Thank you guys for the huge feedback and sorry for the delay!

I don't own Smash

-o-

2. DINNER

It was almost nine thirty when Karen finally arrived at the Vault at Pfaff's, the semi-secret cocktail den below 643 Broadway. Derek was already there nursing a drink and looking pissed. She made easily her way through the crowd with the expertise of a seasoned waitress.

"Hello Karen! I'm glad you eventually found time for me in your very busy schedule," said Derek dryly, taken her aback. He took a slug of his scotch, darting an intense gaze in her direction. "You look lovely," he added with a wolfish smile that made her feel naked. She blushed, as was his intent.

"I clean up nicely, don't I?" she quipped, putting on her best British accent. She slipped off her leather jacket and sat across from him. "I'm sorry, it took me like forever to get here." She set her oversized bag on her lap. "I'll have a Perrier," she said to the corset-laced waitress.

It had only taken five seconds to Derek to throw her completely. Why was she doing that to herself? There was the obvious, she needed a job. She needed to get out of "Bombshell" like yesterday, even she knew it, it was time to set her priorities straight. She was aware she had missed out on a great opportunity, and Derek had every right to be pissed.

On the other hand, she was in love with Jimmy, well, she was almost ready for the L word anyway, and she'd rather spend her sole evening off with him instead of with the ever irritating Derek. Maybe it was too high a price to pay to have to put up with the Dark Lord. After all, he was not the only renowned director in New York. Who was she kidding, really? Of course she needed all the help he could give her. He was the only one who believed in her after two years of rejection and failed auditions. Yes, she was definitely being unfair, Derek was a friend. Then why was she so frightened? She finally looked up.

"I'm not talking about the clothes," he continued noncommittally, unaware of her inner struggle. "You're a beautiful woman, there's not reason to be prudish about it."

She went beet red instantly. "I'm not!" she protested, unable to look him in the eyes.

"You're not beautiful?" he grinned.

"I mean I thought we had already established that I wasn't afr…" she glowered at him.

"Yes, you are, and it makes you even more desirable. But you know that. You're not that naïve. Well, enough with the niceties. I'm glad you could make it," he said patting her on the hand. "Now that you're mine, where would you like to have dinner?"

"Can't we eat here?" she almost whined.

"We have to talk, I'd prefer to do it in a quieter venue over a decent steak if you don't mind."

"But surely I don't have the right dress to go to one of your fancy restaurants."

"Nonsense. You're with me. It is settled then."

Half an hour later and four blocks away, they were seated in a restaurant she had only heard about in the gossip section. Rumour had it, tables had to be booked several weeks in advance, but Derek just showed up and was lead to the best table. Go figure.

"Stop being itchy, you only embarrass yourself," he said without looking at her. His voice was dry and businesslike. "We'll have the filet de bœuf Rossini and a bottle of your Pinot noir Côte de Beaune Les Feusselottes 2009," he said without looking at the menu either. Only then did he give her his full attention. "We missed our window of opportunity with Rand," he prompted, "that doesn't mean I don't have another plan up my sleeve."

"Oh, you do?"

"Karen, I've been in this business long enough to know that one no doesn't mean it's over."

"I know, you told me that already. Life is long, life in the theatre is longer," she quoted.

He sat back in his chair, and crossed his legs. His face softened. "So you do listen when you're spoken to," he mused, "very good. Like I said, you have way too much talent to be stuck in the ensemble. I love 'Bombshell', you were a magnificent Marilyn, but you can't stop on your way up or it will be your death. At least on Broadway," he finally smiled.

"Okay…"

"Good! You're aware that even though Rand chose Veronica Moore over you, things could evolve."

"So?" The waiter set their plates on the table, and she realized she was famished.

"So, consider yourself invited to a party."

"What has it got to do with anything?" she asked, tucking into her food.

"I want you to meet with Veronica." Following her example, he began to eat. But her appetite was gone. She pushed her food around her plate, averting his seemingly indifferent stare. Meet Veronica Moore? Why? Wasn't it enough that she was rejected, he wanted her to be humiliated as well?

"You want me to meet Veronica Moore?"

"Oh not the parrot routine again, Karen, I thought we were past that. You'll find she's very friendly with young talents. She's aware she's never better than surrounded by a gifted company. But don't get me wrong. Talented means she favours a green cast."

"She's not afraid of the "All about Eve" curse?"

He chuckled. "You know your Marilyn. No, she's not. This is not Hollywood. She can be momentarily overshadowed by a member of the ensemble but it's still her name at the top of the bill. She could launch your career, but you'd never be a threat, not right away that is."

"Then why was I a threat to Ivy?"

"Oh, I think you know," he said, arching one eyebrow.

"But shouldn't you give her that opportunity instead," she insisted.

"Ivy is broken. She spent too much time in the ensemble as it is. She doesn't know how to be a star any more."

"But she'll be pissed."

"I'm sorry?"

Karen stopped fidgeting with her food. "Well, isn't she your girlfriend?" she ventured, her chin pointing boldly in his direction.

His mouth twitched. "Darling, this is show business. Ivy knows what she's doing."

"You mean she slept with you to get the part?"

"Well, well, aren't we nosy tonight," he mused. "If she did, it was a mistake," he said with a shrug. "And for the record, Ivy was not my girl friend."

"Was?"

He sighed. "We haven't seen much of each other since her "Bombshell" meltdown. I take it she's in good hands with Tom and his toy boy." He paused. "Since we're at it, anything else about my sexual activities you would like me to shed some light on?" Her eyes went wide and she shook her head frantically. "Good." He wiped his mouth and threw the towel on the table. "The party is a week from now. Jerry Rand needs more investors."

"Okay."

"Okay? No questions? No tantrum?" he teased her.

"I guess I have to trust you on that," she shrugged. "What should I wear?"

"Anything red. Show some cleavage. No flashy couture jewels. And let your hair loose. Don't spoil your natural beauty with some elaborate make up either."

"Plain and ordinary, got it."

"Karen, there's nothing plain about you," he said. He once again locked his eyes on hers. "What else?"

"Huh?"

"I quote ' I guess I have to trust you on that'. Unquote. What else?" he asked again.

"Nothing. It was just a figure of speech," she protested.

"Fair enough. So you won't be against going to my place tonight when you're finished. I do have something else I want to show you."