“London? Everything all right?”
“Everything would be fine if I stopped getting asked if I’m all right.”
“Calm down, darling. You sound exasperated. That’s the only reason I asked. You know I care about you.”
“I know. It’s just been crazy over here.”
“Sounds like I arrived just in time.”
“You’re in Paris?”
“Oui, oui. And wanting to take you out tonight if you have time.”
London had all but been in prison since the Milan incident. If a hair on her head moved, Ace knew which direction. An evening with the laid-back lover turned friend now sounded like heaven.
“I’m getting ready to tape a TV segment. I’ll have to see what’s up after that. Call you later?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
She hung up the phone, called her parents and quickly scrolled through her emails. Checking the time, something she’d done more since working with Ace than she’d done in her whole career combined, she headed out the door.
He was coming down the hall. “You’re late.”
“Five minutes. Give me a break, Ace. You’re not my dad.”
“I’m damn close to it. I gave Mr. Drake my word to take care of you, and no matter how much it gets on your nerves I’m going to do just that. Now, let’s go be amazing.”
She was more than that. London was an interviewer’s dream: funny, smart, engaging. The show’s producers had allotted two hours for the shoot. Forty-five minutes later, they packed up their gear.
Ace had been on phone calls during much of the taping but came back to the parlor once they were done.
“She was excellent,” the host told him. “Having her as your spokesperson is the best move you’ve ever made.”
“I can’t disagree.”
While Ace talked to the producers, London walked over to Samantha, who’d helped set up the shoot. “What’s next?”
“That’s it, kid. You’re done for the day. Ace talked about us all going out to dinner.”
London shook her head. “I’ve got other plans. A good friend of mine is in town, so we’re going to hang out.”
“Oh, okay. Have fun.”
London pulled out her cell phone, tapping Max’s number as she bopped up the steps.
“Hey, guess what.”
“Hello there, gorgeous.”
“I’m free! What are we doing?”
“What about front-row tickets to an Adele show followed by a late-night dinner party with Channe Bonfils?”
“Are you serious?”
In the fashion world, Channe Bonfils and his dinner parties were legendary. An eccentric royal with more money than God, he lived in a palace that rivaled Versailles and was rarely seen in public. London was all in.
“There’s only one problem. Well, actually, two. First of all, I don’t have anything here that will meet his dress code. Those parties are strictly haute couture.”
“I have a few connections here. We’ll get you something breathtaking. What’s the second problem?”
“So you two are dating?”
“It’s a long story.”
“It’s a yes-or-no story.”
“Look, not now, Max.”
“Fair enough. Where should we meet?”
“Because of the long story?” London huffed. “Does this have anything to do with your earlier mood? What’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you about it but later, okay? I don’t want to get into it now. This might get a bit uncomfortable, but you’re going to have to come get me. Seeing you in person is the only way Ace will let me leave.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“No, I was kidnapped. Like I said, long story. I’ll tell you the details on the way to Channe. What time should I expect you?”
“Let me make a few calls, get something that will make you the belle of the ball, and then I’ll call you back.”
She’d showered before the taping, but London went into the bathroom and formed a quick ablution. She stood in front of the mirror naked, critiquing. Like every other woman with blood and a pulse, when looking in a mirror she highlighted imperfections. Breasts too small. Forehead too big. Torso too long and lanky. Not curvy like her cousin Katrina or her sister, Teresa. More like the giraffe she’d been teasingly called growing up. Fortunately, years of wearing top-of-the-line fashions from the world’s most talented designers had taught her how to downplay her faults and highlight her assets, one being that giraffe neck that had garnered so much teasing. She piled her freshly redone extensions on the top of her head, secured them with pins and pulled down a few tendrils for just the right amount of sexy. After touching up her makeup, she walked to the closet, pulled out a simple, one-sleeved multicolored maxi and a pair of gold-and-silver mesh boots. Almost two dozen bangles covered her arm. She pulled on a pair of dangling two-toned earrings and kept her neck bare. No matter what color, the mixture of metals would complement the gown. A spritz of perfume and London was ready to go. She stood back from the full-length mirror and surveyed her handiwork.