Then he’d met his ex-fiancée, the one who’d stolen his heart and tried to steal his money. That betrayal sent him home to Oakland, California, to lick his wounds. There, a conversation with his stepfather led to Ace giving his career path and his life serious thought. He’d renegotiated his modeling contracts, gone back to school and met Tyler. He gave Tyler a portfolio of designs, Tyler found Mira, Mira found money. The three created Out of the Box, trademarked the terms Himwear and Herwear, and introduced the first line of OTB Him three years ago. At next month’s fashion week in New York City they’d unveil a new line—OTB Her. So here he chilled in a town called Temecula, pondering the perfect woman who could give life to this daring new line. And supermodel London walked into his bedroom. For Ace this was more than a coincidence. This was a sign. A dangerous, tempting, high-maintenance sign. A signal sure to rock the steady, predictable world he’d created since calling off the wedding with his ex and regaining control of his finances. Was he ready to bring such an unpredictable element into his life? Ace didn’t know, but he was damned sure going to find out.
* * *
London stepped into Katrina’s outstretched arms. “It was a pleasure reconnecting with you, too!” They rocked back and forth in a giant bear hug. She stepped back but kept her arms around her new favorite cousin. “Promise me you’ll keep in touch.”
“Oh, trust and believe I’m going to do that. You’ve got connections to some fine-ass men and one of them needs to be my husband!”
“Ha! I don’t know about all that, but if you come up north, I promise to show you a good time.”
“I’ll hold you to that promise.”
The women hugged again. London smiled and waved as Katrina, her brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew and parents got into the limo that would take them to San Diego and one of two airports closest to the resort. Over the next hour, she shared farewells with other family members also leaving, some to San Diego and others to Ontario, the other major airport nearby. There were lots of hugs, a few tears and plenty of vows to stay in touch. In death, much as he had in life, Papa Dee had placed emphasis on the value of family and strengthened the tribal bond.
Shortly after the last limo pulled away, London jumped into one of several golf carts parked in the lot and headed over to Diamond’s house. Built on the land by her construction company owner husband, Jackson Wright, it was a commanding design that seamlessly blended contemporary modern with Spanish and Mediterranean influences, filled with designer, exotic and top-of-the-line pieces. Along the way she passed several guesthouses, where some of the extended family had stayed, the home of Diamond’s older brother Donovan and his wife, Marissa, and the small yet stately home that had belonged to Papa Dee.
She parked the golf cart next to another that sat in the driveway along with a Boss Construction company truck and an SUV. Knowing Jackson was out and Diamond was resting, she opened the unlocked door and walked inside.
London followed her cousin’s voice down a long hall to a room with windows for walls. From here one could see almost the entire vineyard, from the rolling hills of grapevines to the stable of horses, the sparkling pond for fishing and both the Temescal and Santa Ana mountain ranges. You couldn’t see the hotel, wine store or executive offices, as per Diamond’s specific instructions. She’d told Jackson she did not want to bring work into her house.
Diamond lay sprawled on a chaise in a canary yellow baby doll mini, looking big-belly beautiful with cantaloupes for breasts. “About time you got here. With Faye ordering me to come lie down, you’re today’s entertainment. I don’t much appreciate you making me wait.”
“Stop being divalicious. Your sister-in-law played the doctor card, as she well should, and Aunt Genevieve eyed my every move. Your decorum-conscious mama wasn’t going to let me leave early, especially since I’d arrived so—”
“Yes, whatever. Enough about that. Let’s get to the reason you were tardy. Ace Montgomery and your bribing Ellen—my employee, by the way—to give his massage.”