“Did you say you needed my Hollywood insider intel? Hmm. I’ll have to reconsider feeding you the bits and pieces of juicy gossip I pick up,” my mom said as she stirred the dish, a clever lilt in her voice.
I dropped down to my knees, ready to beg. “I’ll tell them I love Chloe and Cara, too.”
She nodded sagely. “You do that.”
“I will. Love ya. Gotta go. Thanks for the makeup cases.”
“Have fun playing spy,” she said.
I crouched down to pet Jennifer on the snout before I left.
Several minutes later, as I walked up the steps to my apartment, I scrolled through my email, laughing out loud at my brother’s latest picture of a dog lawyer making a joke about leashing the witness. Bryan went on to mention that the package I needed for the wedding would arrive tomorrow. I sent off a quick thanks, then clicked open the alert I’d set up for the Bowman-Belle wedding. There was a short item in On the Surface.
As the two-day countdown until the fabled Bowman-Belle wedding begins, a well-placed source at a party rental store confirms to On the Surface that an order for a tent large enough for two hundred guests, along with folding white chairs and a white runner, is being prepared for a Saturday morning delivery to a well-known Hollywood residence in Malibu.
I smiled as I read the item. Flash worked for On the Surface. She’d probably be scouting this well-known residence in Malibu all day Saturday, along with the rest of my paparazzi brethren. But they didn’t know where the wedding really was. Let them all run around Malibu empty-handed.
Inside the apartment, Anaka was gathering her materials for class, scooping up papers from the table. They’d been tucked under a makeshift paperweight—her coconut hand lotion.
She stopped to say hi. “Hey! I have the purse you asked for for the wedding. Hold on.”
She scurried to her room and returned with a light-beige purse. I inspected the inside of the tan shoulder bag.
“Perfect. Let’s see how it looks,” she said.
I draped it on my shoulder. It fell to my ribs, which was the perfect length. I didn’t want a purse that dangled against my hip. I needed one that I could keep a tight grip on.
“Looks awesome,” she said, darting into the kitchen to grab a pair of long-handled scissors. She handed them to me, then shielded her eyes. “Just don’t deface it till I leave.”
“Your purse had a good life,” I said solemnly.
She pretended to sob as she zipped up her messenger bag for class. “The purse is willing to lay down its life in the service of duty. Besides, you fed Karina the Rain photo and I’ve been watching my blog traffic go way up tonight. Karina’s people love pictures of Rain and his silly little vests.”
“Speaking of photos, I still haven’t seen one turn up yet of the pictures I took of Riley the night before.”
“I bet they’re waiting to run them in the morning or something. The best time for a site is always in the morning. The only reason I post my entries at night is I lack something known as patience.”
My phone rang, and I looked at the screen on my phone. “Says private.”
Anaka squealed. “That means it’s Riley. Answer it and tell me everything later. I need to run.”
“Doubtful,” I said as she walked out the door, and I answered the call.
“Hi, I’m looking for Jess, and I can’t believe I never got your last name.”
Anaka’s radar was 100 percent accurate. I’d recognize Riley Belle’s voice anywhere. I’d seen all her movies.
“Hey. This is Jess. Jess Leighton,” I added.
“It’s Riley Belle. And you can’t see him, but little Mr. Sparky McDoodle is here with me in my lap. He says hello. He says thank you again. He says I love you,” she said, and then laughed, her laughter sounding like the tinkle of a pretty church bell.
“How is Mr. Sparky McDoodle? All good, I assume?”
“He’s perfect. I bought him a new sweater last night after the incident. He was so rattled, and he always settles down when he has new clothes,” she said, then laughed. “I’m just kidding. He’s not that kind of dog. He doesn’t care about clothes.”
I laughed, too, though I felt uneven. I wasn’t sure how to behave with her. She wasn’t what I had pictured. She liked to poke fun at herself. It was strangely refreshing, even as it was unexpected.
“So, Jess. I totally want to take you out, like I promised. I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about what you did for my dog yesterday, and I am so grateful. There’s this amazing place along the beach,” she said, and then named the hottest new eatery in town, and I didn’t bother to ask how we’d get in when it was well known the waiting list was months—long after being declared the best brunch on the West Coast in a fancy food magazine. We’d get in because she was Riley Belle.