He blushed. “Well, I think I’m in love with you, too.”
“Okay, so what’s next?”
“There’s only one condition to this.”
My heart sank. I did not want a condition. I wanted access. I wanted it handed to me on a silver platter. But nothing was free. “What’s the condition? Does it involve chocolate cake or huckleberry pie? Please say no.”
“Someday, you are going to want a chocolate cake. For now, here’s the deal—I help you. You help me. You help show me the inner workings of how you get the pics. I’ll never share your name with my client. I’ll never let on where I learned it all. But you’ll show me around. Bring me with you for the next few days so I have enough to report back to James and by extension to his client. That way I can keep my job for now, and that job helps you get into the wedding without anyone knowing you’re a photographer.”
Fine, so he wasn’t Captain Altruism. But then I wasn’t, either. Besides, given what he was offering me, there was very little William could have asked in return that I’d have turned down. I didn’t want him to know I was putty, though. I breathed out hard, as if the request bothered me. The truth was, I’d be grateful for his company tonight in the deserted warehouse section of Burbank. I wasn’t keen on a solo trip, and William was six feet tall and then some, and his chest had a nice breadth to it, and his arms were well-muscled, and he could be my bodyguard without even knowing it.
I held out a hand. “Partners.”
He shook. “Partners.”
“Do you realize your shirt has been touched by the blessed? That you have Sparky McDoodle scent on you? We could auction this off.” Anaka pointed to my black V-neck that I’d picked up from Target a few weeks ago.
“Who on earth would buy this shirt?”
“Are you kidding me? This is the shirt that the girl who saved Sparky McDoodle was wearing. You’re all over the gossip sites.” Anaka clicked to one of our regular online haunts.
The photo of Riley Belle and me was on the home page with the words in big, blazing font “Save the cat? Save the dog!” It was a takeoff on a popular screenwriting book, Save the Cat, that suggested writers should always find a way to have the hero or heroine do something noble, like save a cat, to win the audience’s sympathy.
I pulled off my T-shirt and tossed it into the hamper in my room. “I need to jump in the shower. Don’t you dare steal my Sparky McDoodle–marked T-shirt while I’m in there,” I said, and wagged a finger at her. I headed into the bathroom and closed the door most of the way.
A minute later Anaka called out. “Oh my God. We have our first bidder, Jess.”
“A good auctioneer would drive the price way up. But while you’re working the bids, can you please pick out a new shirt for me to wear?”
As I shampooed my hair, Anaka tossed out another question. “Why are you showering again? Supposedly to get dog scent off you?”
“If I go to the Riley stakeout tonight smelling like her dog, and if she brings him along, then he might run over to me again,” I shouted, so she could hear me above the water.
“Hmm,” she said loudly. “I think there’s a logical fallacy in that.”
“What is the logical fallacy you’ve uncovered?”
“Dogs don’t sniff out their own scent. They sniff out the scent of other animals or of people.”
“Either way, I don’t want to take a chance.”
“Funny. But I don’t believe you.”
I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair, turned off the shower, and grabbed a towel. I wrapped it around me, then poked my head out the open door. “Why don’t you believe me?”
“I think you might be showering for the hot British guy.”
“Please,” I said, rolling my eyes to show how little I cared about William.
“It’s true. You can admit it now, or admit it later, but admit it you will.”
“We are only a means to an end for each other.”
“I don’t believe you for one iota of a second,” Anaka said, falling back on her red-and-pink bedspread. “Why else would you team up with him?”
“Um. Hello. He’s getting me into the wedding.”
“If he were just getting you into the wedding, you’d just go to the wedding with him. But you’re not. You’re going out with him at night.”
“On a stakeout, Anaka!”
“That’s what you call it, and maybe it is one, but the best friend always knows when love is in the air,” she said, as she tossed me a dove-gray shirt with glittery stars embedded in the sleeves.
“Seriously?” I held up the shirt. “This is your shirt. And do you even own anything without bling?”