Home > Trouble Play (Lily view #3)

Trouble Play (Lily view #3)
Author: Elizabeth Hunter


Chapter One



The camera operator drew nearer, and Evy fixed her smile as Lexi Storm, morning news anchor and fixture of Palm Springs society, opened the live segment.

“It’s that time of the year again, dog lovers. The Desert Fancy Kennel Club Dog Show is almost here, and I’m with this year’s hosts, local entertainer EV Lane and—all the way from the London, England—Chip Dunklin!” Lexi turned away from the camera and pointed her perfectly white smile at Evy and Chip. “Thanks for being with me this morning, you guys. Evy, great to see you again. Are you excited about this? I’m so excited about this!”

“Happy to be here.” Evy turned on her television persona. “I am so excited. I’m feeling a little sorry for Chip though.” Evy pointed at her cohost. “He’s the knowledgeable, serious person who’s going to have to correct my mistakes all week. I’m just that lady who loves dogs.”

It wasn’t the first time Evy had appeared on Desert Daily, but it was the first time when she’d been highly medicated. The world around her felt a little muffled, but it was better than the telepathic onslaught she’d been fearing.

Chip chuckled jovially—playing the part of the kindly, seasoned professional—and responded to Evy in a soothing British accent. “I’m sure Evy will be an amazing cohost. I can already tell she’s a dog lover, and what’s not to love?” He spread his hands and looked around. “In just a few days, the convention center will be full of intense competition, the thrill of victory, and I’m sorry to say, probably a few disappointed howls.”

Evy turned to Lexi. “Chip’s talking about the owners and handlers of course. The dogs are much better sports.”

Both Chip and Lexi laughed, and Evy was grateful she only heard their audible voices and not the rush of garbled dialogue that made up the mental background noise of most people’s minds.

For months she’d been learning to live with a form of telepathy that forced other people’s thoughts into her head. It was confusing, exhausting, and the only way she’d managed to control it a little bit was with heavy antianxiety medication.

Evy wasn’t an insecure person—you couldn’t survive in the comedy world if you were insecure—but lately she felt like she’d been battling for her sanity.

“I do think that dog shows attract very strong personalities though, don’t they?” Lexi directed her attention at Chip. “And this year the kennel club has made this an open. Chip, as the experienced dog-show professional in the group, what does that mean?”

“That’s a great question.” Chip turned his beaming smile to the camera. “The president of the Desert Fancy Kennel Club, the visionary Bunny Butterfield Barker, has decided that this year the annual competition should not only celebrate dogs from local and national shows but a select group of international competitors as well.”

“Wow!” Lexi said. “How did they qualify?”

Chip continued. “These are all champions in their own respective countries who have been invited by the club to take part in this show.”

“That’s amazing!” The television host was grinning. “So this is not just a national show anymore but an international one?”

“That’s right.” Evy popped in. “There are dogs and handlers coming from purebred-dog clubs in Asia, the Middle East, and South America this year. It’s really exciting.”

“Chip, you’ve been working in the dog-show world your whole career, isn’t that right? Is this a common thing? To have an international show like this?”

“It’s a bit unusual in the US, Lexi. Definitely a way to put the Desert Fancy Kennel Club show on the map for international breeders.”

Evy might have felt out of her depth in the technical aspects of Dog Show World, but at least she looked good. Her two best friends had helped her pick out her slim black suit. With her chin-length hair recently trimmed and new blunt-cut bangs that emphasized her large eyes, Evy knew she looked striking, which was what she needed with a cohost who looked like he’d been born to wear a tuxedo.

Lexi was still focused on Chip. “And you’ve been working with dogs your whole life, is that right?”

Chip’s warm brown eyes were fixed on Lexi. “My father was a Norwich terrier breeder, and I grew up handling the dogs for local shows. That grew into around ten years of professional handling in the dog-show world. In all those years, I’ve never seen a competition like this. It’s very exciting.”

“You’ve worked with some of the owners and breeders who are participating this week, isn’t that correct?” Lexi’s eyebrows rose. “Now is that a conflict of interest?”

Chip smiled, and Evy couldn’t help but think that Chip and Lexi looked like a matched pair, Lexi with her carefully coiffed hair and Chip with his neat jacket and perfect accent.

If she left, would they notice?

“Luckily, I’m not judging this competition,” Chip said. “And I have my wonderful cohost to keep me in check.” Chip turned to Evy, and his eyes lit up. “I’ve only just met Miss Lane, but I’m confident this is going to be one of my favorite commenting jobs. It’s wonderful to have a cohost who knows so much local color.”

Evy nudged his shoulder with her own. “That’s polite Britishspeak for I know all the local gossip.” Evy turned to the camera and winked. “Better watch the dog show, Desert Daily viewers. You never know what secrets might slip out.”

“Now that’s a promise!” Lexi laughed. “Evy, I can’t wait to listen to you and Chip for the broadcast. When is everything starting?”

Chip answered again. “This is a benched show, so the owners will show up starting on Monday of next week to get their stations set up, the pens situated, and allow the animals to acclimate before the breed judging starts on Tuesday.”

Evy added, “We’ll have an opening ceremony on Wednesday; then group judging will start on Thursday. Chip and I will be there to be your guides for everything.”

“And it will run through the weekend?”

“The Best in Show judging will be on Sunday afternoon,” Evy said. “But there are hundreds of wonderful dogs that visitors will be able to visit and observe in the convention hall starting on Tuesday, along with visiting the vendor market, of course.”

“Shopping.” Lexi’s eyes lit up. “I understand there will be over one hundred vendors at the show this year?”

Push the vendor market. That’s what Lorain, the show chairwoman, had emphasized. “That’s correct,” Evy said. “Palm Springs is a shopping town, and this show will have something for everyone. There are vendors catering to two-footers and four-footers at the market.”

Lexi kept her brilliant smile fixed on Evy, who grinned back like she’d been caught on hostage video. It felt unnatural and uncontrollable.

“And what about the kids?” Lexi asked. “I’m assuming this is family friendly?”

Evy kept going. “Watching dogs on TV is always fun, but the show organizers have gone out of their way to make this a real family event. There are crafts, activities, games, and a petting area, so please come down and bring the kids. They’re going to have a blast.”

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