Excerpt from Her Leading Man

     The desert air was as hot as a pistol barrel and as dry as a mummy's tomb—which was appropriate—when Christina Mayhew opened the window and glanced out at what was to be her temporary home for however long it took to film this stupid picture. "I hope to heaven we won't be here long," she muttered.
     Her grandmother, a withered woman with eyes like an eagle's and a nose like a hawk's, huffed from her perch on the bedstead. "However long it lasts, you'll do your job, girl."
     Glancing over her shoulder, Christina grinned at her grandmother. "Of course I will. When have I not done my job, Gran?"
     The old lady smiled, an expression that didn't soften her sharp features appreciably. "Never. You're a good girl, Christina, even if your father was a benighted fool."
     Christina shook her head and tried not to laugh. "You really shouldn't talk about your own son that way, Gran. Daddy is a lovely man as well as a wonderful doctor."
     "He's a ninny." The old lady sniffed.
     Since Christina knew her grandmother was given to pronouncements of such a nature and had become accustomed to cowing others into accepting them without argument, she broadened her grin. "Daddy is a love. You're just mad because you could never get him to do what you wanted him to do, and you could never make him lose his temper. He's the best doctor in Los Angeles, and you know it."
     "Stuff!" Gran said. But her bird-of-prey eyes glinted, and Christina knew the old lady was amused.
     The trick to getting along with Gran, as Christina well knew, was to stand up to her. Gran didn't respect people who allowed her to push them around, although you'd never know it since she treated everyone like dirt. Egalitarian. That was Gran. She treated everyone equally abominably.
     With a sigh, Christina closed the window and turned to observe her grandmother. "I guess I'd better get this over with. I'm supposed to meet Pablo Orozco this morning. And Martin Tafft." She was looking forward to the latter, although she'd have liked to skip the former, having heard stories about the egomaniacal Orozco.
     Gran's eyes thinned until Christina could barely see them in her wrinkled old face. "I should be there with you, girl. Don't let those men do anything I wouldn't approve of."
     As Gran didn't approve of anything, this would be impossible, although Christina didn't bother to point it out. "Don't worry, Gran. I'll be fine."
     Her grandmother huffed again, clearly not believing that Christina wouldn't come to grief without her there to protect her. Which was kind of funny, really, as Gran wasn't even five feet tall. Christina herself stood five feet, six inches tall, rather too large to fit the image of a fragile film star. Since she didn't give a hang about being a film star, she didn't care. She was only glad her auburn hair, fair skin, and big hazel eyes were so photogenic. A girl could make lots of money acting in the pictures, even a girl like her, who thought moving pictures were one of the most nonsensical inventions ever inflicted on humanity.
     Nevertheless, she knew which side her bread was buttered on. After striding to the bed and dropping a fond kiss on her grandmother's withered cheek—a sentimental gesture Gran pretended to disdain—Christina checked herself in the mirror for flaws, discerned none, picked up her parasol, sucked in a deep preparatory breath, and opened the door, ready to do her duty. Holding her parasol like a knight of old might have held his sword, she said to her grandmother in a deep, dramatic voice, "Onward, into the breech!"
     She was pleased when Gran cackled her approval and was feeling pretty good by the time she descended the hotel's stairs and found the parlor, where the cast was supposed to meet this morning.
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