Page 59 of Lavish Loving

“You’re throwing out a lot of supposition here, Ace.”

“Mira, I—”

“Please, Ace, give me a second before you go on. I don’t know where all of this is coming from, but it’s not from the Ace I know. The man I quit my corporate job for and reached into my retirement fund to get into partnership with wouldn’t be focusing on doom-and-gloom what-ifs. Life happens. The show’s over. We have a few months before the spring shows, to either find out who’s after her or devise a way to make sure he doesn’t get her on our watch. But anyone else being the Her girl? For me, that’s out of the question.”

“I have to agree with Mira, Ace. When it comes to anyone else repping this line, London has no competition or comparison. As Phillip would say, she shut it down.”

“The publicist’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Mira continued. “The sales department is being deluged. We’ve gotten orders from all the majors, Neiman, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, all placing big orders and making room on their floors for a full OTB Her display. Yes, it’s partly because of the clothes. The designs are amazing. But for the women buying those clothes, it’s not just about style. It’s about feeling a little like the fabulous, fearless, take-charge, screw-the-world woman they see promoting the looks. It’s about putting a little London into their lives.”

“I don’t disagree with any of that, Mira. And I’m still that man for whom you took a risk. It’s not about touting doom and gloom, it’s about looking at every aspect of business objectively, from all angles. Discussing it. Debating it. And coming to a mutual conclusion.

“On Friday, I called the detective in Milan. They still have no suspects and no solid lead on either the package or the attempted kidnapping. The mail we sent back went to a virtual mail store and a randomly chosen address that didn’t have a corresponding box to the number listed.”

“What about the rape kit?”

“That was the one piece of good news. There was no evidence that’s she’d been assaulted—sexually or otherwise.

“To give a partial answer to your earlier question, Tyler, and to comment on what Mira said about keeping London safe, our argument in Paris began about that very thing. When she went against me and my word to her father and left the house, she left my protection and care. If something had happened to her it wouldn’t have been about her being a grown woman or highly traveled or any of that. It would have been that I’d given my word and didn’t follow through. We all know how she can be. The same temperamental, stubborn, rebel qualities that make her great are also what can make it very difficult for us to keep her out of danger. Like you said, whoever did this is still out there. As a company, do we want to take the risk?”

Ace had purposely kept the focus on the company and what he’d promised Ike Sr. but his fear of harm coming to London went much deeper, straight through his heart.

Tyler folded his arms and eyed Ace intently. “Tell me something, Ace. Is this just about London’s safety, or does it also have to do with the person you demanded I ban from the shows, the one who showed up in Paris, whose face along with hers is splashed all over the tabloids with them all lovey-dovey at some kind of suave affair?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I think you do.”

“This isn’t personal. It’s business.”

Ace said this, and another recording began to play in his head. I’ll tell you what you’re concerned about. Your precious company. OTB’s reputation. Your name. Your brand. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re really protecting.

“Guys, here’s my suggestion. I say we contact London or her agent and make sure she’s still on board. Remind them of the contract she signed. Because if she isn’t, we’ve already wasted an hour discussing someone who’s no longer with the company.” Mira looked at Ace. “Do you want me to handle this?”

“No. I’ll handle it.”

Later that day, Ace set about doing just that. Another call to London went to voice mail, but that didn’t stop him. He went home and changed into comfortable clothes. Grabbed a meal at a drive-through, programmed his GPS and steered his top-of-the-line Porsche in the direction of Paradise Cove.