Bo pulled my phone away and put it in the pocket of his red blazer, one that was custom, with white stitching and gold buttons. He bit into a lime and pushed my tequila shot forward, his eyes dark and luminous, his smile full of mischief. I downed the shot and turned the face of his watch toward me, tilting my head to one side to properly read the diamond-studded dial. “We have to go soon,” I said, and he shrugged, reclining back against the booth as if he had all night.
“The party can wait,” he said. “For now, a toast.” He lifted the heavy glass toward me. “Here’s to being newsworthy.”
That night, Bojan got drunk at the Cosmopolitan after-party and punched Leo in the balls after he sent a drink to the model that Bo was flirting with. We both were kicked out of the party, our ungracious exit caught by the paps who got a beautiful shot of the middle finger I flashed the security team.
Bojan did a line of coke along the limo’s armrest as the car headed to his bungalow, and I refreshed my accounts.
EMMA: 1,800,701 FOLLOWERS
In the beginning, it was easy to hide my visits to the Ranch. But as my brand grew, my activities and time were more closely monitored. There were several times that I considered telling Vidal the truth, but didn’t.
* * *
“Where the hell have you been?” Vidal swung open the door to my house and glared at me from my foyer, a gold cell phone pinned to his ear. “You’re late.”
I ignored the question and walked past him, stopping short when I saw the two strangers perched around my kitchen island.
\\\Vidal barked a command into the phone, then used it to point to each of the visitors in succession.
“This is Dion and Edwin,” he said smoothly. “They’re your new team. I’m pulling them off Danica Franks, so be grateful.”
Danica Franks had just flashed a cop while carrying enough cocaine to feed the Oscars, so I was fairly sure this generous gesture was based more on her mandatory rehab and less out of the generosity of his heart, but I still nodded. “Hey.”
“Dion is your new stylist and will handle your hair and makeup. Don’t leave the house, or take a pic, unless you’ve gone through her first.”
Dion barely looked up from her phone. She wore a neon yellow tracksuit, which looked great against her ebony complexion but would make me look like a blonde banana. “That outfit is lame,” she mused.
I looked down at the Beatles t-shirt I wore, one that paired nicely with my best skinny jeans and a pair of pink tennis shoes that Wesley had declared as “super cool.” “I was just running some errands.”
“Yeah, you don’t want to do that anymore.” The second person at my counter stood up. He had coiffed blond hair with enough volumizing spray to make it stand an extra six inches up and wore a blue suit, the kind that was short enough to show a peek of his bright red socks. “Errands need to be brand specific and approved and coordinated with us. Nothing is going to piss a sponsor off quicker than you shopping at their competitor, so we need to make sure that there is a purpose for all actions.”
“This is Edwin.” Vidal chimed in. “He’s in charge of your social media presence, branding, messaging, and calendar coordination.”
Edwin beamed at me. “Don’t worry, I’m only a hard ass when you mess up.”
“Okay. So…” I set my bag down on the table. “Do we meet weekly? Or what? How does this work?”
Dion and Edwin gave each other a look, and Edwin trilled out a laugh. “Oh, honey, you’re so fresh. No, we basically live here now. Your life is ours.”
“Not in like a creepy, we want your lifestyle way,” Dion drawled. “More like, you’re turning over every aspect of YOU”—she made a hand motion that encompassed my entire body—“to us.”
It should have irritated me, but I craved the turnover. Everywhere around me, I saw what I didn’t have. Spotless exteriors of lives full of love, travel, and money. I couldn’t even get a table without Vidal’s help, couldn’t get a post to attract more than a thousand likes, and was beginning to see my investment in myself and my fame as the shallow and pointless fantasies of an ugly and uninteresting girl.
“From now on,” Edwin said. “Everything is going to be different.”
He was right. Bringing them on brought everything to a different level. They were expensive and horrible and invasive as hell, but they knew the three F’s better than anyone. When Danica Franks left rehab, I doubled their paychecks to keep them with me. I needed them, even if I hated them for it.
“With all the attention on Emma Blanton, it seems crazy that she could have had any secrets. But she did. Twice a week, for four hours, no one knew where she was. And no one noticed it, for a really long time. Even her team. Someone like Emma is assumed to sleep until the middle of the day, not be driving down to Outlier Ranch at six in the morning.”