“But I have better hair.”
“You have hair. And it is way better.”
My phone dinged like a church bell. A message from J.P. I touched the screen and scrolled: Up for a pedi patrol late afternoon? Should be some TV beauties from that LGO hooker show getting toes done in the usual spot.
J.P. must have gotten a tip from one of his very many assistant sources. That was where most of his out-and-about assignments originated. The assistants got a little thank you from J.P. in the form of extra cash.
“Hey, I gotta go,” I said, and strapped on my helmet.
“Ooh, what’s the assignment today?”
I told her and her eyes lit up. “I need a mani-pedi. Can I come?”
“What? And cramp my style? Love you. I’ll see you later. Besides, you have your dinner thing.”
“Get me a good shot.”
As she walked off, I double checked the message from J.P. Then I spotted a new one. From HBG.
HBG: Did you know that Sullivan West will be outrunning Nazis tomorrow evening at the Silver Screen Theater on Wilshire? First time in more than a year that Bandits of The Forgotten Crown is being shown on a big screen in LA. I’d love to take you.
Damn. My heart started tap-dancing on my brain.
Then I read a second text from him.
HBG: P.S. Did you know the Silver Screen Theater has…wait for it…air-popped popcorn? You probably knew that but I have a hunch you might be a fan of air-popped popcorn. You are, aren’t you?
As I re-read the note, the tap dancing sped up, my damn heart beating out a staccato rhythm so quickly that all logical brain cells were quashed. The rational lobes shut down, and I was left with only the emotional, hormonal ones that took control of my fingers and made me reply with a You’ve got your yes.
Because movies, air-popped popcorn, and the Silver Screen Theater on Wilshire formed my trifecta.
As I headed for the strip of street with the best mani-pedi salons in town, I found myself looking forward to seeing the movie with him.
But when I arrived at manicure row, I wasn’t happy to spot William Harrigan parking his motorcycle down the street, too.
That fact that he was here could only mean one thing.
“Tell me I’m not paranoid. Tell me you’re not phasing me out.”
“You’re not paranoid,” J.P. said. “I’m not phasing you out.”
I ducked into the doorway of a juice cleanse store, pressing my back flat against the brick wall so the pair of mommies pushing strollers could exit. “Tell me why he’s on the same stakeout two days in a row, then. You used to send me solo.”
“Competition is good for the soul, Jess. Either that or I’ll just tell you now I’m secretly practicing for the matchmaking business I’m going to open soon, and you and Criminally Handsome are my first test,” he said, and I could hear the tease in his tone, like a cat playing with a mouse. He was toying with me, and he was having a damn fine time.
“Well, you’re failing because I don’t like him,” I said, patently lying, as I stepped out of the doorway and paced down the block, far away from the hot guy who I’d stupidly agreed to a date with. Next up on my to-do list? Cancel the date.
“Ah, that’s just how you feel now. He’ll grow on you.”
“Doubtful. But seriously. Why are you doing this? Why are you sending him out on the same jobs?” I asked, and there was the slightest quiver in the way the words came out of my throat. I crossed the street, putting distance between William and me. I thought I’d beat him yesterday, but he was back for more. There was no way I was letting him win this little turf battle, no matter how sexy his accent was or how charming his texts were.
“Jess, you’re not my only shooter,” he said in his no-nonsense voice. “You think I close operations when you’re in class? Ha. The stars of the world are out and about twenty-four seven, and so are my shooters. Besides, it’s his second job of the day. He already got a picture of Monica Tremaine drinking an iced latte down on Melrose. Two pics actually. One I sold to my purple-haired friend, the other to Star Sightings. Cha-ching,” he added, making a sound like a slot machine.
“Monica Tremaine,” I said, smacking my free hand on my forehead. “Everyone takes pictures every day of Monica Tremaine drinking iced soy chai lattes on Melrose. She’s a reality show star! She sends out press alerts when she goes to the grocery store!”
“Sometimes a man’s gotta go for the low-hanging fruit.”
“Just don’t phase me out, please. I need this job,” I said in a desperate voice as I pictured the tuition due notice perfectly on my table. Taunting me. Mocking me. “Please, J.P.”