Alexandra Winifred has played a supporting role in her cousin’s life since they were children. When Lauren Waters' parents are killed in a plane crash, Alexandra becomes her protector, and together they navigate their way through childhood and college. They’re both overachievers, but it’s Lauren who steals the spotlight when she’s discovered by a notable agent and goes on to become an award-winning actress, leaving Alexandra in her shadow as her fledgling publicist.
Now Hollywood royalty, Lauren starts to cut those people out of her life who were responsible for her success. Alexandra fears she will be next on the chopping block. But her trepidation about her failing relationship with her cousin becomes her least concern when she’s identified as a prime suspect in Lauren’s subsequent disappearance. Detective Rachel Storme, who has a full plate taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s and supervising a meth-addicted aunt, is eager to get her hands on a challenging case, but nothing could prepare her for the dark secrets and lies that she uncovers while she does everything in her power to find out what happened to Lauren.
“Back in the day, if I had traveled to Mars, Lauren would have been there. She was ubiquitous—like air. The irony is that she needed me to live and because of her, I had no life. Lauren’s like a stranger now—distant, secretive.”
“What did you say? I can’t hear you.” Larry scrunches up his red-bearded, freckled face and shrugs.
I turn toward the cover band on stage in front of us, and my gaze lands on the spiky-haired lead singer belting out The Weeknd’s hit song, “Can’t Feel My Face.” Larry nudges me and then points to the massive speakers overhead. The booming bounces off the walls and blankets the Buderwood Hills Ballroom filled with Tinseltown revelers, eating, drinking, and dancing as though their lives depend on partying the night away. I turn away from the speakers and my eyes lock onto the chandelier swaying from side to side. I hope it’s screwed in sufficiently. I take note of the other tables occupied by who’s who in the film industry. Paparazzi make their way throughout the room, stumbling over one another trying to get that thousand dollar photo.
Scooting my chair closer to Larry, I lean toward his hairy ear. “I said Lauren has changed. She’s alienated me. I even noticed it when she gave her acceptance speech. What do you think?”
“Alex, why don’t we get married?”
“Larry, are you not hearing me again?”
“We’ve been dating for over a decade. It’s time, Alex.”
“That’s the bourbon talking,” I say, annoyed that he’s trying to change the subject.
“No, it’s my heart talking.” He picks up the glass on the table before him and takes a gulp of the brown liquid that has him clinging to me like a lost puppy. “I love everything about you—your big baby blues, silky golden hair, and that crooked smile and turned up nose—so cute.”
My eyes dart around searching for a way out. Before I can make my escape, he reaches his hand up to my cheek and turns my face toward his. I look into his gray eyes that are flooded with unrequited love, vainly suppressing the smile of pity that creeps onto my face. “Larry, focus. I’m worried about Lauren.”
“To hell with Lauren! It’s good that she’s cut the cord. She’s not five anymore and you’re not eight. You’re both grown women, closer to forty than thirty. She’s a big girl. She doesn’t need you anymore. I, on the other hand, do.”
The music fades while the musicians take a break. Larry and I look up at the sound of a familiar voice. “Who’s a big girl?”
We exchange mischievous glances, and I part my lips to speak, but before the words find their way to my mouth, Larry puts his foot in his.