The Perfect Neighbor (Jessie Hunt #9) - Blake Pierce


She didn’t want to be nosy.

At least that’s what Priscilla Barton told herself as she walked along the Manhattan Beach Strand with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in her hand.

Technically, Prissy, as she preferred to be called, was welcoming a new neighbor to the community. She and her husband, Garth, had been away at their Palm Springs estate for much of last week and must have missed the new people moving in. Since the Bartons returned to town, Prissy sometimes noticed the movement of a silhouette behind the always-drawn shades in the mansion next door. But she’d never seen anyone come in or out.

It was difficult to keep track these days anyway. Since so many of her neighbors in this wealthy, beach-adjacent stretch of town spent large chunks of the summer traveling, it was hard to know who was on vacation, much less who had rented or lent out their home.

Prissy knew that the owners of the house next door were a Hollywood agent and his wife, who ran some kind of scholarship fund for underprivileged youth. But they weren’t especially friendly and were gone for long stretches of the year. In fact, she’d overheard another neighbor say they’d be gone until August. Since she hadn’t seen them in weeks, it made sense that the person she’d seen was a renter.

As Prissy approached the front door, she felt a tingle of anticipation. What if the agent had lent out his house to a client, maybe a famous celebrity? It wouldn’t be unusual. Lots of famous people lived or vacationed here. She could often spot them because they wore baseball caps, sunglasses, and ratty clothes. It was like their uniform.

Plus, they rarely looked up. If she saw someone who looked borderline homeless hiding their face and refusing to make eye contact, there was a solid chance it was a celebrity. Of course, she’d learned the hard way that sometimes it was a homeless person. So she was more cautious about approaching them than when she’d first moved in.

It wasn’t like Prissy was a stranger to wealth. For the last nine years, she’d been married to Garth Barton, who was an extremely successful executive with Sharp Kimsey, an international oil and gas company. Until last year, they’d lived in the historic Hancock Park neighborhood, not far from all those gleaming downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers.

But Prissy, who had grown up poor and sweaty in Catahoula, Louisiana, had grown tired of the sweltering summer heat of central L.A. and demanded they move to the beach, which was usually fifteen to twenty degrees cooler. But living at the beach didn’t mean being embraced by the locals. Prissy had yet to be accepted.

She liked to tell herself that it was because these were insular, aloof types who despised newcomers. And there was some truth to that. But deep down, she knew that it had a lot more to do with her sometimes grasping, social-climbing personality, the one she tried to hide but which always seemed to emerge at the most inopportune times.

She just couldn’t help it. That aggressive persona had helped her scrape and claw her way out of the bayou to get to LSU, where she met the suave New Orleans boy who wanted to become a master of the universe.

After graduation and the wedding, Garth got the gig at Sharp Kimsey and they settled in Metairie, not far from the company’s New Orleans office. They were transferred to Houston after two years and then to L.A. after four more. They’d been here for three years and Prissy loved it.

She loved the glamour of the town. She loved the unrepentant gaucheness. She loved the too-skinny women carrying around their too-tiny dogs in too-small purses. She wanted to be a part of it, even if her attempts made her look a little desperate. That’s why she was currently standing at her neighbor’s front door with a bottle of wine and a wide grin plastered on her face—to be a part of the scene.

She glanced back at the Strand, a pedestrian-friendly cement path that often came within a casual newspaper toss of many homes in the towns of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. It was surprisingly unpopulated for this late afternoon hour, which meant no one was around to judge her curiosity.

Prissy gave herself a once-over in the thick, shimmering glass of the door. She thought she looked good. At thirty-one, she still had the bouncy body she knew she needed in order to keep Garth’s eye