"Max Keeler anywhere around?" Heavy footsteps crunched in the gravel of the yard behind the scene shop at Homespun Theater.
"Who's asking?" Max Randolph finished putting the freshly sprayed copper plates down on the wire drying rack her stepfather had created decades ago. The chemical stink of the spray paint made her feel a little dizzy, which was why she took advantage of the nice weather to do her spray painting chores outdoors.
When she had a hard time working on a scene for her latest book or screenplay, she put in a few hours in the scene shop or the printing shop. Today, she worked on props for The Taming of the Shrew, which Homespun would be producing in a little more than a week. She had been doing a lot of scene shop chores since her writing partner and best friend, Tony Martin, went to UCLA to do his writer-in-residence stint. If he didn't come back in mid-May as promised, her writing career just might be stalled out permanently.
"I'm Steve Coheny," the stranger said.
"Sorry, don't know the name." She stood up, careful not to wipe her paint-smeared hands on her jeans. Max turned around and nearly staggered backwards into the damp plates. A jolt of adrenaline drove away the paint fumes headache that threatened to turn into a bout of nausea.
She knew that face, but fifty years older. The face that haunted her worst nightmares had similar coarse curls, but shorter, tighter, gray-frosted, not dark chocolate. Steve Coheny wore Carlo Vincente's face -- or an unreasonable facsimile, as Tony would say. He was taller than Carlo; his shoulders were wider, and his complexion not quite so Mediterranean dark.
Max took a deep breath and felt some of that tension tying her guts into knots loosen and fade. No, he looked a little like Carlo, but not as much as she thought on first glance. It was more her imagination than his bone structure. She had to find a way to get her mind off that problem she had been gnawing since the mail from the Gabrielli Film Fellowship came yesterday.
I have got Carlo Vincente on the brain, she silently snarled.
It wasn't Carlo's fault that he was single-handedly shredding her latest triumph. He had no idea she even existed, and Max preferred to keep it that way. For the rest of her life, if possible.
Okay, God, I admit I was stupid choosing my mother's maiden name for my screenwriting name, but do You have to keep rubbing my nose in it?