Laughter, clinking glasses and shouts of cheer rang out.
“To London,” Ace said, “the reason everyone’s talking.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” London replied. “You’re the reason I’m here.”
By the time the limo stopped in front of their destination, Ace’s good mood had been fully restored. Stars, an exclusive club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was where celebrities, investors and the fashion world’s elite had been invited to celebrate OTB Hers’s incredible launch success.
At first Ace had balked at the idea of bodyguards, but seeing the crowd blocking the club’s entrance, he was now glad for the three who’d followed in the car behind. Now the men whisked them out of the limo and cleared a path through the throng of reporters, photographers and star watchers so Ace and company could get inside. Mira spotted the group as soon as they came through the club’s inner doors.
She hurried to the stage and spoke into the microphone. “May I have your attention, please? Everyone, please help me welcome my partners, Tyler Dent and Ace Montgomery, along with London, the face of OTB Her!”
Amid boisterous applause, Ace held London’s hand as they made their way through the crowd, him shaking hands, her giving hugs, both accepting pats on the back. Eyes filled with curiosity darted between him and London. Neither missed these speculative glances. Ace imagined the world would dub them a couple by morning, whether it was true or not.
They reached the slightly elevated stage area and accepted flutes of bubbly from Mira. Ace placed an arm around London and brought her close to his side. She cocked her head toward him, her expression partly inquisitive, partly amused. He noticed but couldn’t help it. Ace had fallen head over heels for a runway star with a pretty face, a pert behind and a smart mouth. Tomorrow he’d regain his serious composure and place their relationship back in the private box where it belonged. But tonight…
The crowd of more than two hundred well-wishers continued to clap and cheer. Ace stepped to the microphone. “Thank you! Thanks, everyone.” The din lowered to a murmur as he continued to speak. “On behalf of my partners, Tyler Dent and Mira Jacobs, we want to thank all of you for embracing this new line so enthusiastically. The world’s a fickle place, nowhere more so than the entertainment and fashion industries. So we didn’t know what to expect. Back in the warehouse amid the designs, especially when we saw them on London, we knew these out-of-the-box fashions were a hit. But I can’t tell you how good it feels to know you feel that way, too. Here’s to the launch and to London, the face of the brand and the woman who first made the clothes come alive… To OTB Her!”
Once again, there were toasts all around. Ace put the glass to his lips but didn’t imbibe. Not much of a drinker, he’d passed his one-drink limit three drinks ago in the limo. Reporters clamored near the side of the stage. He’d not planned a press conference but decided to call on a couple raised hands.
“Any plans to expand the line beyond clothing?”
London squeezed Ace’s hand, hard. “As of right now, everything is on the table. We’re always thinking outside the box.”
“Whose idea was it to incorporate stilts into the show? That was fantastic!”
Tyler stepped up to the microphone. “As with the line, the show’s design was a collaborative effort.”
Actually it was Ace’s idea, but given the bully he’d been in the limo, Ace gave him a pass.
“You two look awfully cozy,” a gossip columnist asked as she stepped to the front. “Is there perhaps some designing happening behind the scenes?”
London took the lead on this one. “What fun would it be to kiss and tell? Part of the excitement for you guys is chasing the story.” She added coyly, “If I were you, I’d keep running.”
More questions were shouted out. Mira stepped to the microphone. “That’s all the time we have for questions right now. It’s time to meet and greet all of you who’ve come to help us celebrate. We appreciate you beyond words. Now…let’s party!”
For the next several hours, that’s exactly what they did. At just before 2:00 a.m., the partners and their partners arrived back at the Baccarat. Inside the elevator, Ace tried to stop her, but London pushed the button for her floor.