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Authors: Melody Mayer

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BOOK: Bad to the Bone
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Her face shaded, Audrey opened her eyes. “Good morning. Just getting up?”

“I've been up since eleven,” Lydia admitted. She wore one of her favorite bikinis—orange and pink paisley—and sunglasses on her head held back her bangs. Wanting to make sure that Audrey felt at home, she casually took off the top of her bikini and then settled onto the chaise next to Audrey's.

“Nice allover tan, sweets,” Audrey commented.

“Bathing suits aren't really big in the rain forest. I remember when a doctor from New Jersey came in by boat wearing an orange Speedo. The witch doctor couldn't stop laughing for a week. How'd you get your tan?”

One of those spray-on booths in Hollywood,” Audrey admitted. “I'm usually more of an indoor-nighttime kind of girl.” She lifted a martini glass filled with a pinkish drink. Next to her
was a pitcher full of whatever it was she was drinking. “Cheers. Pomegranate martinis, courtesy of your aunt's cook.”

“Paisley? She used to be totally crunchy before my aunt's wife left,” Lydia said. “Nothing stronger than wheat-germ shakes got mixed in this house. But once Anya left—woo-hoo!”

Audrey sat up and poured herself another martini. “Want one?”

“I think I want to swim. It's hot.”

“Don't you have school or something?” Audrey looked at her cockeyed. “Lord, I can't believe you're still in high school.”

“I'm wise beyond my years,” Lydia assured her. “I'm cutting.” She bent her knees and scratched a mosquito bite on her thigh. “It's funny, because I used to just dream of going to an American high school. Now that I'm in one … big ol' yawn.”

Audrey laughed. “I love you! You're so real. Everyone you meet in the music world is so fucking fake, you know?”

“It's not just the music world,” Lydia said. “It's an L.A. thing. On the other hand, the glamour and the clothes and the clubs … big upside.” She stood up and stretched. “Excuse me. The water calls.”

Lydia dove into the crystal blue pool with barely a splash behind her. She loved to swim. Back in Brazil with her parents, living among the Amarakaire tribesmen, swimming was one of the few things she could do that was exactly the same as it had been when she lived in America. Well, not exactly the same. She always had to make sure she didn't have any open cuts or scrapes when she dove into the Rio Negro, because piranhas tended to be drawn to blood. And she occasionally found herself looking into the eyes of a curious wild boar when she clambered back up on the bank. When she
was cutting neatly through the water with her powerful crawl, though, swimming was liberating.

She swam for a long time, and stopped counting after sixty laps. Freestyle, breaststroke, even the butterfly. She did them all. After three final freestyle laps at top speed, aided by the flip turn she'd taught herself in the rain forest, she finally quit and held on to the side of the pool, breathing more easily than anyone who'd just swum that hard had a right to.

Audrey came over to her. She'd applied a fresh layer of sun-block to her flat abs; Lydia could tell from the streaks. “Do you know that you just did seventy-eight laps?”

“I wasn't counting,” Lydia replied honestly.

“Gawd, I hate all sports,” Audrey moaned. “The only way I want to sweat is horizontally with a bloke who strikes my fancy. Well, sometimes vertically,” she amended. “Ever do it at the Hot Zone bar up against the stall in the loo?”

“Nope,” Lydia replied, hoisting herself out of the water. “Sounds like an adventure.”

“Definitely,” Audrey agreed, sipping her drink. “You've had such an exotic life, ducks. What else did you do in the Amazon?”

“Fished. Hunted. Got homeschooled by Mom and Dad. Read every American fashion magazine I could get my hands on until they disintegrated.”

“Not many designer shops to haunt?” Audrey asked.

“A plate in your lip is considered a fashion statement. Some of it was fun,” Lydia mused. “I liked the shaman. He was cool. Awesome potions.”

Audrey looked interested. “Tell me about them.”

Lydia shrugged. “They had medicine there long before
the white doctors ever showed up. Herbal stuff, and lots of it worked better than anything the Western doctors ever thought up.”

“God, I love that,” Audrey trilled. “It's so back to nature!”

Lydia was flattered by Audrey's attention and enthusiasm, so she went on. “They had killer recreational stuff, too. There is nothing like a stoned Ama. Nothing.”

She laughed at the memory of Ama men rolling around in the mud, totally flying from something the shaman had blown up their noses. She'd partaken once or twice, as part of special ceremonies, but never just as a lark. That shit was
powerful
.

Audrey's eyes shone. “Did you by any chance bring any of that stuff back?”

“Of course,” Lydia replied.

“Let's give 'er a go,” Audrey urged.

Lydia shook her head. “Those powders and potions are no joke. I've got one that can knock a person out until you think they're dead.”

“I so need to give that to my ex—bloody bastard screwed one of my backup singers.” She leaned toward Lydia. “Aw, come on. I've done everything there is to do and tried everything else I can find. It helps my creativity. No, really. It does. Come on. Let's get stoned the Ama way.”

Lydia wanted to say no. On the other hand, she loved all the attention from Audrey, loved hanging out with a rock star.

She could let Audrey try something that wasn't too heavy or long-lasting, since they were due at the Kodak in the late afternoon, Audrey included. Lydia did have one potion, derived from a rare jungle root, that produced vivid hallucinations,
but only for an hour or so. The Amas used it in religious ceremonies.

She described the powder to a practically salivating Audrey but then added, “I don't want you to do it today though.”

“Why the bloody hell not?” Audrey asked, obviously irritated.

“In case you have a bad reaction. I don't want to be responsible for you missing your rehearsal tonight.”

“Balls,” Audrey spit.

“Another time, though, I promise,” Lydia added quickly. “If you want, I can go get the blowguns and we can practice shooting at targets.”

“Pass on the blowguns, I'm going to have another martini,” Audrey declared. “And I want that powder
soon.”
She poured herself another drink and then lay back down on her blanket, smiling approvingly. “The Hotel Lydia. Two thumbs up.”

The stars were in the greenroom at the Kodak Theatre; the worker ants were milling around backstage and in the house. The sound equipment was set up onstage for the rehearsal, which was supposed to have begun a half hour ago, but they were still waiting for Steven Goldhagen to show up. Lydia sat with Kiley in the tenth row center, watching various workers onstage do whatever it was that needed doing.

“You think it's weird that Esme isn't here yet, either?” Kiley asked Lydia.

Lydia shrugged. “Got me, sweet pea.” Her mind was still on her conversation with Audrey, who, at that moment, was in the greenroom with the other stars. “Let me ask you a
hypothetical,” Lydia began. “Hypothetically, would it be wrong for me to give Audrey some Ama dust just for fun?”

“Oh, Audrey, your new best friend,” Kiley said, her voice flat.

“You'd love her if you got to know her,” Lydia insisted. “She's fabulous. And she thinks I'm fabulous.”

Kiley curled a stick of gum into her mouth. “You are fabulous. But doesn't it seem weird to you, how once you get here, she's in the greenroom and you're down here with the little people?”

Lydia thought about that. “Not really. Anyway, if Tom was here and he was going to be a presenter or something, he'd be in the greenroom and you'd be down here.”

Kiley's face darkened. “Don't remind me. Anyway, in answer to your question, yes, I think it would be wrong for you to give Audrey some herbal drug so that she can party.”

“It's not illegal,” Lydia pointed out.

“Because the FDA never heard of it. What if she gets sick or something? It'll be your fault.”

Lydia sighed. That was true. It was just so complicated.

Kiley checked her watch again. “I'm really starting to get worried.”

Lydia knew there had been phone calls to Steven, because some flunky had made an announcement. Evidently all he'd said was that he'd be there as soon as he could. Lydia had tried to reach Esme, but got her voice mail.

“Yo, if I could have everyone's attention.”

The crowd quieted and focused on a tall African American man who was onstage speaking into the mike. He had a
shaved head and wore black jeans, a white T-shirt, and a black sport coat.

“For those of you who don't know me, I'm Alan Wither-spoon, Steven's partner at Goldhagen Productions. I just got off the phone with Steven, who has asked us to go ahead with tonight's rehearsal while he tends to a family matter.”

That announcement made even the normally unflappable Lydia a little nervous.

“Steven says everyone is healthy,” Alan continued, “and he'll be back with us tomorrow. So everyone adjust your rehearsal by forty-five minutes, and let's get started.”

Immediately people began running around, clearly with important things to do—not that Lydia had any idea what those things were. Esme was supposed to lead Lydia and Kiley in their duties, so they had no clue what they should be doing.

“Hey, are you two Lydia and Carol?” a thin young woman asked them. Her red ponytail stuck out the back of a black baseball cap.

“Lydia and Kiley,” Lydia corrected, pointing to the name tags on their shirts.

“Whatever. I'm Jocelyn, one of the production coordinators. Alan told me you were sitting out here. You're supposed to be
working
.”

“No one told us what to do,” Kiley explained.

“Great,” Jocelyn grunted. “I need you to—” The headphones draped around her shoulders crackled. “Hold on.” She stepped away from Lydia and Kiley. “What?” she barked into the headphones.

Just then, Kiley's cell phone rang. She checked caller ID and
saw with relief that it was Esme. She put the phone to her ear. “Esme? Where are you? Where's Steven? What's going on?”

“Put it on speaker,” Lydia insisted. Kiley shook her head emphatically then stepped several feet away to where she could evidently hear better. Lydia followed, but all she could understand was Kiley's repeated “I see, I understand, uh-uh, uh-uh, uh-huh.” And then, finally, “If there's anything we can do, call us.”

When Kiley clicked off, her face was ashen.

“What?” Lydia commanded.

“It's Esme's parents. They were almost caught in an immigration raid. And now Esme thinks that Homeland Security is after them.”

“Shit on a stick,” Lydia cursed. Now she was
really
worried for her friend.

“Esme's going back to Echo Park tonight with her parents,” Kiley relayed. “They're going to meet with Jorge and his father, who's a big lawyer.” The words were tumbling out of Kiley's mouth now. “Steven Goldhagen went downtown to talk to a friend of his who's with the government.”

“So that's what's going on,” Lydia muttered. Lord, Esme had to be going crazy. It was one thing to voluntarily leave your parents, as she had left hers, but quite another to have your parents forced out of the country forever.

“Why are you two still sitting here?” Jocelyn yelled at them, having finished whatever business she'd been attending to on her headphones. “You should be in the greenroom. They need you there right away.” Her voice was high-pitched.

“We're there,” Lydia assured her as she and Kiley moved into the aisle. “But just one little thing, Jocelyn? It never hurt
anyone to be sweet. Especially to volunteers,” she added, a smile on her face.

Jocelyn ignored the advice and thrust a list at Lydia. “On second thought, do this first. Take this. Do you drive?”

“I do, she doesn't,” said Kiley.

Jocelyn spoke to Kiley. “These are food orders for the performers. Go to the Grove at Farmers Market, fill the orders, and be back in an hour. Here's money. Get receipts.”

Kiley took the envelope filled with money. “But … there's all kinds of food in the greenroom,” she pointed out.

“Well, that's not the food they want,” Jocelyn replied. She turned to Lydia. “You. Come backstage with me. I've got a bunch of dogs for you to walk, and make sure you pick up their poop because I swear the paparazzi knows if a famous dog's poop doesn't get scooped, and then the star gets bad press. Paris's dog, Jessica's dog…”

“Not that I don't love pooches because I really do,” Lydia drawled. “But don't they have their own people to do that?”

“Today you're ‘their people,’” Jocelyn snapped. “Happy scooping.” She hurried off.

“Hurricane Jocelyn,” Lydia quipped.

Jocelyn whipped around from a hundred feet away. “I have super hearing. I heard that!
Go!”

Kiley took off for the parking lot and Lydia headed backstage. Here she was, supposed to be all concerned about scooping up pampered-pooch poo, while her friend Esme was worried about something really important. What would it be like to have your parents facing deportation? She couldn't imagine, and didn't even want to imagine.

“Here we are. Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood,” Matt announced as he held the door to the bowling alley open for Kiley Next to the door was a giant neon blue bowling pin; inside that pin were Day-glo red and yellow letters that read BOWL HERE!

BOOK: Bad to the Bone
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