The rest of the morning went smoothly. They stopped for a late lunch and everyone crowded around the catering tables. There was a variety of food set out, something for every appetite. Austin made a beeline for the far end of the catering area. Dexter had something on the grill. From where she was standing, Liat couldn’t see what it was, but it smelled delicious. She followed her nose, looking expectant. Dexter grinned at her.
“Want some? There’s plenty.”
“What is it?” She eyed the grilled meat dubiously. It didn’t look like steak or pork chops.
Austin swung around, handing her something from his plate. “Barbecue spare ribs! I can’t get enough of them. It’s Dexter’s fault. He finds new ways to fatten me up. Here. They’re marvelous! Go on. I haven’t licked it or anything.”
Liat nibbled one side as he held it to her lips. The flavors erupted in her mouth, spicy and sweet at once. Closing her eyes, she savored the sauce and the succulent meat.
“Positively orgasmic,” he moaned. Realizing what she’d said to two strange men, she blushed. “Sorry. It’s delicious.”
Naomi came over, laughing. “You fed her the ribs, huh? That’s how Dex convinced me to marry him,” she confided.
“Wasn’t either,” Dexter replied. “As I recall it was something between the oh—yes and the oh—god, that convinced you.”
Naomi punched her towering husband. “Hush! The ribs helped.”
“Absolutely delicious,” Liat said.
“Get more,” Austin urged. He waited until her plate was full before leading her to a table.
As many people as there were, this table was empty. Liat sensed it was set aside for Austin. She was nervous about joining him, but he insisted. Some unknown flunky brought them each a tall glass topped with mint.
“Iced tea, absolutely fabulous. Never tried it until I got here and I can’t get enough of it either. I’ll be speaking American soon,” he teased, dropping into a Texas drawl.
“Are you always this excited about food, Austin?”
He blushed, eyes dropping to his plate. “I literally was a starving actor when I landed this role. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you learn to appreciate the little things. Like a superbly grilled rib or a sweet, flaky scone with lots of juicy berries. I don’t ask them to pamper me. Dexter and Naomi make these things because I enjoy them—and they’re my friends. Everyone’s more like family, really.”
“I imagine it’s lonely so far from home.”
He shrugged. “Don’t have any home but here. I lived in the worst part of London. Before that, foster homes. Now, I live in my apartment and have my posh trailer here on the set. What more do I need?”
“You don’t want a house?”
Austin shrugged. “Fame is fleeting. This show could last a week or another ten years. They may decide to do with me as Doctor Who does and replace me when the novelty wears off. I stay within my means. Dwight lives across the hall and he organizes my life. I do my job.”
“Do you like your job?”
“I do. Where else can I be someone else and snog lots of pretty women?”
She giggled, putting her hand over her mouth so she wouldn’t spew her food. “I suppose that would be a dream job for some men.”
“Absolutely! I wish I got this guy’s action.” He realized that hadn’t gone over well. “Sorry. That makes me sound like a twat. He’s too much of a player for my tastes. He’s a space age Casanova. Yes, The Magician does have a reputation as a womanizer.”
“Why do you always refer to him in the third person?”
“Because he’s not me. He’s dashing and charming and I’m neither.”
He rose abruptly, leaving his plate on the table. An anonymous waiter picked it up, carrying it away to be cleaned.
Liat watched him walk away, wondering what she’d said to upset him. He was certainly a contradiction. One moment, charming and chatty. The next, he was dashing off to the loo. He was certainly an enigma, one she couldn’t possibly pursue since she had only a narrow window of opportunity. The three episodes she’d contracted for were slated for completion within the next few weeks. They were filming them simultaneously in order to maximize their time. In the interim, she could be hired for longer or not—on the whim of some unknown entity. Resigned to the situation, but disliking her lack of options, she went back to work.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes