Angel at Dawn
is it?” Nim Wei asked. “Shouldn’t Viv have arrived by now?”
    Grace glanced down at her wrist. “Sheesh,” she said. “I forgot to put on my watch.”
    “Unheard of!” Philip exclaimed, his manner as flirtatious as Charlie’s. “Of course that means none of us was even one minute late.”
    “Nice try,” Nim Wei said with surprisingly little ire for someone used to her subjects jumping at a snap of her white fingers. She began herding the group toward the dining room. “We’ll start without her. Grace can read Mary.”
    Wade Matthews took one end of the table, where a reel-to-reel tape recorder sat. Its presence made the read-through seem more official than Christian had anticipated.
    “That seat’s empty,” Wade assured him, possibly mistaking his hesitation for bashfulness.
    Christian took the chair he’d indicated. A second later, Charlie grabbed the one next to him.
    “No,” Nim Wei said when Mace tried to sit across from the pair of them. “You stay on the other end with Bonehead and Growler.”
    Grace was helping Wade get his microphone situated, effectively drawing Christian’s eyes from the seating change. Grace’s sweater set was a soft spring green Lana Turner couldn’t have filled out better. Against it, her deep red hair glowed like an autumn maple, and her eyes were as bright as gems. Recognizing that he was staring, Christian wrenched his gaze down to the dark tabletop.
    “Wait until you get a load of Vivian Lavelle,” Charlie said under cover of the general noise. “She’s grown up since The Little Forresters .”
    “I don’t believe I’ve seen that film,” Christian said.
    Charlie gawped at him. “Oh, come on. The Christmas movie? My dad plays it every year. Trust me, you don’t want to have three older sisters and watch that scene where Viv’s dog dies.”
    “Her dog dies?” Christian asked, wondering why this was considered festive.
    “ Tears ,” Charlie said. “Shooting in buckets from little Viv’s big brown eyes.”
    “And your sisters cry as well, I presume?”
    “No,” Charlie laughed. “I do. Every damn time. My sisters never let me hear the end of it.”
    He laughed so hard Christian couldn’t help but smile, despite the foreignness of the concept of people letting their emotions run amok like that.
    “All right. Settle down,” Nim Wei said. Everyone straightened and shifted their attention to the head of the table, where their director stood in petite Napoleonic glory. Her smile seemed genuine enough, her manner authoritative but not regal. The smiles that turned to her seemed real, too—excited, respectful . . . and not the least fearful. Christian realized he didn’t see her mark on a single neck. Nim Wei hadn’t bitten or thralled her cast. They were following her of their own free will.
    Christian sat back with a jolt in his chair. He looked at Grace, whom Nim Wei most definitely had bespelled. Probably assuming he was nervous, she smiled at him reassuringly.
    “As some of you know,” Nim Wei began, “movies shoot their scenes out of order. Tonight may be your only chance to get a feel for the story as a whole before we’re done filming. Don’t worry about getting everything perfect. It’s likely there will be script changes, especially if lines don’t read the way we expect. If you stumble, please keep going. This is a read-through, not an audition for the Actors’ Studio. Everybody dig?”
    “Yes, Naomi,” the table said in near unison.

    I Was a Teen-Age Vampire began without dialogue. In a calm and businesslike manner, Grace described the opening sequence. A motorcycle gang, led by Christian’s movie father, roared into the town of Haileyville bent on extortion. The boys provided predictable engine noises as the gang surrounded, attacked, and finally bit a hapless shopkeeper. Grace remained undistracted by the chomping sound Bonehead made, though she did smile slightly. With an inward sigh, Christian added one more male to the

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