“Negative, Ace. Mira called me, beyond excited. You’re going to get outvoted on this one.”
“I’ll be in the office in a couple hours. Don’t do anything until I get there.”
Ace placed the receiver back in the cradle and reached for his cell phone. He was calmer now but still ticked at London. There was a lot on the line with this new unveiling, chiefly Ace’s name and reputation in the fashion industry. London needed to understand that as long as she was the face for OTB Her, their lives were intertwined. Mud thrown on her got him dirty. He wanted to stay clean, and planned to.
“Ace?” Her voice was scratchy and groggy sounding, evidence she’d just woken up.
“I’d say I’m sorry, except you’re why I’m awake.”
“No one has told you yet?”
“Told me what?”
“That you’re trending right now, and all over the news.”
“You woke me up to tell me that?” Ace heard a sound and could imagine her frowning and flopping back down on the bed. “I thought there was an emergency or something, like my house was on fire or someone died.”
“Someone’s about to. Who’s the dude you were kissing?”
“Excuse me?” she replied, all grogginess gone.
“You heard me. There’s a picture with you and two guys dancing, one rubbing your butt and the other all in your face.”
Ace slipped on a pair of shorts and padded downstairs in bare feet.
“This picture posted by XYZ?”
He reached the kitchen and fired up his Keurig machine. “They’re one of several sources reporting the story.”
“There’s a story, too? And you believed whatever it said?”
“I was doubtful about you and the woman, but describing that picture doesn’t take a thousand words.”
“No, it only takes a few truthful ones. Look, you’ve been in this industry longer than me and should know how the game is played. If we’re going to work together, you’re going to have to learn where to put your trust, and it’s not in a tabloid or entertainment website.”
“Wait, you can’t talk to me like that. I called to bawl you out.”
“You might want to make sure you have your facts straight first.”
“Are you going to tell me you weren’t kissing that guy?”
“That’s exactly what I’m going to say.”
“Really, London? You’re going to lie to my face like that?”
“I’m telling the truth. Look at the angle of the picture. Do you actually see our faces? No. The paparazzi framed the picture to make it look like we’re kissing. I remember this moment. I’d asked him the regime to his buffed-out body. He made a joke. I couldn’t hear him over the loud music. So he pulled me to him. His mouth is closer to my ear than my lips. But since you obviously think I’m a promiscuous tramp, you drew your own conclusions.”
“I don’t think that about you.”
“Yet you call at an ungodly hour and wake me up to argue about a tabloid story.”
Put that way, Ace’s anger began to deflate. A little embarrassment replaced it. But only a little.
“Who’s the woman mentioned in the story?”
“Quinn, my sister-in-law, Detective,” London sarcastically replied. “Any more questions?”
“Only a couple before I wrap up this investigation,” he said in all seriousness. “Where were you?”
“The Castro, one of Trent’s many playgrounds. We were at a private club, so I may have let down my guard and been a little freer than I would have at a public venue. Though when I think about it, paparazzi being there makes total sense. I saw a couple actors there—one an A-list heartthrob who is living life on the down low. At one point I saw him pushed up on his secret boyfriend. The photog obviously missed that action. And that would have been the money shot, a story way worthier than me out with my sister-in-law and her best friend.”
“I apologize for jumping to conclusions and waking you up. But can I ask a favor?”
“Try and remember that you’re representing something that is very important to me, something near and dear to my heart. After this weekend, anything you do will get tied to OTB Her. So can you please keep any scandals toned down and to a minimum?”