. They sat in silence for several tense minutes as Anna continued to watch Mari interact with the men in the pool.
“You have a lovely home.”
Anna turned and had the grace to look embarrassed. She leaned back on the chair and smiled. “But this wasn’t exactly what you were expecting from a pot luck?” It was clear from the ramrod stiffness of Lucia’s posture that she was suddenly anything but relaxed. “Are you uncomfortable with wealth?”
“Money doesn’t bother me,” Lucia responded. “What I don’t like is rich snobs who have nothing better to do with their time than meddle with the lives of others.”
Anna stiffened, but disregarded several cutting remarks that had flashed through her mind. It made sense. They had fallen down the rabbit hole and Lucia was clearly doing her best to protect Mari. She pursed her lips, then nodded slowly, leaning back on the chair.
“I thought you didn’t know who Sterling was.”
Lucia glanced over at the group who now seemed to be getting a long quite well if their relaxed body language was anything to go by.
“I don’t,” she replied. “But I’m quite familiar with the rich and bored.”
“Touche. But he is no Professor Higgins, I promise you.”
Lucia remained tight lipped and coldly cautious.
“Sterling is a successful producer, but at his heart, he’s a storyteller. He’s created and developed several top TV shows over the last forty years or so. Eighteen months ago, the power dynamics changed at the studio.” She shrugged elegantly. “New executives come and go in our business but this time,” she shook her head, “it was different. With the help of Sterling’s hand picked successor, Robert Barker, they pushed him out completely and took control of his flagship show, Odyssey.”
“I know that show,” Lucia said. “It’s one of Mari’s favorites since she was Junior High.”
Anna smiled. “Did she wear those ridiculous mini skirt uniforms for Halloween?”
Lucia nodded, her lips twitching at the memory. “Several. And the skirts kept getting shorter every year.” She shook her head. “But I still don’t see how Mari fits in all this. All she did was talk to a charming old man during a traffic jam.”
“To be honest, I don’t know either,” Anna confessed. “Once Sterling got pushed out, he - well, he wasn’t the same. He gave up actually.
“No, no,” Anna said when Lucia’s eyes widened. “He was never suicidal, he just gave up the business. Refused to take any calls or work on any other shows and there had been offers, trust me. He even stopped talking to them,” she nodded to the younger men. “Sterling is a mentor at heart. He loves to share his joy for storytelling and he surrounds himself with others who share that same passion. So when he stopped talking to Jeremy, Danny and the others…” She shrugged. “I think it was because Sterling had treated Robert like a son and the betrayal made him doubt everything and everyone.”
“Why Mari?” Lucia finally relaxed enough to lean back on the chair. “Don’t get me wrong, Mari is wonderful and not just because she’s my daughter, but she’s just a normal girl.”
“She’s a normal girl who charmed the bruised ego of a man with enough clout to change her life.”
Lucia stiffened. “There’s nothing wrong with her current life. Not by normal, every day standards. We may not be filthy rich, but she has a home and friends and family who love her. And if you think for one minute that I’m going to let her get carried away in some glamorous, fairy tale lifestyle that is just going to chew her up before it kicks her to a curb, you are sadly mistaken.”
Anna studied Lucia for several seconds. “Good. If you don’t let lure of wealth interfere with protecting your daughter, she won’t have a problem because she’s in it now.” She nodded to the group laughing as if they were long lost friends. It was clear that Mari fit in. She’d won over Jeremy and this war party was about to get very interesting.
“That still doesn’t-”
“Mari is an outsider,” Anna said. “Sterling is going to use her as his canary in a mine. Because she has no interest in being rich and famous, she’s going to be able to see things from a completely unbiased view.”
“What makes you think that Mari doesn’t want to be rich and famous?”
“Jeremy,” Anna said. “He’s the older one with the scruff on his face. If Mari had any delusions of being the next ‘It Girl’, he would have left by now.”
“If Jeremy is so important, why isn’t your husband making him the canary?”
Anna smiled with predatory coldness. “Because he does have every intention of being rich and famous. The last thing he wants is competition.”
“So basically we are in nest of vipers,” Lucia mumbled. “Good to know.”
Anna shrugged. “That just means you need to be a smarter predator.”
Lucia looked at her for a long time. “So what happens now?”
“Now, Sterling gets his war party together and retakes what was his.”
Chapter 3: The Vipers