I am nothing like my cousin, Caro, the “pet shrink.”
She’s a redhead, I’m a brunette. She’s kept her Texas twang, I busted my butt to lose mine. (Except when I’m honked off, then my southern drawl can strike like a Gulf coast hurricane.) She’s calm and direct. I’m equally direct. As for calm, I have to admit, sometimes my emotions tend to overrule my better judgment.
So who would have thought I’d end up in the middle of a Laguna Beach murder investigation, just like Caro?
From my very first breath, Mama had groomed me to be Miss America, just like her and her sister, Katherine. Or a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, which in Texas was the more prestigious of the two. By my twenty-first birthday, I’d gathered ten first-place pageant crowns like Fourth of July parade candy. That’s when my beauty queen career had been dethroned in public scandal.
Everyone believed she “encouraged” a male judge to cast his vote for me. As for what I thought, well, no daughter wants to believe her mama is a hustler. To this day, Mama still won’t talk about The Incident above a whisper.
With the battle for the top crown over, I’d traded in my tiaras, sashes and hair spray for Swarovski crystal collars, cashmere dog sweaters and botanical flea dip. I left Texas and moved to Laguna Beach, California, a community known for its art, wealth and love of dogs. I opened Bow Wow Boutique and catered to the canine who had everything.
I loved Laguna. Loved running my own business. I even loved the quirky folks whose lives revolved around their pooches. But sometimes I longed for Texas—wide open spaces, cowboy boots and big-big hair. Who wouldn’t?
It was mid-October. The tourists had packed up and headed home. The locals ventured out of their gated communities to enjoy all the beachside town had to offer. Most importantly, there was available parking downtown. At least until next May.
The annual Fur Ball had finally arrived—a community event to raise money for the Laguna Beach Animal Rescue League. The balmy weather was perfect for an outdoor fundraiser.
As always at these shindigs, the humans coughed up large chunks of dough for a worthy cause. Breezy air kisses and alcohol flowed freely, while we all pretended to be best friends. Trust me, we were one society catfight away from a hell of an entertaining evening.
I looked down at Missy, my English Bulldog, who waited patiently at my feet. Her crystal-studded tiara sat lopsided on the top of her head, and a small puddle of drool had collected between her paws.
I straightened her crown and whispered, “We’re up, girl. Let’s show them what we’ve got.”
With our heads held high, Missy and I strutted our stuff down the red carpet. The pup-a-razzi cameras flashed, and the crowd cheered. One reporter asked who’d made my strapless leather gown (Michael Kors) and another wanted to know how Missy had won her tiara (she’d placed first in Laguna Beach’s Ugliest Bulldog contest last year).
Once we reached the end of the walkway, I leaned down to dab the drool from Missy’s chin. “You did great.” I kissed the top of her head. “Let’s go find our friends.”
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