Love Comes With a Leash

David Reynolds

 

Chapter 1

A large tan and cream suitcase with a Louis Vuitton tag was rapidly approaching Peter Davis at his perch next to the McCarron Airport luggage carousel when a low, sexy feminine voice behind him asked, “Get that one for me, please?”

Since Peter’s own soft Samsonite medium case was right behind the larger tan and cream bag one, he reached out with both hands and snagged the two bags, setting them on the concrete floor by his feet. “Do you have any more bags?” he asked, his eyes looking straight ahead at the slowly revolving metal carousel, seeking out a soft-folded black overnight bag.

There was a slight weight on his left shoulder, and he saw a hand with painted fingernails, each one a different work of art, shoot out past his face. “That makeup case and those two bags.” Her mouth brushed his ear while pointing at two more of the expensive French suitcases.

Peter grabbed the woman’s bags when they got in range and set them by his feet. His smaller gym bag was still locked in the belly of the Las Vegas airport’s luggage return system as he stared at the conveyor belt, waiting for its arrival.

“Thanks,” she yelled, her voice fading as she walked away.

A few minutes later, Peter was out at the curb waiting for a cab to his hotel. A short distance away, he overheard an older man talking to two young adult women, their faces and figures blocked by his medium-sized suited frame and the black fedora atop his close-cropped gray hair.

“This cab’s trunk is full, so I’ll grab another one and meet you girls at the hotel,” he explained.

The voice sounded eerily familiar, but without seeing his face, Peter couldn’t place it.

One of the women reached around the man, giving him a hug. Though her face was hidden, Peter saw the same highly stylized glossy fingernails he’d seen scant moments earlier. She appeared as tall, or taller, than the older man—her father, he wondered—but Peter knew it might be caused by her high heels.

A taxi pulled up to the curb near him, yanking Peter’s attention away from the family. The cabbie placed Peter’s luggage in the trunk and was getting ready to pull away from the curb when Peter asked the driver to stick around for a minute. “I think you might get a second fare out of this if you can wait,” Peter told the older male driver.

The cabbie nodded but started his meter anyway. “It’s your money.” He shrugged.

The man whose voice Peter knew he had heard before leaned down and peered into the cab as Peter opened the door. Click, match, voice meet face meet name, Peter thought.

“Do you mind if I join you?” the well-known actor asked.

“Sure, come on in,” Peter motioned him inside. His eyes lit up from the knowledge that he was far closer to this actor than most of the man’s fans ever got.

“Where to?” the cabbie asked. He glanced in the rearview mirror, looked at the traffic, and then glanced again at the mirror before staring, his mouth open.

Peter shrugged, giving the other man, the opportunity to respond first.

“The Bellagio,” the actor said, giving him the name of an iconic hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Not Planet Hollywood?” Peter asked.

“I haven’t owned a piece of that company in years,” the actor replied.

“What about you?” the cabbie requested, addressing Peter.

“Mandalay Bay,” he replied. “My company is having a convention there starting tomorrow.”

“Hi, I’m Walter,” the actor stated, holding out his hand once the cab was in motion.

Peter shook it. “I’m glad to meet you, Walter.” The actor was known by his middle name of Bill, not his given first name. “I’m Peter, Peter Davis.

“So what brings you to Las Vegas?” Peter asked, trying to make some conversation. “Are you making a movie here?”

“No. My daughter has a supporting role in a film coming out soon. Some scenes were shot at the Bellagio,” he explained. “The studio is doing a special screening for some corporate bigwigs and employees as a thank you for cutting them a deal on the fees. I’m here giving my daughter some support and tips on schmoozing the guys with the bucks. No matter how well known you are, it still takes a boatload of money to make a feature film. People like the casino’s directors are the ones bankrolling it.”

The actor then spoke a little louder so the cabbie could hear over the engine and traffic noise. “Don’t tell anyone about the event because it’s not open to the public or the press,” he added, a finger to his lips.

Peter knew Walter had two adult daughters; one was a model in New York and the other an actress. Not being a fan of Hollywood gossip sites, he had no clue what film this young woman was in.

Both daughters, who had the best combination of their famous actress mother’s looks and dad’s acting chops, had recently appeared in a series of online commercials. The commercials had received some mainstream press because of the young women’s involvement. Peter had seen one or two clips, and while the topic—spinal cord injury research—wasn’t at the top of his hot topics list, he felt he had to say something.

“Congratulations. Both to your daughter for being in a new film and most importantly, for both daughters using their celebrity status to help others.”

The actor smiled as any proud papa would and motioned Peter to continue.

“I think it’s great that both of your daughters care enough to help others by appearing in that commercial for spinal cord research,” Peter explained.

He paused, considering his words. “Honestly, I’d say the same thing even if the girls weren’t the offspring of two famous actors.”

Peter looked at Walter and swallowed before adding, “And kudos to you as well for instilling in your kids a desire to help others. Many parents don’t take the time or effort to do it. The world would be a much better place if more people taught their children the values you have obviously taught yours.”

“Thanks,” Walter replied. “My girls have minds of their own when it comes to that sort of thing. They like to help but they can be just as stubborn as I am. They pick their causes and do things their way.”

“I wish more people would give their time to help humans and pets,” Peter added, unwilling to stop talking about the subject of charities. “I’m a regular blood donor, all of my pets are rescues, and I’ve even done some grant writing for several groups. None of the people I know have ever given blood let alone volunteered at a shelter.”

“Oh really?” The actor asked when Peter mentioned grant writing. “How much do you charge for grants?”

“I have a flat fee of ten percent,” Peter replied. “But there are conditions. The main one is that I don’t get paid unless the charity gets the grant.”

“Don’t you charge an hourly rate on top of the ten percent?” the actor asked. “I’ve heard of some people charging a hell of a lot more.”

“I’m not going to be greedy, ten percent is enough to get people’s attention, while low enough not to keep non-profits from achieving their goals,” Peter shot back. “My goal is to give better than I get. That means my fee includes all the work needed to get the grant, like creating brochures, researching grant sources, sending out press releases, and even giving them some fundraising ideas, too.”

“I’ve been to a few charity fundraisers,” Walter said, “and I have not been impressed. It seems like a bunch of old men and women keeping their tight-knit club going. All the money they raise goes to the club and none of it to the people they are supposed to be helping.”

“I’ve got an idea that would blow groups like that away. They’d probably tell me to go bleep myself because they wouldn’t make a dime for themselves,” was Peter’s response.

“Now that sounds like something I might do,” the actor replied, a cynical smile on his face. “What’s this idea of yours involve anyway? I might be willing to help a group or two, and if they like the cause, my girls might want to get involved as well.”

“This particular idea is about as close to a bake sale, raffle, or car wash as a pebble is to a mountain,” Peter explained, warming to the challenge. “I’d like to hold two related events: a prequel to gather items that can be auctioned off and a second live event to raise a whole lot of dough. The money goes to a single charity that can use it for its cause or donate it to other groups.”

“Mandalay Bay coming up,” the cabbie pointed out, interrupting the conversation.

“How can I reach you if I want to ask you more about this idea of yours?” Walter asked.

Peter opened his wallet and removed a business card. “My cell number is on it. Call me whenever you want. We can discuss it over the phone or in person if you have time while we’re both here in Sin City.”

The taxi pulled up to the Mandalay Bay hotel entrance and parked, and the cabbie popped the trunk. Peter got out, grabbed his bags, and then went to the front of the cab to pay the fare.

“How much is it?” he asked, opening his wallet again.

“I’ve got this.” The actor motioned for Peter to put his wallet away. “That was the most interesting conversation I’ve had in a long time, so the ride is on me.”

The cabbie nodded, the actor waved his hand, forefinger pointing forward, and the vehicle sped off.