Runaway Attraction. Farrah Rochon

Runaway Attraction - Farrah Rochon

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quickly corrected. She’d given him permission to use her first name during the September interview. He wanted to remind her of that past camaraderie. “This is Micah Jones from WLNY.”

      “Oh, yes. Hi,” she answered.

      “Hello,” he said again, then winced. For a man who asked questions professionally, his communication skills had plummeted to junior-high-school levels. Micah cleared his throat and tried again.

      “I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time. I saw yesterday’s press conference. I’m happy to see that you’re back in New York and doing well.”

      “Thank you,” she said, then with a humorless laugh added, “Although there are a few people who may argue the point about me doing well. According to some of the comments I’ve read online, I kept my coat on at yesterday’s press conference to hide the track marks on my arms. Never mind the fact that it was thirty degrees out.”

      “Don’t pay attention to that crap. It’s garbage.”

      “And this from a reporter,” she said.

      “I’m not really a reporter,” he reminded her. “At least not in the traditional sense. I produce, direct and interview.”

      “Mr. Jones, was there something you needed, or did you call to give me your résumé?”

      Ouch. Okay, so idle-chitchat time was over.

      Her voice hadn’t held that edge in September. Micah had no doubts the sharpness in her tone was a direct result of the negative attention that had been heaped upon her and her family these past few months.

      “Please, call me Micah,” he said. “And, yes, there was a reason behind my call. As a follow-up to the interview we did—”

      “I’m not interested in doing one-on-one interviews at this time.”

      “This wouldn’t be an interview,” he quickly interjected.

      There was a pause. “What are you suggesting exactly?”

      What was he suggesting? He did want a one-on-one. He wanted an exclusive.

      “I...I was hoping we could go a step beyond the traditional interview. How do you feel about an hour-long documentary on your life as a model on the cusp of superstardom and a member of New York’s first African-American family of fashion?”

      Micah had no idea where that had come from, but he had to admit it was pretty good.

      “A documentary?” Skepticism practically seeped through the phone line. “I don’t think so—”

      “Hear me out.” He pulled in a fortifying breath and continued. “I understand what you were trying to do with that press conference yesterday.”

      “I wanted to reconnect with the media after my short hiatus.”

      “You wanted to quell some of the negative attention that Roger Hamilton Designs has received these past few months.” Micah wouldn’t let her lie to him or to herself. “I hate to break it to you, Bailey, but you didn’t accomplish your goal.”

      “Oh, thanks.” Her flat tone was drenched in annoyance.

      “You’re fighting an uphill battle. The press doesn’t want to hear that you’re fine and that everything is business as usual at RHD. The press wants drama.”

      “What the press wants is to catch me snorting cocaine in some seedy back alley.”

      “Unfortunately, yes, that’s the type of drama many in the press would love.”

      “And you expect me to agree to give you a full hour of it?”

      “No,” he stressed. “Look, Bailey, I’m not looking to exploit your situation. And, for the record, I don’t believe those drugs were yours.”

      The line grew so quiet that Micah was afraid the call had dropped.

      “What makes you so sure the drugs weren’t mine?” she asked. The bite in her tone had lessened.

      “Let’s just say that I consider myself a good judge of character, and I don’t see you as someone who would put your body at risk that way. Give me the chance to show the public the Bailey Hamilton I saw back in September.”

      “And just who did you see in September?” Not only was there less bite in her tone, but now Bailey actually sounded curious. Micah’s heart started to beat a bit faster.

      “I saw someone who was driven and motivated and on top of her game,” he answered. “Someone who was considerate, yet commanded the respect of everyone around her. But that’s not the person I saw at yesterday’s press conference. The person I saw yesterday seemed unsure and completely intimidated.”

      Micah caught her frustrated groan.

      “Take it from someone who’s been in the media for a while,” he continued. “The more you cower, the less respect they’ll give you and the more vicious they’ll become. Don’t hide from the press anymore, Bailey. I can help you show them that you’re back and better than ever.”

      There was another stretch of silence before she asked, “What’s in it for you?”

      “What do you mean?”

      “Oh, come on. Do you expect me to believe that you want to produce this documentary out of the kindness of your heart, without getting anything in return? Take it from someone who’s been in the modeling industry for a while,” she said, hurling his words back at him. “The stereotypes are a myth. Fashion model does not equal clueless airhead.”

      “I don’t think you’re—”

      “Do you know how many requests I’ve received for interviews since I returned to New York? How much money I’ve been offered for an exclusive?”

      “This isn’t just about getting a story out of you, Bailey. Sure, it would be mutually beneficial, but would that be such a bad thing? I’m giving you a chance to tell your story without the media putting some type of salacious spin on it.”

      “And I’m just supposed to trust that you wouldn’t twist the story around to suit your own agenda?”

      “That’s not the way I operate. You should know that from our previous interview.”

      “I’ve learned a lot about how you reporters operate since our previous interview.”

      Having her systematically lump him in with all other reporters left a bitter taste in Micah’s mouth.

      “Give me an hour,” he said. “One hour. Let me share my vision, and what I believe I can do for both you and RHD.”

      “I’ve already witnessed what the media can do for me, and for my family’s business. It isn’t pretty. Goodbye, Mr. Jones.”

      Micah met dead air on the other end of the line. He stared at the phone for several moments, disappointment and disbelief ricocheting in his head. He blew out a frustrated breath as he dropped the phone on the desk, trying to think of a way that talking to Bailey Hamilton could have gone any worse.

      * * *

      Bailey braced her hands against the kitchen counter and tried to fight the compulsion to check the window and door locks. She’d done so just a few hours ago. Everything was locked up tight. She was safe.

      She squeezed her eyes closed, her arms shaking as she fisted her hands against the cold granite. Pinpricks of unease cascaded down her spine, making her skin crawl. She concentrated on taking deep, measured breaths.

      “This is absurd,” she whispered.

      Unable to fight it a second longer, Bailey pushed away from the counter and raced to the front door. She checked the lock on the knob and the dead bolt. She spent the next ten minutes doing the same on every window in the apartment. She looked in the closets and behind the doors, recognizing that she was being ridiculous,

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