"I expect this sort of crap from your brother. But I thought you had a lick of fucking sense!" Her father slammed the tabloid down in front of her. "Did you even know a thing about this guy before you fucked him in an alleyway?"
Francesca reached across the coffee table to pick up the paper. It was your typical trash filled with gossip about Aniston and Swift. The front page, however, was taken up by a shot of her legs wrapped around some guy from a bar. Francesca didn't remember much of that night - she remembered drinking, she remembered an accent. She remembered he was good with his hands. Nothing other than that. It still made the front page though.
"And the problem is?"
She watched the muscle go in her father's jaw. This wasn't like her. Scandals had followed her brother around like a dog with fleas but she had never been any trouble. Until now. "The problem? The problem is that the head of Events for Americana does not get splashed over the front page. Robert Soulter's daughter does not hook up with some, with some-"
Her father yanked the paper out of her hands, his fingers tearing open the pages to find the copy to go with that incredible front page picture. "With some older man - much older, Francesca - who has a whole ream of issues with the law. Let's see we've got narcotic arrests, DUI's and, oh look at that, an issue with immigration. He has a daughter that he's abandoned too."
I know the feeling. "You know, Dad, I didn't really ask him all that." Francesca snorted, leaning back against the leather chair. "I didn't even ask his name."
He shoved the paper in her face, his finger pointing to the name bolded in print. "Lachlan MacAldonich. God, Francesca. I can deal with underwear models who don't know when to shut up. I could even deal with that high school dropout you used to be sweet on. But this is a whole new level for you."
Francesca shifted forward, her hands clinging to the armrests. "So Jesse gets a slap on the wrist after he's arrested. Alice has an affair with Tristan Frasier and you stand by her. I get on the front page for making out with some guy in an alley and it's the end of the world. Nice to see I'm held by the same standards as the rest of my family."
Francesca pushed herself away from the armchair and headed towards the door. She almost reached the handle when the paper smacked itself into the wood before crumpling to the floor. She turned to see her father glaring at her.
"We're in LA for two more weeks. Try not to screw up anymore."
She slammed the door on her way out.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. She was supposed to be at her father's right hand, guiding the Americana label to greatness. Not being classed as a screw up for hooking up at a bar. Nothing changed. Her idiot brother had let the company's stock fall and carried on an affair with their former stepmother yet still he could do no wrong. Her estranged designer cousin was her father's new golden girl despite having a very public affair with a very married designer. She on the other hand did everything she was asked, always put the company and the family's interests first. And she got nothing in return.
She wasn't her father's heir. She wasn't even a designer he could mould. She was nothing.
"This isn't fucking fair."
"That's life, I'm afraid. You know what makes life better? Punnet of fresh strawberries, I guarantee it."
Somehow Francesca had got turned around and ended up in the Farmer's Market. Normally she would just brush off the seller and go back to her car. But the voice sounded familiar. When she turned she realised where she knew him from. When he could see her, he realised it too.
Reaching behind the stall, he raised a copy of that damn tabloid. "You know it's been a while since I've been on the front page. I thought my stock had risen till I realised the subject was you."
Francesca frowned, stalking over to the stall and pulling the paper from his grasp. She could definitely see it was him in the picture now. The hair length was the same. The arms too. The tanned face across from her was smiling, although Francesca didn't see anything to smile about. She hadn't expected to ever see him again until TMZ interviewed him. Fate was definitely having a laugh at her expense. "You sleep with a lot of famous women?"
He laughed at her. "No, not really love. In another life I was in a band. Quite well known one, actually. Didn't think I would ever grace the front page of a paper again. But then I didn't think I would ever sleep with Americana's first daughter."
He knew who she was, but he didn't seem impressed by her. That was refreshing. Francesca was usually hit on by two types of men - models who wanted to work for her father or professionals who wanted to use her father's connections. Nobody really wanted to be with her. Interesting.
"You can call me Francesca. It's Lachlan, right?"
He grinned. "Aye, it is. Kind of fucked up that you had to work out my name from a tabloid, isn't it?"
It was her turn to laugh. She had to admit that Lachlan was somewhat attractive. She could certainly see why she had gone home with him after a drunken fumble in a club bathroom. His face was weathered but his eyes were warm. He had a nice body under that white t-shirt. He was funny too. Not a bad candidate for a one night stand. I bet he didn't even know who I was when we went home together. "I should have mentioned I was Robert Soulter's daughter before we went to my hotel."
Lachlan shrugged. "You probably did. I was just too drunk to take much notice. If I'd realised there would be cameras I probably wouldn't have felt you up in an alleyway while we waited for a cab."
He smirked at her. "You're quite hard to resist, Francesca Soulter. Even more so in the daylight." He ran a hand through his hair. "If I had realised how enchanting you were I probably would have done a bit better than a drunken shag on your hotel room floor."
So that was where those carpet burns were from. "And the shower. Don't forget the shower."
They both smiled at that. Her night with Lachlan hadn't been bad. It had been at least fifty percent better than her other one night stands. In fact, Francesca remembered elements that were actually good. It seemed Lachlan felt the same because he reached over to take her hand. His fingers felt rough against her skin. She was used to models hands or playboy's hands. Not this.
"This is going to be a very stupid question considering you're an heiress to a fashion chain and look like a model but I'll kick myself forever if I don't ask. Would you ever consider going out with me sometime? Properly, you know? A drink or dinner, even?"
She hadn't even thought about it, which surprised her. The more and more she did, the more she was on board. Her father would go crazy if she started dating a washed up musician with a record as long as his cock. There would be dinner dates and hotel romps and front page gossip and 'no comment' from Robert Soulter about his daughter's new romance. It would attract her father's attention; prompt him to show her she was still part of the first family of fashion. Lachlan was the answer she had been searching for. Lachlan and his rough hands.
"How about tonight? Let me give you my number."
Francesca could just imagine the front page tomorrow.