Chapter 22

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No one spoke to me on the flight back to New York. Not that I was much up for conversation anyway. Ferrero was, understandably, not speaking to me. Janice and Kelly were mad at me on Ferrero’s behalf.

Gavin and Elliot were standing by their ultimatum and avoiding me until I made my decision.

Since I had only myself for company, and I was pretty miserable company at that, I popped a pair of sleep aids, found an empty row of seats in coach, and slept the entire flight.

I didn’t wake up until a flight attendant shook me and asked me to prepare for landing. I just buckled in where I was and, by the time all the rows in front of me had disembarked and I got up to first class to grab my carry-on, all of my traveling companions were gone.

The only person I recognized at the baggage carousel was Ferrero’s driver. He gave me a sympathetic smile as he shook his head and told me that I was instructed to find my own transport home.

Way to round out a perfect week, Vanderwalk.

Things couldn’t possibly get—

No. Nope, nuhh-uh, I wasn’t saying this time. Because time had taught me that things could always get… yeah, that.

“You are a genius, Lydia.”

I stared at the phone in my hand, wondering if I’d downloaded some fancy new app that reversed what the caller was saying.

“Ferrero?” I asked, incredulous that he would be calling me at all, let alone phoning to call me a genius.

“Pre-sales on the Fall collection are through the roof.” His Italian accent was gone, South Jersey coming through loud and clear. “Thanks to you.”

“What do you mean?”

Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I crawled out of bed and headed for the kitchen and a mind-clearing cup of peppermint tea.

“Your publicity stunt worked,” he continued. “The press ate it up like Godiva, plastering my name on every rag sheet from here to Tokyo.”

“Publicity stunt?”

“Denouncing my Italian identity at the after party in front of everyone.” He sounded delighted. “Brilliant!”

I squinted at the clock on my stove. 6:15. Maybe I needed to unplug my phone at night. None of these early morning conversations ever made sense. I set a cup of hot water in the microwave and punched it on for ninety seconds.

“Ferrero, it’s too early for this kind of confusion. What are you talking about?”

“Lydia, darling, every newspaper in the world covered my party—and my collection—because you outed me in public. There is no such thing as bad press. Our value doubled over the weekend.”

“Oh.”

The microwave beeped and I rushed to pour the boiling water over the tea bag in my coffee mug. While it steeped I inhaled the wakening aroma of peppermint, praying it notched my alertness up a level.

“And it’s not early,” he added, “it’s late.”

Bent over the counter to sniff my tea, I had a closer view of the clock and made out the tiny P next to the time. Jetlag must have hit harder than I thought.

“So you’re not mad at me anymore?” I deduced.

“Mad?” Ferrero squealed. “I adore you!”

If I weren’t so exhausted I might have been happy about that. “That’s good.”

Deeming my tea steeped enough to drink—and my brain desperate enough to endure weak tea—I swallowed a tingling gulp.

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