Runaway Attraction. Farrah Rochon
‘sudden disappearance—’” she made air quotes with her fingers “—during Fashion Week. Everything from entering rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to going to South America for plastic surgery. Let me assure you that I have never used an illegal substance in my life, and the one time I tried to drink anything stronger than champagne I became sick to my stomach.”
“What about the plastic surgery?” asked Nathan Porter, a columnist who had covered RHD’s fashion shows for years.
It stung that a man she’d known since she was a teenager hanging around the RHD studios had the audacity to ask such a question. She pasted on her most flattering smile as she directed her answer to him.
“Forgive my conceit, Nathan, but there is nothing a plastic surgeon could do to improve this face.”
She knew her self-important rejoinder would garner laughs. Bailey had a reputation of being one of the most unpretentious models in the industry. That praise had been delivered by some of the same fashion writers, bloggers and photographers standing before her. These people knew her; they’d helped her get to the brink of superstardom, where she felt herself teetering precariously. She wouldn’t go as far as to call them friends, but when you saw the same faces at every fashion event, you couldn’t help but form an amiable kinship.
The camaraderie Bailey was feeling dried up with the very next question from a contributor to New York’s most popular fashion and beauty blog.
“What about the bag of cocaine that was reportedly found on you the night you disappeared?” the man asked.
“Yes, what about the cocaine, Bailey?”
“How long have you been using?”
“Is it true that you almost overdosed?”
“Why did you stay away for so long?”
“Have you been in rehab?”
The barrage of hostile questions smacked her in the face, causing her to take a step back. Fingers of panic clawed up Bailey’s throat with every ugly inquiry hurled her way.
“I...I was suffering from exhaustion,” she stammered, using the excuse her family had decided upon while she was hidden away in the Virgin Islands.
“Who’s your supplier, Bailey?”
“I don’t have a supplier,” she said. “I have never used drugs in my life!”
“Then what about the cocaine?” asked the reporter who had initially brought up the drugs. “Where did it come from?”
Her father stepped up to the podium. “We understand that there are still many unanswered questions, but because there is still an ongoing police investigation, we cannot share anything specific about the case. However, I want to stress that Bailey was not involved in any type of criminal activity.”
“Do you use the drugs to help you stay so thin?” asked a writer from a major paper, completely ignoring her father’s statement.
“Are you being treated for anorexia, Bailey?” another called.
“This press conference is over,” her father stated, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and guiding her away from the podium, into the fold of her family, who quickly surrounded her.
Bailey couldn’t control the tremors coursing through her body. She knew she should stay and finish the press conference. Walking away now would only feed the frenzy.
But Bailey was too shell-shocked to care, too disoriented by the deluge of antagonistic questions to give a damn that she looked as if she was making a quick escape.
The past ten minutes had served as a reminder that the media was not her friend. It didn’t matter that some of those writers had been reporting on her family’s fashion empire since Bailey was in pigtails. They would turn on her in a hot minute if it meant a juicy headline.
Flanked by her two brothers, Bailey retreated to the parking garage, the sound of the reporters’ questions still ringing in her ears as the brisk November air stung her face.
Her entire family had cautioned her against making a public statement so soon after returning to New York. In fact, they’d wanted her to remain in St. Thomas until the person who’d abducted her had been apprehended. After what had just transpired, Bailey was starting to think that maybe she should have listened to them.
* * *
“I told you this was a bad idea,” Kyle repeated for what seemed like the hundredth time as he paced back and forth, resembling a caged panther.
“Yes, you have.” Bailey kneaded the bridge of her nose. “Several times.”
Sitting with her legs tucked underneath her on the sofa, she clutched a bronze-colored throw pillow to her chest. The entire family was assembled in the living room of her parents’ Central Park West penthouse, in a building her parents co-owned. She and her sister, Brianna, shared an apartment on the tenth floor, and both of her brothers also lived on the premises. However, it was her parents’ home that served as the central meeting place when the family got together.
Every person in this room had witnessed her near meltdown after her father had abruptly ended today’s ill-advised press conference. The abject shame at not being able to handle the situation caused Bailey to squirm with embarrassment.
For the past hour, her main objective had been figuring out ways to hide just how adversely she’d been affected by today’s events. If her family sensed even the slightest indication that her claims of being over the attack were all an act, Bailey knew she would be on a plane back to the Virgin Islands, or to the Swiss Alps or a monastery in Rome. Anywhere but New York, where her abductor was still lurking.
Bailey pulled the pillow tighter to her stomach.
“It was too early for you to put yourself out there like that.” Kyle pointed an accusing finger at her. “Those vultures are ruthless.”
“Those vultures have been good to RHD in the past,” Bailey reminded him. “How many magazine spreads have your designs been featured in?”
“Whatever,” her brother said with a derisive snort.
Kyle’s fiancée, Zoe Sinclair, caught him by his shirt’s hem. Tugging him toward her, Zoe waited until Kyle had seated himself on the arm of her chair before turning to Bailey.
“What’s important is whether or not the press conference accomplished what it was intended to accomplish,” Zoe said. “Do you think it did that, Bailey?”
“I wanted to show them that I’m not a drug addict strung out on cocaine. Maybe I should have passed out photocopies of my medical records. That’s probably the only way they will believe anything I say.”
Brianna came into the room carrying the mug of hot tea Bailey had requested, and took the seat next to her.
“Unfortunately, I think today’s press conference piqued the media’s curiosity more than anything else,” Brianna said. “They’re going to be more intrusive than ever.”
“Should we get a bigger security detail?” Daniel asked.
“No!” Bailey set her tea on the coffee table and stood. “No additional bodyguards. In fact, I don’t want any bodyguards at all.”
“That’s out of the question.” Her father, who had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout most of the discussion, stood before the marble fireplace, his arms folded over his chest. “We’ve had this discussion already, Bailey. The bodyguards remain until whoever assaulted you is taken into custody.”
“I can’t continue to live like this.” She held her hands out, pleading for understanding. “Do any of you know how annoying it is to have someone following your every move? No, you don’t. Because all of you are free to go wherever you want without a shadow trailing behind.”
“That’s because none of us were knocked unconscious by some