Was that…? No. Couldn’t be. Not here in Temecula, California, a place London Drake only knew about because that’s where her cousins lived. Nothing against the town. It was quaint, cozy and home to dozens of Southern California’s celebrated vineyards as well as Drake Wines Resort and Spa, where she was now. But there was no way former celebrity model, current fashion mogul and any woman’s favorite fantasy, Ace Montgomery, could be here. Was there?
These rapid-fire thoughts collided with one another as London quickly shifted her body for a second glimpse. That she was on an escalator was totally forgotten. She grabbed the rail to keep her balance. The unconscious step backward as she attempted to get a better view almost created a domino effect that would have felled the women behind her. The group reached their destination unscathed, but the stumble hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Diamond. Just thought I saw someone I knew, that’s all.”
Diamond Drake Wright, London’s first cousin and a company executive, took the lead as the ladies entered Wine, the trendy new bar on the second floor of the resort’s boutique hotel. She greeted the hostess, waved away the offer to be escorted to their reserved booth and led the ladies to a roped-off area that featured artfully arranged seating—velvet love seats, matching chairs, fabric-tufted benches and an array of unique-looking tables to hold food and drink. The area was positioned on the small side of the L-shaped room, tucked behind the hostess station, and offered a modicum of privacy in this popular public place.
London sat on a champagne-colored love seat. Her sister-in-law Quinn plopped down beside her. “Sure you need a drink? Your clumsiness gives the impression that you’ve knocked back a couple behind our backs already.”
London gave Quinn the kind of look that required no words but conveyed shut the hell up quite nicely.
“She saw a cute guy,” Diamond offered as she too sat on the love seat.
“Oh.” Quinn drew out the word meaningfully. “That makes sense. It wouldn’t be the first time London has fallen head over heels for a man.”
“Oh, be quiet.” London swatted Quinn’s arm as the women around her laughed. “I saw someone I thought I knew. Not just some cute guy.” The ladies shared dubious looks between them. “Did y’all forget the industry I work in?” London huffed. “And that I’ve modeled with some of the best-looking men on the planet? If I fell over every time I saw one, I’d live on the floor.”
True statement. London’s supermodel-turned-celebrity lifestyle had allowed her to not only work with but to date the types of men most women only saw on glossy magazine pages, a computer screen or TV. Like her ex Maxwell Tata, the handsome, successful A-list director. Like the man who’d almost made her fall head over heels tonight…for a second time.
But he wasn’t there. Couldn’t be. He was busy running a fashion empire in San Francisco. It had been years since they’d talked, but that’s what she’d heard. And that he’d gotten engaged. She hadn’t heard or read about a wedding, though. Was that why he was here? To marry his fiancée? Wouldn’t that be the irony of ironies, if he was here for a wedding and she for a funeral?
A couple more minutes, another sip of wine and London had successfully convinced herself that she hadn’t seen Ace, but seeing a man who could be his twin took her back to the magical night they’d met. And made love. And spent the next two days in a fantasy world before reality took them in different directions.
* * *
It was her eighteenth-birthday weekend, and London, who’d been discovered by a modeling scout the year before, couldn’t have imagined a more perfect celebration. She’d just finished her first hectic, whirlwind week in the city that had inspired her name. Her family had flown to England to watch her walk the runway. After enjoying a private dinner prepared by a world-renowned chef, she’d said goodbye to the Drakes and been whisked away to an exclusive party held just for her. Incomparable, the number one modeling agency in the world, had pulled out all the stops to make the night memorable. They’d rented a castle for the grand affair, a testament to the fact she was the agency’s queen bee. The guest list read like a who’s who of fashion, entertainment and sports. One of the guests was Ace Montgomery, a runway veteran at the ripe old age of twenty-one, whose sexy underwear ads had made him one of the most recognizable, bankable and sought-after models on the globe. London had not been immune to his charm, had salivated over his pictures like any red-blooded woman would. His eyes had seared her from across the room, caused a shiver down her spine and a flutter in other places. Throughout the evening she caught him looking. Or vice versa. But he didn’t approach. She guessed him to be arrogant and aloof, so when chance brought them together in the long hallway of one of the castle’s quieter wings, his shy, somewhat corny nature had thrown her off guard.