The technique certainly worked on the entertainment press—I’d seen a video of him a few weeks ago being interviewed on a British entertainment show about The Weekenders. The interviewer asked why the script had languished so long in rewrites, and he’d simply remarked, “Eh, it’s probably my own fault, right? I had to get in there and muck it all up. But I’m doing my best to un-muck my own mess.”

Then he flashed his innocent grin, and the interviewer chuckled, won over by Avery’s wit at his own expense.

“Their affair literally just started up, and they’re meeting tonight after a script read-through,” Keats said.

I wanted to add that they weren’t just meeting after a script read-through—Riley was likely meeting her director after a read-through that came after a final dress fitting for her sister’s wedding. But I kept my own secrets. Keats didn’t need to know I was chasing a wedding shot of Riley’s equally in-demand sister. “Do you know what time for the tryst?”

He shifted his right hand back and forth like a seesaw. “Anytime between nine and eleven. I can call you if I’m able to get more details. But for now, I know they’re planning to meet over in this warehouse-y area in Burbank, not far from a UPS facility and some car detailing shops. It’s very quiet, and there’s a cul-de-sac at the end of the road, with a little trail that runs behind the businesses.”

“Sounds sketchy,” I said. All things being equal, I’d have preferred a nice, well-lit daytime location on the beach.

“It’s all businesses. Busy during the day. Quiet at night. It’s where you’d never expect a randy director to take the next ingenue he’s trying to bang.”

Keats gave me more details, and I wrote them down. Then he paused and gave me a hard, expectant look. “Do you accept?”

“You have the money?”

He re-opened his tablet case, reached into an inside pocket, and pulled out a white envelope. I peeked inside, eyeing several crisp bills. I tried not to suck in a deep breath of enjoyment, but boy were they beauties. And this little one goes to human anatomy. And this little one is for biochemistry.

I’d wanted to be a doctor for as long as I’d ever wanted to be anything, and even the hospital dramas on TV with their multiple impalements and catastrophic accidents couldn’t turn me off medicine. Medicine and me were a perfect match—logical but intuitive, too.

“So you’ll get the shots?”

“Of course,” I said, and dropped the envelope into my backpack, as if I were regularly accustomed to clients handing over such big and delicious unmarked bills.

“Will you email me the shots tonight?”

“No. I’ll meet you tomorrow and give them to you in person. I’m sure you’re an upstanding guy and all, but cash talks better than people.”

He pointed his index finger at me and snapped. “Don’t you know it. Girl after my own heart.” He leaned back in his chair, a pleased look on his face that he’d initiated a new business transaction. Keats had more than Monopoly money to throw around, and if I were him I’d be satisfied, too.

“I can meet you at twelve thirty tomorrow to give you the pictures. Somewhere on the promenade?” I asked, because I had my volunteer visit slated with Jennifer at the nearby hospital tomorrow afternoon.

“Perfect. Rosanna’s Hideout?”

“I’ll be there,” I said, then thanked him and said goodbye.

When I was safely out of view, I swung my backpack around front, dropped my hand inside, and clasped the bills all the way home on my scooter as I marinated on the Riley and Avery connection. Maybe they were simply meeting about her production company. Maybe she was going to tap him to direct a project, rather than to direct his lips onto hers. A part of me hoped that was the case. I liked Riley, I didn’t want her to be the type to canoodle with a married man. But if she was going to, I’d gladly take the money from a shot.

When I reached my apartment, Anaka was still sleeping. I gathered eggs from the fridge and sprayed a light dusting of olive oil on the skillet. As I cooked just the whites, I spied a pile of mail on the nearby table, including information from my bank about obtaining low-interest loans for medical school. I scoffed silently. I was allergic to loans and determined to find the cash to pay for school, just as I’d done for the first four years.

My parents had planned to help pay for college, but they’d been blindsided. One day when I was a sophomore in high school, my dad came home from work, his jaw tensed, his eyes deadened. He held on tight to the doorframe that led into the kitchen. My mom was making dinner, and I was doing homework. “My company is being investigated for fraud,” he said in a monotone. He was a vice president at his firm.

Tags: Lauren Blakely Stars In Their Eyes Romance