Home > You Had Me at Hola(8)

You Had Me at Hola(8)
Author: Alexis Daria

His voice was silken and deep, wrapping around her, urging her to loosen up. Instead, Carmen steeled her spine. With tight, controlled movements, she set the tablet down, lest she throw it at him, and pressed her hands to the cool surface, letting it ground her. Her lips compressed into a thin line as she glared from the newcomer to her father.

“Really?” she said in a harsh tone, breaking the silence but not the tension. “My ex-husband is our new client?”

On a network show, this would have been a prime commercial break, but since this was being filmed for a streaming service, the scene continued.

Ernesto rushed over to Carmen, his tone conciliatory. “Mija, óyeme—”

“No, I will not listen.” Carmen slashed her hand through the air. “The answer is no. I won’t work with him.”

Her father didn’t give up. “Like you said, you’re the best in the business at rehabbing celebrity images. If you can turn Victor’s career around, we’ll have clients knocking down our door. Come on, mija. Do it for the family.”

Carmen pinned Victor with a glare. “What. Did. You. Do?”

Victor had the grace to look slightly abashed. His throat worked as he swallowed, and he lifted a hand to scratch the back of his neck. “Ah . . . I might have . . . canceled a world tour.”

Carmen nodded and slowly let out a breath. “I probably would have known that if I hadn’t so thoroughly scrubbed you out of my life.”

Victor pressed a hand to his chest and winced. “Ouch. Direct hit.”

“Basta,” Ernesto said, getting between them. “You’re both grown adults. Can’t you work together?”

Carmen sucked on her lower lip, as if she were thinking about it, then she shook her head. “No, Papi. I can’t. I won’t work with him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more important things to do than to waste my time talking with this piece of basura.” She raised a finger and pointed at the door. “Victor, out.”

Victor and Ernesto exchanged glances, but Victor raised his hands in surrender and left the office.

With a heavy sigh, Carmen dropped into her desk chair. When she looked up at her father, betrayal was etched all over her features. “Papi, how could you do that to me?”

“Lo siento, querida. Pero . . .” Her father sat in the chair on the other side of Carmen’s desk, shoulders slumped. “Pero Victor es nuestra única esperanza.”

Carmen’s brows creased, and her tone was pleading. “No entiendo. Why is Victor our only hope?”

“Porque . . .” There was a hitch in his voice. “Porque, mija, we are on the verge of losing the business.”

Carmen let the shock of his words show on her face. “But . . . I thought we were doing well. You never said . . .”

“I know. Ever since your tío Fredo died, we’ve been struggling. He was the strong one, the smart one. I was good with people, but Fredo was good with numbers.”

“That was three years ago . . .” Carmen shook her head, still not comprehending. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped.”

“You and Victor were having trouble, and I didn’t want to worry you, or give you more work. Anyway, now . . . it looks like signing Victor is all we can do to save the business.”

Carmen clasped her hands together on the desk and shut her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, she met her father’s gaze, and it was as if she had suited herself in armor. Eyes cold, shoulders squared, voice sharp.

“I will work with Victor under two conditions,” she said, and held up a finger before her father could rejoice. “One, I take over the financials for the business.”

“Pero you’ll be so busy—”

“Not too busy to get the firm back on top. Serranos do it better, remember?” A ghost of a smile played on her lips, but she squashed it and held up a second finger. “Two, no one gets any ideas about me and Victor, got it?”

Her father’s expression was all innocence. “¿Qué quieres decir? Ideas?”

“You know exactly what I mean,” Carmen said, getting to her feet. “Just because I’ll be working with him does not mean that Victor and I will be getting back together. So get that out of your head. Same goes for Mom.”

Her father held up his hands. “Okay, bueno. I believe you.”

“Now call him back in. I know he’s still out there. He only leaves when it’s convenient for him.” Carmen came around from her desk and waited with her hands on her hips.

Victor returned, shit-eating grin firmly in place.

“I knew you couldn’t resist me.”

“You’d be surprised what I can resist,” Carmen replied through gritted teeth. “Right now, I’m resisting throwing a paperweight at your head.”

“I’m not worried.” He smirked and gestured at her minimalist desk space.

Carmen raised her chin and lobbed the ball back into his court. “You want to tell me why you canceled a world tour?”

His expression shuttered, dark eyebrows creasing as his gaze slanted away from hers. “No.”

“Of course not.” Carmen turned to her father. “So what’s the plan? What’s our goal here?”

Victor answered instead. “There’s another tour coming up, with a few other Latinx singers. I want in on it.”

Carmen eyed him up and down. “We have our work cut out for us if you want someone to give you a spot on a tour so soon after you canceled another one.”

Her father spoke up. “Especially since they’re also looking at giving the spot to Dimas del Valle.”

“Dimas?” Carmen’s gaze shot back to Victor. “You hate that guy.”

Victor’s expression turned thunderous and he muttered a string of Spanish insults under his breath.

“Oye.” Carmen snapped her fingers and strode over to Victor, getting all up in his personal space, closer than she would with a typical client. Close enough to catch the heady scent of his cologne. She jabbed her finger in his chest to get his attention. His hard, firm chest. “They’re going to make a decision soon, and if you don’t clean up your image and make yourself visible, they’re going to pick Dimas for the tour. Is that what you want?”

Victor scowled, his eyes darkening. “You know it isn’t.”

Carmen gave a cocky little head shake. “Then you need to stay out of trouble. That means no parties, no drinking, and no messing around with your stupid friends. Where are you staying?”

When the corner of his mouth ticked up, Carmen narrowed her eyes. “Whenever you make that face, I know I’m not going to like whatever you say next.”

Victor’s grin turned mocking. “Well, if I have to stay out of trouble, there’s only one place that’s perfect for that.”

Carmen scoffed. “Where, a monastery?”

His smile was slow and devious. “No, even better.” He waited a beat for effect, then said, “Your parents’ house.”

Carmen sucked in a breath. “Ay, puñeta.”


Chapter 6

Jasmine turned to the director, who wore a big grin.

“That was perfect,” he said from his chair, looking up from the playback screen. “We’ll get the shot of Victor walking in again, but then we’ll go to the next scene.”

Jasmine moved off to the side and gratefully accepted the bottle of water handed to her by a PA.

“Great work, Jas.” Peter Calabasas joined her, trailed by two makeup artists who immediately set about touching up the actors’ faces. “You’re a natural.”

“You make it easy, Dad,” Jasmine said with a grin. “Are you joining us for drinks Friday night?”

“I wouldn’t miss it,” he said. “Thanks for organizing that.”

“A cast is a family.” She hadn’t asked Ashton yet, but she hoped he would join them.

“Eyes closed, Jasmine,” the makeup artist said, and Jasmine complied. When she opened them, her gaze landed on the set. As expected, Ashton had already disappeared.

A pang shot through her. Was it her fault?

It had been a week, and she had yet to have a real conversation with Ashton. Well, aside from their disastrous first encounter. Her white blouse from that day had been ruined, but her grandmother had worked some laundry magic with the pink slacks, and they were good as new.

This whole thing would be easier if she could run lines with him, like she did with Lily, Miriam, and Peter. But Ashton had made himself clear. He didn’t want anything to do with her—or the rest of the cast, if her observations were correct. Her cousins had been right—he was unapproachable and kept to himself. She should just leave him to it.

Still, it didn’t feel right not to invite Ashton out for drinks. She’d let him know, and if he said yes, then great, and if he said no . . .

She hoped he didn’t say no.

The reunion scene had gone well because Carmen was supposed to feel thrown off balance by Victor’s appearance. Not hard to manage, since Jasmine was still a bundle of nerves around Ashton. But as Carmen and Victor began to grow more comfortable around each other? Jasmine dreaded those scenes.

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