After a day filled with official business and a waste of sunshine, Donna relaxed and rounded the pool-perhaps an enormous fountain; she couldn't make the distinction when dozens of candles and floral arrangements floated on the surface of the water-and sipped her Chardonnay. Real Chardonnay, French Chardonnay. This donor stocked no imitations, no California substitutes, despite the fact that he resided in California. She had wandered from under the social umbrella of the senior staff-from Josh, who had finally settled down for a real conversation with Joey Lucas-for a peek at the colorful strata of well-dressed guests. California politicians. World-class chefs. The Hollywood elite. And-
Donna shook her head and pressed her lips into a thin line as she stared at the back of Josh's head. He stood amidst a horseshoe of people-none of whom were Joey Lucas-poised and casual, a tall glass of ice water in his hand. She darted toward him with a mission, despite the odd sense that he had-intentionally or not-provoked her. As she neared him, she wiped the idea from her head and opted for a second theory.
"You're a coward, Josh," she whispered over his shoulder. "Did you know that? What-you talked to her for five minutes before you panicked and fled the-"
She peered at her hands for a moment. "You always do that," she said, her voice still hushed. "You finally find the nerve to approach a woman, but you chicken out at the last minute. Do you know what I think about that, Josh? I think-"
"I'm sorry. I-" He paused and smiled nervously. "I don't mean to be rude, but if you're looking for someone named Josh, I think you have the wrong-"
"Really, of all the excuses you've tried, I'm honestly surprised you've never tried this one." She brushed her hair away from her face and leaned closer to him, absently scanning the crowd. "But, I have to tell you, it would have worked much better when I'd just started work-"
"Okay, let me stop you right there. I don't know who you are, or what's going on, but maybe an introduction would clear up a few things." He set his glass down on the nearest table and offered her his hand. "I'm Danny. Danny Tripp. I'm the executive producer for Studio 60. The television show. I don't know who this Josh is, but I can assure you that I'm not him."
Donna tilted her head as she studied him, suspicion and curiosity engaged in a silent battle somewhere in her brain. She noticed-or thought she noticed-some differences: an even-more-receded hairline; eyeglasses in the pocket of his suit jacket; an extra pound or two. Did Josh have a brother? She couldn't recall. He'd never mentioned one. "You said your last name was?"
"And your first name?"
"Not Josh? Of course, if you were Josh, you wouldn't tell me you were Josh, if you were trying to hide it, so-"
"You look an awful lot like him," she said, trying not to stare. "Like Josh."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm really not. I'm sure it's just a-"
"Almost identical. You sound like him, too. Are you sure you're-" She crossed her arms and stepped closer. "Is this a trick? Do you have identification on you or anything?"
"Listen, Ms., uh-"
"Moss?" she prompted.
"Ms. Moss, I was just going over there for some fruit." He pointed toward a table several feet away. "Are you-maybe you should consider calling someone to drive you home if you're-"
"I'm not-" she started, but reconsidered. "Okay, I'm a little drunk, but you really do look-"
"Listen, does your-friend?"
"Does your boss have a girlfriend who's seven months pregnant?" he asked, entirely serious.
"Oh, God," she said. "I hope not. I don't think so. I-"
"Is he an alcoholic?"
"No," she said, definitive and firm. She had learned the ins-and-outs of Josh's drinking patterns over the last couple years to answer with certainty. "He has a beer every now and then, or some vodka on really rough-"
"Is he a cocaine addict?"
Momentarily stunned, she blinked at him before she answered. "No, n-no, definitely not-"
Danny smiled, reserved but eerily familiar. "Then he's not me."
"See?" he said and nodded toward the source of the voice.
Donna stood on her tiptoes to see an unfamiliar woman beside a table of exotic fruits, her plate piled with starfruit and guava.
Danny started to sidle away. "I'm going to go now, but it's been a pleasure-bizarre, but a pleasure-to meet you. I, uh, hope you find your boss."
As he joined the woman at the table with an affectionate kiss on her cheek, Donna sighed, perplexed, and downed the rest of her wine like a shot of tequila.
The next time she saw Josh-the real one; she was sure this time-at the hotel, she couldn't suppress the persistent question in her mind. When Josh sat quietly, his head bowed over a newspaper and a cup of coffee in his hand, she blurted into the calm silence, "Josh, you never tried cocaine, right?"
Josh nearly choked on his coffee. He set down his cup and sputtered, his hand on his chest. "Excuse me?"
Donna turned to her open suitcase, shut the lid, and ran the zipper. "I'll just take that as a 'no'," she said and headed for the door, eying Josh with suspicion, not entirely convinced.