“I’ll be fine,” Cassie reassured her mother for what had to be the dozenth time in their telephone conversation. She was standing in the kitchen, one hip resting against the counter near the sink and staring out the window where in the coming twilight she spied a black cat on the top of the fence near the bougainvillea. Of course Jenna was worried, she thought, watching as the cat, ever patient, stalked a tiny bird fluttering in the blooms. With Allie missing and Cassie checking herself out of the mental hospital and hopping a flight to LA, Jenna was obviously attempting not to freak out about the safety of her kids.
Because they were both adults.
“I’m trying not to be a mother bear, you know, overprotective and all, but . . . I worry, Cass. You know it. And with Allie missing . . .” Her voice trailed off and, damn it, Cassie imagined Jenna struggling against tears.
Cassie turned away from the window and closed her eyes. “I know. I get it.” She felt bad. Her mother, who had been famous and yes, rich at one time, had lost a lot in her life. Jenna’s sister, Jill, had been killed in a freak accident while filming White Out, a movie produced by Jenna’s husband, Robert Kramer, a film that, because of the tragedy, had never been released. Losing Jill had been a horrible blow. Losing Allie would devastate Jenna. “I’ll be back soon.”
“Couple of days. I’ll keep you posted.”
A pause. Probably Jenna was remembering all the times Cassie, as a rebellious teen, had lied through her teeth and broken more promises than she could recall.
“All right,” Jenna acquiesced.
Cassie envisioned her mother’s face, worry lines evident between her eyebrows, green eyes clouded with concern, upper teeth gnawing at her lower lip. “I’ll let you know when I’m close,” she said.
“You’re sure your car will make it?”
“Positive,” she answered too quickly. Another lie. She had no idea how dependable the car would be, but she covered it up. “Hey, it’s a Honda. They run forever. Come on, Mom, don’t freak out about that.”
“Okay. I’ll check that one off the list.” Jenna actually chuckled weakly. “I’ll see you soon then.”
“Yes. And Mom?”
“Next time, don’t call Trent, okay? He and I are over.”
“You say so, but—”
“Don’t bring up the marriage thing. I’ll take care of it. But now he doesn’t need to know anything about me. It’s . . . what I do is none of his business.”
“Got it.” Jenna waited a beat. “So listen, when you get up here, to Oregon, you can camp out in the space over the garage until you find a place, if you don’t want to stay in your old room.”
“I’m not seventeen.”
“I know. That’s the problem,” Jenna admitted.
The conversation stalled again before Cassie said, “Listen, I’ve gotta run.”
“Sure. Me too. Love you.”
“Love you, too,” Cassie said automatically and cut the connection. She plugged the phone into its charger and attempted to shake off the oppressive feeling that she wasn’t good enough, hadn’t measured up, had always been a problem for her mother. The feeling was like a bad taste that lingered, something you couldn’t rinse away or spit out no matter how you tried. And the fact that Allie had come to LA at Cassie’s urging and had ended up missing only made that sensation dig a little deeper, like needle-sharp talons slicing into Cassie’s brain, making it bleed with guilt. Jenna would be horrified if she realized how Cassie felt, so, Cassie promised herself, her mother would never know. And somehow, she, Cassie, would solve the problem. First step? Locating Allie.
Making her way to the postage-stamp-sized bathroom shower, she stripped off her clothes and let them fall, then turned on the spray. The old pipes creaked a bit and a fine mist, the best her ancient showerhead could deliver, started to steam up the bathroom that felt small enough to be configured for an airliner. She cracked the tiny window, then let the water wash over her.
In her mind’s eye, she saw her sister on the set of Dead Heat, playing the terrified, deranged heroine of the film. Allie’s skin had been pale, her big eyes round with fear as she’d understood that her lover, played with a feverish passion by Brandon McNary, might kill her. The image was from a poster made specifically for the movie with Shondie Kent, Allie’s character, staring into a broken mirror, her lover visible between the cracks.
Allie and B
randon had been perfectly cast, their on-screen chemistry palpable as they’d made love or fought, their combustible relationship offscreen exploding during filming. Though they’d avoided each other when not on the set, while the cameras were rolling, they’d come alive, their interaction believable, the sparks flying. Brandon’s sizzling looks coupled with Allie’s sultry sexuality created a passion the viewer could almost feel.