“I know.” I twisted my hand around and undid my bra strap, needing more room to breathe. “And the air conditioner just broke on my car.”
That was only a partial lie. It had broke, which had been the catalyst for the shiny new convertible, which was now outside my apartment. But I just wanted to test them and see if either would throw me a lifeline. “Could you guys front me some rent, if they won’t give me an extension? Just one month,” I begged. “My portion is six hundred dollars. That would give me some breathing room to find another job.”
“Absolutely not.” My dad’s voice was devoid of sympathy. “You’ve got to figure this out for yourself. Sell blood if you need extra money.”
My mom echoed the denial, though hers was softer in its punch. I ended the call and waited a few days to see if either of them would reach out privately and offer to help. They didn’t. They had each just stumbled onto ten thousand dollars—complete with a ‘thank you for being a good person’ note—and neither one of them had stepped up to help out their only child with her financial need. It didn’t matter if it was a fake financial need. Right then, I decided it was bullshit for me to feel bad about keeping my lotto win a secret from them.
Sure, it was a test. A gift and a test, all rolled into one. They failed, and maybe I failed as well—just by executing it. I didn’t know and, in those early months after the lotto win, I didn’t care. I was too busy focused on the future.
“So.” Vidal paused, a chunk of salmon speared on the end of his fork, and watched as a spindly blonde in a sports bra passed. “For you, we obviously can’t work the parent angle. Not unless your parents are serial killers or being investigated for any crimes?” He looked at me with hope.
“Nope. Sorry.” An interesting world, apologizing for the fact that my father hasn’t butchered a family to death.
“So next there’s achieved celebrity. Those with a talent. Daniel Day-Lewis. Roger Federer. Jeff Bezos. We’ve already determined that you’re not that.”
“Right.” I wrote down ‘not talented’ and underlined it three times.
“Then… and this is where we start to move into Emma Blanton territory—there are the attributed celebrities.” He put down his fork and gave me his full attention. “These people create their own fame.”
“And how do they do that?”
He gave me a slow and almost evil grin. “Be patient, little bird. We’ll get there.”
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I had to have a label. No tabloids would print a photo of me until I had a label. Something for them to put after my name. A justification to their bosses and readership of why they were mentioning me. The easiest route was a girlfriend label, and it needed to be tied to the most prominent name we could find.
Sadly, our best option was Bojan Frost.
Bojan was an ascribed celebrity—the only heir to the Frost Electronics fortune and the sort of guy I hated. He was Serbian, with a thick nape of hair and a dense and close-cropped beard that surrounded pouty pink lips that were constantly affixed in a scowl. He burned fossil fuels without regard, and seemed intent on passing Dan B as the Instagram douchebag of the year. His feed was filled with topless girls in thongs, champagne and cigars, and a propensity to lift his middle finger to the camera. Vidal had proclaimed him to be perfect. I went into the date with my walls and bristles fully in place.
“You’re number eighteen, you know.” Bojan grinned at me from the other side of a leather lounge in the upper deck of the Soho house.
I sipped a cranberry and vodka and wondered what he was talking about. “Am I?” Vidal had promised me that there would be photographers here, but I hadn’t seen any. The place was eerily dark and empty, and every instinct in my body was telling me to sprint out of there.
“Yep. Eighteen of these publicist-set dates and you girls are all the same. And hey, I get it. Everyone wants a ride on the Bojan express.” He grinned at me, then tilted back a clear martini, which was a direct clash to the leather slides he had kicked off under the table. I swallowed a grimace, staunch in my opinion that male toes shouldn’t be seen in public, and certainly not in any type of place that had a valet and membership dues.
“The Bojan express?” I set down my drink before I felt the urge to throw it in his face. “What is that?”
“You know.” He lifted his thick jawline at me. “The fast track to fame. You get a nice byline in some stupid paper, and I get laid. It’s a win-win.” His gaze dropped to my legs. “Looks like it’ll be worth it this time.”