Page 7 of Hot Mess

Elle Evans, vlogger extraordinaire and idol to probably millions of teen and tween girls all around the world, was not in the tiny island town of Creek Keys because she wanted to be mobbed by said teen and tween girls.

As a father, it was my business to know everything about what my child was doing on the internet, and that extended to learning about the people behind the stupid videos she was watching.

Which meant I knew a lot more about my new, temporary tenant than I needed to.

Like the fact she had an X-rated tape currently floating around on the internet.

Call me old-fashioned, but that wasn’t the kind of woman I wanted my young daughter looking up to.

“While we’re talking about her, we’re going to talk about her,” I told Ari, closing the door to the dishwasher to turn it on. “You’re not to bother her, do you understand? She’s probably here on vacation and doesn’t want to be bugged by crazy little children.”

“What? I can’t have one picture?”

“We’ll see. She doesn’t intend to stay long, so maybe she’ll give you one,” I said reluctantly. “But you are to tell nobody she’s here, do you understand?”

“I understand, Dad. You don’t have to keep asking me that.”

“I’ll ask you as many times as I like, young lady, so you can cut that attitude right out before I take your laptop charger.”

She jutted out her bottom lip. “I understand. But I really love her.”

“I know you do. Have you ever heard the saying ‘Don’t meet your heroes?’”


“Well, there’s a saying that says ‘don’t meet your heroes.’ The reason for that is because they rarely turn out to be the people you expect them to be.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Sometimes meeting people you look up to isn’t the same as admiring them from afar. We don’t know anything about her, and—”

“I do. I know lots about her.”

“No, you know lots about what she talks about in her videos.” I crouched down so my eyes were level with hers. “You don’t know her, and that’s a very important distinction you need to remember.”

She pushed her hair behind her ear and looked away, out of the window at the beach. “Do I have to ignore her?”

“You don’t have to be rude,” I said slowly. Carefully. “But it wouldn’t be proper for you to seek her out. Like I said, I don’t think she’ll be here long. That house isn’t ready for that at any rate.”

Ari sighed, her shoulders sagging right down. “I know. I’m just excited. Wouldn’t you be excited if you met the rocket man?”

“Who the heck is the rocket man?”

“The fighter bloke.” She jumped back and took the position of a boxer, legs apart, fists up in fighting mode. “The tiger guy!”


She was talking about Rocky.

I laughed and stood up. “You mean Rocky Balboa.”

“The rocket man.”

I pulled her into my side and kissed the top of her head. “I sure would, but he’s only a character, babe. Rocky isn’t real, but Sylvester Stalone is.”

“Whatever. You’d die either way.”

“I don’t think I would die, but I would be a bit excited,” I admitted. “As long as we’re clear, you can go.”

“Go where?”

“To shower. You spent half the day on the beach and you have ketchup in your hair from the diner.”

“But I have dance tomorrow and I’m going to have to shower after then, too!”

“You’re right. Off you go.” I took her by the shoulders and guided her toward the stairs. “And make sure you use a clean towel, not something from that cesspit you call your bedroom floor.”

She dropped her head back with a groan as she stomped up the stairs.

She could groan all she liked.

She was still bloody well doing it.

I waited until the sound of the shower running filled the air before I nodded and stepped away from the hallway. One of the living room windows overlooked the house Elle was staying in, and I glanced out in time to see her little silver car park up outside in the designated parking space.

She got out of the car, tucking her dark hair back from her face, and moved to inspect her tires.

She needed to. That fancy little machine was going to last five minutes on the old dirt road, so I hoped she had enough supplies to last her until she was ready to leave and move on.

She stood, apparently happy with her tires, and moved to the front door. She unlocked it before returning to the car and fetching her groceries from the boot. I sipped my beer and watched her carry the bags inside then shut the door behind her.

I knew exactly what had brought her here, but that didn’t stop me from wondering how the hell she’d ended up in Creek Keys. We were one of the smaller islands in the Florida Keys, only really attracting Floridian tourists and family members. We didn’t get the spring breakers or the kind of traffic Key West got, but we got enough to keep us going.