Theo Kaminski, also known as Theo Charm, stood outside the Herald's offices. He was glaring up at the building, a wadded-up newspaper in his hand. Well, a section of it. The entertainment section. The section with entertainment columnist Craig's Boston's column, "Boston's Beat", in it. The section with the extremely uncomplimentary review of his magic show in it. The column didn't just dis his show either, oh no, it also claimed that he--Theo Charm--was an utterly uncharming fake.
It made him wonder what magician had pissed in Craig Boston's Wheaties.
It also pissed him off.
His mamma had always told him that his temper would get him into a world of trouble. His manager had actually made him read books about how to conduct oneself in the face of bad reviews, crying five-year-olds and other critics. That didn't stop him from opening up the Herald's doors and wandering around the building until he found himself in the right area to track down columnists; far away from the newsroom, close to the bathrooms.
"I'm looking for Craig Boston," he said to a harried-looking woman with a pile of files in her arms.
She nodded her head behind her. "First door on the right. He's the desk by the window." She gave him an amused once-over and took off toward the front.
"They put a critic near a window?" Theo muttered to himself as he walked down the hall and turned into the indicated room. "Not very well planned, that."
He looked around for a moment and spotted what had to be his target, sitting by the window and working diligently on a computer. Probably looking at porn, Theo thought uncharitably as he walked over. "Are you Craig Boston?" he asked, coming to halt by the desk.
The face that turned up to his couldn't possibly belong to a critic. Oh, no. This man was gorgeous. Short dark curls framed a square-jawed face with dark green eyes and pouty lips. Shirtsleeves and a loosened tie gave the impression of being busy, but did nothing to hide the muscles in the man's arms and chest. "Yeah. I am. Who're you?"
Theo looked down at the crumpled paper in his fist. Oh, yeah. Right. Pissed off. He could do pissed off, still. He hoped. He didn't like to think that he was utterly shallow, but then, he did work with illusions. "I'm Theo Cha--Theo Kaminski. I'd like to talk to you."
Craig blinked for a moment and then grinned, relaxing back in his chair. "The magician. Oh, excuse me, your type prefers 'illusionist'."
"I prefer anything over 'hack'," Theo ground out. "As I'm sure you do. However, I at least do some research."
One of Craig's eyebrows went up. "Attending the show is my research, bub. And I assure you that I did. I even managed to stay awake. Through most of it."
"Hmm." Theo braced his hip on the edge of the desk. "Did you know--did you ask ... oh, no, I guess asking questions falls outside of your particular research parameters. Fine, I'll just tell you. The lighting tech they hired turns out to be the younger brother of Peter Nagas--AKA Peter the Great. The tech issues weren't mine."
"That's not my problem. My job is to let my readers know what I think of the shows I go see. Yours sucked." Craig crossed his arms over his chest and stared right at him.
"And so did this piece of crap you pass off as a review," Theo growled, tossing the paper onto the desk. "Barely literate and I doubt you'd know a good illusion if it sat up and smacked your pretty mouth twice." Oops. He hadn't meant to say the pretty part.
Craig's eyes narrowed and he stood. Oh, the man was tall. And well-built all over. If Theo hadn't been so mad he might have been intimidated.
"I know that I was bored. They might have been good illusions, but they were boring illusions, too, and I have a duty to tell my readers that."
"Hard to have a show-stopper when the fucking lighting tech blew the show as a laugh. Hard to make rainbows show when the lights are wrong. Do you have any idea what goes into a decent illusion? The variables that have to be set just right? What happens when one of the elements is tossed?" Theo very carefully kept talking, not backing up at all. Just as carefully, he tried to keep himself from swaying toward Craig's body.
Craig finally held up his hands. "Look. You're right. I don't know how any of that technical shit effects stuff. But I'm not going to write you a glowing review when the show sucked wind. That's not how it works. I show up on a random night and I make my review. I'm sorry if you were having a bad night, but that's really not my problem."
Logically, Theo knew Craig was right. He knew he didn't have any real call to even be there, in Craig's face about it; his manager was going to kill him, actually. Still, it grated because it just wasn't fair. He was damn good at what he did, and the sucky review was going to hurt him long term. "Come to another show," he blurted. "See how it's supposed to be done."
That eyebrow was back up again, but Craig didn't answer right away. "You realize that if I do, I'm going to write a column about it, whether I like it any better the second time or not. You could wind up with two shitty reviews."
Theo snorted. "They fired the lighting tech." He took a careful step backward, trying to add a little distance before he gave up the internal war and just stared at Craig. Now that his mind was a little calmer, his body was waking up. "Saturday, matinee and evening."
"You expect me to give up my Saturday night for a show that I already hated once?"
Irritation washed up Theo's spine. "Or an afternoon, and yes, I do. You didn't check into the theater, you know nothing about me, you know nothing about illusions. Frankly, you shouldn't be reviewing magic shows if you don't know what goes into them. This is my career you're toying with, buddy. Not some piss-ant college review shit. Or don't you have that so called 'journalistic integrity' the rest of us plebes get to hear about so much?" He never did know when to shut up. His mamma had told him that, too.
Craig growled. "Listen here, you two-bit charlatan. I've put up with you coming in here and getting in my face without calling security, but if you think questioning my ability and my integrity is going to get you a favorable review, you live in a world of illusion full time, buddy." Craig was clearly pissed off now, too, which made them even, if nothing else. "I suggest you leave right now and I'll consider showing up on Saturday and taking in your meager offerings again."
"Whatever." Theo could feel his eyes narrow and knew his face was heating, his irritation turning back into anger. "Don't do me any favors. Maybe I'll get lucky and the four people who actually read your crap will see it for what it is." He turned to walk away, his hands balled into fists at his sides.
"Forty thousand people, you mean." The man sighed. "All right. I'll go. But it better rock my socks off, Mr. Charm."
Theo suddenly had a strange mental image of Craig Boston in nothing but his socks. "It's what I do," he said in a slightly strangled voice. "Come backstage after the show, if you want."
He could have sworn he could feel those eyes on his ass all the way out. But that was probably just wishful thinking