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Richard’s eyes flicked to the deep red of Emma Carter’s nails while their hands were clasped together. Vienna was a place that Emma had no real desire to return to, so she said, and the fact that she was heading straight to the belly of the beast vexed her. Their hands were on her lap, while she was looking out the window, breathing steadily and heavily. Meanwhile, Richard was on the phone, having a word with Tarantino’s agent. 

“How are you feeling, Emma?” Richard asked after he hung up the said call. 

Emma’s attention turned to him after catching herself staring out on the streets of Vienna. “Hm? What do you mean?” 

“I said—” Richard shifted closer to her, not once letting go of her hand. “How are you feeling? You’ve been unresponsive the whole ride.” 

The actress sighed, her thumb brushing the back of Richard’s hand. “It’s just… we’re in Vienna.

“And?”  

“I mean, you do remember that I was born here… that I grew up in here… All these places I remember, but they are somewhat foreign to me now… The people I used to know are now foreign to me…” 

“Emma, Emma, Emma…” He put his other hand on top of theirs and patted it. “The hotel Edler has assured me that your arrival to Vienna will be in utmost confidence, so you can rest your pretty little head. No one will know until we get to the Opera Ball, alright, baby girl?” 

“Ugh, are we still doing that?” Emma’s face soured. She peeled Richard’s hands off of hers. “Richard, I don’t want to go to the Opera Ball with him. I don’t even know the guy.”

“Now Emma,” Richard spoke gently as if he was talking to a child, “we want you to be the next and biggest It Girl in Hollywood, and a dating announcement would do just the trick.”

“But Richard, really? We don’t even know each other! What has Pablo said about it?” 

In all honesty, Pablo Garcia had not given Richard a straight answer yet, so all Richard had left was to hope his plans would fall through — Emma Carter announces her engagement to Pablo Garcia in the world-renowned Opera Ball where millions of viewers and paparazzi are tuning in, and she would soar to the top of the headlines.

“Don’t you worry about Pablo… don’t you worry about anything for now.” 

He goaded Emma to go back to sleep in the car for they still had about an hour until the Edler. Emma did not fall asleep, however, because she felt something in the back of her mind was bothering her. There was something in the Edler that felt like an omen, and she was not excited about it at all.

Lo and behold, the minute she saw the tall symbol for Edler down the street, the entrance of the hotel itself was filled with long lines of people dressed in gaudy fashion, waiting for someone important to arrive. So much for “top secret.” Even when she was still inside the limousine, she could already hear people screaming her name. Richard checked Twitter and saw that Emma Carter was trending in Austria and that their “top secret” arrival was leaked. Who else would know, but those in the Edler Hotel themselves. Shortly before the car pulled up, Richard received an email from the hotel, apologizing for their son’s tweet. He hated the stupid son already and he didn’t even know him yet. 

“This is the worst,” Emma exclaimed before putting on her special Dior sunglasses. Richard put his sunglasses on as well.

“We’ll deal with them, baby girl,” Richard tried to soothe her but it was to no avail. He was livid himself, after all. 

The hotel doors opened to a whole crowd waiting for Emma Carter’s arrival. Richard held his arm out, making sure no one touched Emma Carter. They did not hire a bodyguard since Richard thought that they would have no need for one. Well, he was wrong about that. A middle-aged woman with a platinum bob haircut greeted them first, but when Emma asked for the keys, it was another man who was dressed up like a sachertorte with hair all mussed up as if he had just woken up that very moment. 

“I’ll show you to your room,” he beamed like an idiot, holding out Emma’s room keys. 

Richard snatched the key cards away from the sachertorte man, pissed. He could just about spit right into the cheeky Wiener’s face. He had no grace, no poise. The Wiener was rude and cocky, trying to show them around even though he should feel absolutely terrible for leaking Emma’s information. Richard hated scum like that. Perhaps he made the wrong choice of choosing the Edler for their stay, but it was just for a few days anyway. 

The elevators were slow, and the Edler’s hallways were like mazes. The room numbers were confusing and Richard could curse the entire hotel for being impossible to navigate. Finally, they found Emma’s room on the top floor of the hotel. Richard’s room was right across hers, for her safety. He decided to escort Emma to her room to talk to her and calm her down. 

“This hotel stinks!” Emma pulled off her white jacket and threw it across her hotel room in frustration. “Can’t we just get a different hotel?”

Richard calculated the budget they had in his mind. They could, in theory, but there was no reason to change it anymore. The Edler was comfortable enough, not entirely as glamorous as, say, a five-star hotel but it did the trick, if not for that one huge compliant slip.

“Now, Emma…  it’s only for a few days!” He sat next to her on the edge of the bed and put his arm around her, but Emma only pouted like a spoiled puppy. 

“Can’t we at least cancel the Opera Ball too?” Emma pleaded.

Richard shook his head, explaining that the Opera Ball was a perfect way to draw the headlines and the clicks in. Emma Carter and Pablo Garcia would be the talk of the century, just like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Of course, this meant that Richard will be getting lots of cash out of it as well. It’s a win-win situation. 

Suddenly, his phone rang in his pocket. Richard pulled away from Emma (he saw her pout.) He checked the name on the screen and it was Quentin Tarantino… again. The famous director asked him if Emma Carter could star in his new movie, and for the hundredth time, Richard rejected him. That Tarantino scum cannot get his crummy hands on Richard’s Emma Carter. Only he knew what Emma’s strengths as an actress and as a business prospect were, Tarantino would only scar her. 

“... Did you just turn down Tarantino?” Emma asked, looking up from her little childish journal.

“I did. You’re not fit for that, baby,” Richard explained, even though he knew Emma was a big fan of Tarantino. All that blood splatter and gore? That does not fit the glamorous image of Emma Carter… maybe after a decade. It’s not yet the time to de-glam, baby girl…” 

As Emma was hearing this, her eyebrows knitted together unable to believe what she was hearing. She slammed her little journal down on the bed. 

“God, I’m leaving!” Emma jolted out of the bed before hurrying to pick her discarded jacket up from the floor. 

Richard only watched her with one hand on his hip. “And where do you think you’re going, little lady? Everyone and their mother knows you’re in Vienna now, you don’t wanna start a ruckus in the streets.” 

Emma stopped in her tracks, while Richard smirked. He walked toward her and put his hands on her shoulders to ease her a little. 

“You don’t believe in me,” Emma murmured, clenching her fists, “do you, Richard?”

Richard’s left eyebrow perked upward, surprised. “What are you saying, sweetheart?”

“You think I’m only good for pretty roles and that the minute people see me as anything other than glamorous, I’ll lose offers and you’ll lose money. Is that right?” 

“Emma…” He soothed her shoulders with his hands but she quickly threw them off. “I only want the best for you.”

“And the Quentin Tarantino isn’t? Don’t you care about what I want, Richard?” 

“You’re still a Hollywood rookie, Emma. You may be world-famous but people still have this image of you that you have to uphold. The glamorous princess of Hollywood. No one is ready to see Emma Carter in Kill Bill just yet. Do you understand, baby girl?”

She sighed deeply and Richard already knew he won this argument. He cupped her cheeks with both his hands then smiled at her gently. Emma put her hands on top of his but did not remove them as she did earlier. 

“You’re tired, and you need rest. The flight must have made your muscles all tense up. I’ll run you a bath…” 

Emma looked at him as if he pulled a skunk out from under the bed. “... A bath? What are you, some 18th-century maidservant?”

He massaged her shoulders with his hands, pretending to know where to press to make her calm down. “I can pretend to be. Do you refuse?”

For a moment, Emma paused. Not to think, but to stall herself from making a decision. Richard’s lithe hands went to her shoulders again. She gently took his hand away from her shoulder and sat down on the bed. 

“You know what… make me the best bath there is to offer.” 

Richard smiled. “You got it, Princess.” 

Within a few moments of Emma jotting down sentences in her journal enough to fill several pages, Richard called out to her to get into the bath. Richard, with his jacket off, because it was getting stuffy and humid in the bathroom, had requested a rose-scented gel for Emma’s bathroom before checking in and he poured it down the bathtub, lathering it to make bubbles, then some of the rose petals Emma got as a bouquet from the Edler. 

Emma appeared by the doorframe of the bathroom, already in her bathrobe, her blonde hair done up in a messy bun on top of her head. 

“I’d appreciate it if you run out while I hop in…” Emma told him. Richard nodded and stepped out of the bathroom without closing the door. 

Emma trusted him enough not to overstep his boundaries, thus they had a very close relationship with each other, maybe treading the line a little too closely. When Emma said that it was okay to turn back and look, Emma was already submerged in the frothy bubbles of the bathtub, kicking her leg up for fun.

“Mind getting me a glass of champagne too?” Emma requested playfully.  

Richard, humoring his princess, walked over to the mini-refrigerator where they put Emma’s favorite champagne (requested by him as well.) He popped a bottle open and then poured half a glass for her, just in case the slight buzz might make her agree to go with Pablo Garcia. Once he got back to the bathroom, he sat down next to the bathtub, on the warm carpet. He handed over the glass of sparkling champagne to Emma. She thanked him and took the champagne.

“I’m still not dating that Pablo Garcia, by the way,” Emma spoke as if she read Richard’s mind. “All these years of working with you, Richard, I know how you work.”

The manager shook his head, dimples on his cheek showing. “I just wanted to see my baby girl relaxing.”

She flicked her eyes at him, not falling for it for a second. 

“Come on~ I really did just want to see you having fun in the bubbles…” 

The bubbly rose-scented water splashed onto Richard’s blue silk shirt as Emma hugged her legs to her chest. Her legs were pale, almost like a pearl. Richard did not stare at her knees, but her face instead, how it moved, and how her expressions would shift. He would want to believe that he knew Emma like the back of his hand, but sometimes his actress was unpredictable — and he liked that.

“I’m so done pretending, Richard,” Emma sighed.

“Then maybe you should have thought about becoming an actress twice, Emma.” 

She twisted her torso to look at him better, hands on the rails of the bathtub. Even stripped bare and covered in bubbles, she did not look like any other girl that Richard even cared to look at in the States. 

“But I have to pretend about my personal life too? Richard, at least let me go with some other rich guy that I actually like... ” 

“No, Emma… this is for you. Everything I do is for you, baby girl. To make you none other than the biggest star in Hollywood. There will be no one else in the world who does not know the name of Emma Carter.” He gave her a small, almost affectionate boop on the nose and hoisted himself up with his arm to stand. 

“Well, it’s time for me to get my rest and relaxation too,” Richard told her.

Emma did not reply, only staring at the bubbly water in front of her. In any case, Richard hoped that his little small catering tipped the scales to his favor, ever so slightly. Vienna was a personal place to Emma Carter after all, and to the media, it would only make sense that she would announce the “love of her life” in her hometown. 

That was supposed to be the plan until that blasted Wiener took his plans away from him. 


Unlike Emma, Richard loved parties. There was nowhere Richard flourished in more than a big, Hollywood gala. The Met, in particular, was one of his favorites. Next would be the Oscars. He loved the smell of pretense. Being in show business for long years had taught him that the truth does not make as much money as deception does. Richard was also the type to do it old school, so tabloids and headlines and all the other good stuff. He caught the power of social media as well, using it to his liking so that Emma Carter, who used to be the boring brunette Adele Waldvogel, would soar. 

Much to his chagrin, Emma did not share the same love for parties. To her, they were pretentious and she hated how everyone was in on the same air of pretense. She hated the cameras, she hated the hashtags. She hated how everyone was asking her questions, not about what she believed in, but whose dress she was wearing tonight or if she had a boyfriend. 

Early in her career, Emma put on airs just like the other people, but as the years went by she started to dwindle, and her fake smiles became even more apparent as being fake. No one will like her in the industry if she made it obvious that she was just faking it!

“I talked to Josi,” Emma told him, as she was writing down on her diary. 

“That Wiener?” Richard scoffed, “And what of it?” He pushed his cigarette into the ashtray, pretending it was the face of that stupid man.

“I want to go to the Opera Ball with him,” she said in a sing-song voice, “he understands me.”

“He can’t even get even the simplest compliance rule straight, how the hell do you expect him to treat you well at the Opera Ball?” 

Emma shut her diary and put it on her bedside, the small charm from her ballpen dangling like a bell. She crossed her legs, her arms stretched behind her on the bed. She looked right at Richard, her lips pursed but smiling. Her manager squinted.

“You’re not changing my mind about anything, baby girl,” he said before he walked over to her and sat down next to her. 

When it was just the two of them, no one could contest how close they actually were. Emma trusted Richard more than anyone else in the industry. Richard picked her up almost immediately after she won her Miss America pageant, and it was almost like they were both fated to be together. 

Well, they don’t always get along, but that’s one aspect of a partnership, right?

“He’s suffocated by the posh lifestyle,” she explained, “like I am…”

He scooted closer to her so that their shoulders were touching. “The posh life that you—” he booped her nose, “—signed up for?” 

“Richard…”

“I don’t want you hanging around those guys, Emma,” he told her gently, “they’re no good for you…”

“And Pablo Garcia is?”

“Pablo Garcia is quite possibly the only exception.” 

“Because he’s rich and famous?”  

“Precisely!” 

Emma’s cheeks puffed up like a child who didn’t get the toy she wanted. Richard was more than prepared to arrange a wedding for Pablo Garcia and Emma Carter, he already had designers and organizers on the call if he needed them. The only problem was that Emma was reluctant. A life with Pablo is a life of luxury! She cannot get it anywhere else.

“Well, he sounds like an obnoxious macho man, and totally not my type.”

“Hmmm…” Richard slipped an arm around her waist, pulling her close. “And what is?”

Emma stared into his face for a few moments, as if memorizing every part on it, then looked down at the crystal on his neck. She did not answer him and simply played with the lapels on his silk shirt collar. They sat there in silence until Emma decided to kick him out before they went to sleep. 


“Can you give us a moment?” Emma asked the Edlers politely, her skin still ice cold from having been stuck in the Edler kitchen’s freezer for about an hour or so. Richard, on the other hand, was livid, hot as a burning stove. 

The Edlers rushed out of the room in no time, but that one devious Wiener gave a small, knowing glance to Emma that Richard despised. The moment he saw the Wiener’s jacket on Emma’s shoulders, he knew that man was up to no good at all. Richard waited for Emma to explain, not even trying to calm himself down.

“Well?” Richard prodded, his foot tapping impatiently at the tiled floor. 

“Josi’s a good guy-” Emma began, before getting quickly interrupted by Richard.

“Fuck if I care if he’s a “good guy”. You’re a world-famous Hollywood actress, Emma, and all the men around you who don’t know who you actually are find you prey. Once you give them something, they’ll take it and use it to their benefit. And you’re so fucking eager of course they’ll bite.” 

“Richard, I didn’t fuck him in the freezer!”

“Well, it would only be a matter of time, won’t it?! He’ll take advantage of you, just like every other man you’ve met that broke your little heart,” Richard stepped closer to her and forcibly took her hand. “Don’t be stupid, Emma.” 

Emma quickly yanked her hand away from Richard’s, the coolness in her skin melting away with the heat of her head. “I’m a grown woman, Richard! Stop treating me like a goddamn baby!”

Richard closed his hand and gave her a smirk. “Not in Hollywood, you aren’t. In any case, you are going to the Opera Ball with Pablo Garcia and that’s final.”

“What if I don’t want to go with that boring old Pablo Garcia?” Emma asked, her eyebrows perked up and her lips pursed. 

“Then who will you go with, huh? Don’t even start with that little Wiener-” 

“Why not! I might just go with him. He understands me!” 

“'Understands”?! You barely know him, Emma. Don’t… give me that naïve bullshit.” 

Emma turned away from him, frustrated. Richard approached her, concluding that she must be arguing so passionately with him because she was tired of all the shenanigans in the freezer. Echoing a certain other man, Richard took his jacket off and put it around Emma’s shoulder. Emma caught on immediately and jerked his jacket off her shoulders. 

“Head back to your hotel room and get some rest,” Richard told her after escorting her to the elevator. “We’ll talk later, baby girl.”

Instead of going back to his room, Richard headed straight for the smoking area to let off some of his steam. He asked the nearest blonde bellboy for a cigarette and a light, then leaned on the railing to stare at the Edler's badly kept garden. Richard had to keep his little starlet in line, no matter what, or else everything he worked for will go down the drain. 

He puts out his cigarette on the railings and does not bother tossing it into the trash can. Realizing that he must smell like a barbeque party that went on for much too long, Richard decided to take a quick shower before he went to Emma’s room to talk to her again. He took a nice, unopened bottle of Emma’s favorite champagne and some cookies as an apology for earlier. Anything he can do, to earn Emma’s favor again. 

When he arrived at Emma’s door, he gave it two soft knocks, just in case she was napping. 

“Emma?” 

No answer. Richard was getting slightly more impatient. Emma was not answering, but maybe she was in the bath, so she could not answer at all. Or maybe she was sleeping. Or maybe she was outright just ignoring him. 

“Emma… please,” Richard crooned. 

After a few moments of waiting outside, leaning on the door, Emma’s hotel door opened. She was in her nightwear, donning the complimentary Edler slippers they had in the hotel room. Her hair was tied up on her head again, the front of her hair pulled back by her Victoria’s Secret eye mask. Her face was white with face cream, unamused. 

“What.” She deadpanned, her hand still on the doorknob.

“I’ve come to make peace,” Richard told her, holding up the bundle of champagne and cookies. Maybe Richard could allow Emma more cookies than usual this one time. 

Emma glanced at the bundle, then at Richard, unamused. “I already brushed my teeth. Don’t bother me, Richard.” 

“Emma, at least give me a chance?” He pleaded, batting his eyelashes. He kept his foot firmly on the door to prevent it from closing.

“Yeah, so you can goad me into saying ‘yes’ to Pablo Garcia again? No thank you.” 

With her leg strength, she pushed Richard’s shoe away and slammed her door shut. Everything went too fast for Richard and the next thing he knew he was looking at the door. His teeth were gritted, trying to hold back saying anything or doing anything that would make Emma angrier at him. He stormed back to his hotel room, livid, as he had been for almost his entire stay in the Edler.


Josi “The Wiener” Edler was a detriment to all of Richard’s plans. The boy was so cocky and obnoxious, he did not even deserve to be called by his real name, thus why Richard reduced him to a simple food item. With that atrocious sense of fashion as well, dressing himself up like a sachertorte? He had no chances of being with Emma Carter, none at all.

After hearing that Pablo Garcia might arrive very soon, Richard visited the lobby to come to see him. The employees were slacking off, dancing in the lobby, it seemed. One time he even saw the Wiener cuddling up to the stupid-looking bellboy as if that was any sort of professional. The bellboy ran back to the concierge lady as soon as Richard approached him as a mouse caught sneaking into a rich person’s kitchen. 

“You really think you, a hotel heir, could have a chance at the international Hollywood star, Emma Carter?” Richard scoffed at him. 

The Wiener bared his teeth at him, readying himself to fight when he heard a ruckus from the outside. Like a comet, Pablo Garcia entered the room, and every guest in the room immediately crowded around him. He was magnetic; a true star — the very definition of macho. Representing Argentina, Pablo was wearing his jersey of Argentina colors and a leather jacket to go with it. Richard loved to look at him and was singing praises for Pablo in his head. He was everything Josi was not. Rich, macho and everyone wanted him. Unlike that Josi. Nameless. Worth nothing. And he thinks he can get to Emma Carter? In his dreams, maybe. 

“Señor Garcia!” Richard called out, opening his arms to the man. His smile was warm, perhaps not as genuine as one might think, but he showed enough teeth that Pablo Garcia would not be afraid of him. The Wiener was absent from the scene, probably moping about how inadequate he was. 

Mi amigo!” Pablo held his arms out as well, hugging Richard as soon as he saw him.

Richard snaked a friendly arm around Pablo’s waist, and Pablo returned the gesture by slinging his arm around Richard’s shoulder.

“Are you ready to go to the Opera Ball with Emma?” He asked, a grin stretching from every side of his face.

“I look forward to nothing else, my man! And how is Emma?”  

“She’s doing splendid, and can’t wait for your little date~” 

Richard, just for the sole reason of knowing where Pablo Garcia was staying, escorted the world-famous football player to his room. They talked a little about Argentina, about how Pablo misses his mama (he did not know Pablo Garcia was a mama’s boy prior to this.) Pablo also told him about being the guest of honor at the opening of the revamped Edler Gym. Richard could care less about the Edler Gym, really, but he had hoped it would keep the Wiener busy so that his hands were kept away from Emma. Pablo invited Richard to some wine and to chat (this is surprising… Richard did not think Pablo a chatty individual.) but seeing as he was with the sexiest man in the world, how could he refuse!

A few glasses of wine later, Richard found himself stumbling back to his room, the first two buttons of his shirt undone and his jacket nicely hanging on his arm. Pablo Garcia was a strong drinker, not faltering even after six glasses of wine. (Pablo said he preferred wine over beer, which was… another surprise. Maybe Pablo was not as “macho” as Richard thought he was.) Before Richard went to his room, however, he took it upon himself to always check if Emma was alright. He headed over to her room and gave it a few knocks. 

“Emma?” He called.

No answer. He knocked again. 

“Emma?”

Still no answer. Richard pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed her. Beep. Beep. Beep. No answer. Was her phone off? Was she asleep? Richard tried knocking more times again to get her attention.

“Emma?” 

Richard started to worry. From afar, he thought he heard the voices of the Mister and Mrs. Edler calling out for their son. Richard quickly followed their voices at the end of the hallway. Mrs. Edler looked more stressed than she ever was before, and Mister Edler was trying to calm her.

“Oh, Mister Rattinger. What brings you here?” Mrs. Edler said, trying to maintain her professionalism, but the cracks still showed.

“...Your boy is gone?” Richard asked, trying very hard not to slur.

“Everything is under control, Mister Rattinger. There is no need to worry!” Interjected Mister Edler. 

“I was asking if your boy is gone,” he growled in reply. He had no time for dilly-dallying.

Mister Edler gestured for him to calm down. “Perhaps he is just out partying! There is nothing to worry about, Mister Rattinger.” 

“Yeah? Well…” Richard stepped closer to them, hands in his pockets, jaw strong, “your little boy might have kidnapped my starlet. So if you’ll kindly give me Emma’s key and assure me that Emma’s sleeping soundly in her room, then you can both be off… and if not I’ll tear this hotel to fucking pieces.”

“But, sir--”

“Did I fucking stutter?!” 

“It is against our privacy policy to open a guest’s room without their permission-”

“Yeah, you have my permission as her manager now get to it!”

Mrs. Edler hurried over to Emma’s room and beeped her master keycard over Emma’s door. The door unlocked afterward, but the two did not enter the room. Richard went in first, running over to Emma’s bed. Instead of Emma, however, there was a note that said, “Don’t come looking for me. I’ll be out, but don’t worry. I’m in good hands.” 

With that, Richard Rattinger burst into flames.


Over the night, Emma’s phone could have blown up from the number of missed calls Richard gave her. Richard did not get rest, nor did he “calm down” as the others wanted him to. He wanted to know where exactly Emma was. What a scandal! And not one Richard had concocted by himself. “The Runaway Actress” is what the headlines would be all about, and not her engagement to Pablo Garcia. That bitch Wiener! To think that Emma actually ran off with him. Richard wanted to pull out his hair and maybe even burn down the entire Edler Hotel, just give him the fuel.

Later that night, Richard went to the Bar Edler to have a smoke and maybe ask for some intel. Before him, he saw the annoying blonde bellboy, in casual dress. He must have been leaving for today. Lucky bitch, he didn’t have to deal with Richard while his other workmates were flying all over the hotel trying to search for Emma and the Wiener. 

The blonde bellboy was on his phone, talking to someone. Some Anna girl Richard didn’t care about. He turned away, uninterested. Then, Richard remembered something. He always saw this boy hanging around the Wiener, almost like they were attached by the hip. If there’s anyone who knew where that kidnapper was, it would be this boy. Richard thought him useless, but he was actually more useful than he had imagined. He will have to find a way to use this boy.

Before he knew it, the boy rushed out of the Bar Edler through the personnel door, like there was an emergency he needed to go to. Probably something about that Anna, so Richard did not care to investigate further.

However… he needed to steal the bellboy’s phone somehow. 


Rainer was the worst kind of hyena. However, he was a hyena that Richard could put a leash on with the right amount of euros. Richard had to be smart and vigilant about using Rainer for this little plan to steal the blonde boy’s phone. 

More than anyone, Richard knew Emma the best. He knew that if he were to catch her in the Edler, she would just slip from his fingers like a slimy frog. No, he had to think it through properly and lure her back in with the right motive. He needed to pull the strings nicely to bring her back to him, like the puppetmaster he was; like the perfect little marionette, she is. 

The pieces came into place so coincidentally well, it was almost doomed to fail. According to Rainer, the stupid bellboy left his phone in the car. “Great,” Richard said, “but how will you get to the phone?” 

Rainer filled him in on the terrible condition of the car. The car’s windows were shattered from some sort of near-disastrous impact (Richard was surprised the bellboy even came out alive.) which allowed Rainer to carefully extract the phone nestling just below the car handle. Or at least, that was how he told the story.

When the hyena returned the Richard, he was told that the phone had no PIN lock either, so it was either they all just had insanely good luck, or the bellboy was just phenomenally stupid that it worked to their advantage. With nothing being secured for safety on his phone, it was easy for Richard to simply steal his login details from wherever he and Josi exchanged messages on.

Emma Carter will be back in his arms in no time. 


Richard had them cornered. He knew Emma was inside her family cabin on the Alps, thanks to him hacking into the bellboy’s messages. It was a foolproof plan, to frame the bellboy and the old concierge lady for conspiring with the Wiener into kidnapping Emma Carter for PR. This would be a problem if Emma used simple logic, but Richard counted on the whirlwind of emotion that would swirl around her heart that would prevent her from making smart analyses. 

“Emma, baby girl,” Richard pressed his ear against the cabin door, “don’t panic. I’m here…” 

He counted on Emma believing him and trusting him enough to run back into his arms. This was his gamble and Richard knew he was at an advantage. Who would she choose after all? This man whom she’s known for only two days? Or her manager, whom she has known for many, many years? 

Much to Richard’s delight, the cabin door opened to a visibly distressed Emma. The minute he saw the confusion and betrayal in Emma’s face, he pulled her into a tight hug. The cameras flashed behind them before being followed by phones. One could say it was for dramatics, but perhaps at the time, Richard really did want to hold Emma, to comfort her.

“Emma,” he murmured, “I’m here…”

She held his hand as they traversed through the waves of paparazzi asking questions. Richard pushed them away, telling them to fuck off and go away. On the corner of his eye, he saw Rainer smirking, holding his small digital camera on one hand and his voice recorder in another. 

After walking Emma in the snow, there was a car waiting for them at the end of the road. The driver was someone Richard hired, someone he knew he could trust (and perhaps knew nothing about Emma Carter.) 

When they were in the car, he made sure to accommodate her. Emma was shivering, maybe from the cold because she left her coat in the cabin or maybe because (she thought) her new boyfriend was using her for PR. In any case, Richard was there to comfort her. He pulled her close to him, arm around her. She nestled her face into his shoulder, not wanting to look at anyone. He stroked her hair with his fingers. She shivered again, heaving a deep breath before Richard sensed that his sleeve was getting wet.  

“Emma… baby girl...” Richard whispered, “that Wiener doesn’t deserve your tears…”

She held onto his sleeve and kept crying, and this time, Richard did not stop her. He put a hand on her thigh and squeezed it. Emma’s not going anywhere, Emma is his and his alone. 

“I wanna leave,” Emma said with a trembling voice, “I hate it here… I hate everything...” 

He gave her fingers a soft kiss, before lacing them together with his until they arrived at the Edler...

When they got there, Richard did not waste any time heading straight to Emma’s room. He gave the Edler couple a glare before making a beeline to the elevators, not even wanting to listen to their excuses. He told Emma to head straight to her room without looking at anyone as much as possible and pack her things up while he was going to do the same thing. Thankfully, prior to going up the Alps, Richard had already made reservations at a five-star hotel that was much gaudier than the Edler but since everyone in Vienna knew Emma Carter was there, there was no need to hide from those types anymore.

As soon as they were in the taxi to the next hotel, Emma spoke, “Richard, when I said I wanted to leave, I meant Austria… not just the Edler.” 

Richard was in the middle of a call when he heard that, but he cut the call immediately. He put his phone down and laced his fingers with hers to calm her. Her head was on his shoulder again, like when they were going down the Alps. Emma had changed into something more “ordinary”, a hoodie and leggings, something a Hollywood actress would never be caught wearing unless she wanted to be pictured working out with some sponsored gear along the streets of Los Angeles. 

“Let’s talk about this later, when we get to the hotel, baby…” 

Emma nuzzles against his shoulder. “You promise it’s better than the Edler?”

Richard stared at her, then smiled. “I promise… plus, anything is better than the Edler, really. That place is a shitshow.” 

She gave a soft but weak giggle in response, then laid her head on Richard’s shoulder. Richard drew small lines on the back of Emma’s hand with his thumb. Emma was his again, to hell with that Wiener. 


“And here we are,” Richard eased the door of the new hotel room closed. The actress hitched her breath. Now, this was what she was thinking about when Richard told her she would be staying in a luxury room. 

Her hotel room was covered in an emerald-centric color scheme. The bed was a soft foam color, and the blackout drapes were a deep moss color lined with gold. Emma did not waste any time and went over to the ottoman to take her shoes off. 

Richard dragged her suitcases close to the closet, counting them to make sure they did not forget a thing. Afterward, he opened the curtains to welcome some of the sunlight left from the coming twilight. He took some time to look out, to breathe the scenery in when he received a buzz from his phone. Busy, busy. He looked at the date on his phone and covered his mouth in surprise when he realized he had nearly forgotten about the Opera Ball.  

“Baby Emma, you still have to pick a gown for the Ball,” Richard told her, beaming in that same falsely friendly smile, “you have to look pretty for Pablo Garcia, after all!”

Emma did not answer, but he could feel the rage running up her brain like ants going up to fallen cake on the ground. She was in the middle of taking off her hoodie to reveal her black tank top, when she just shoved her hoodie down to the carpeted floor, breathing short breaths through her nose. 

“So all of this was about Pablo Garcia again?” Her voice was trembling. “Everything? Taking me from the Alps, holding my hand, everything? Richard, didn’t I say I wanted to leave this fucking place?”

Richard held his hands out in front of him, gesturing for Emma to calm down but he knew that wouldn’t work. “Now, Emma—”

“Don’t use that tone on me! I’m not a little girl and you’ve been treating me that way since we got here! I’m a grown woman and I can make decisions for myself, so why… why do I need to marry Pablo Garcia? If you like him so much, why don’t you marry him?”

“Emma...” He picked up the pillow from the floor and patted the dust off, then tossed it to the bed. “Every decision I make is for you.” 

“But why do you get to decide who I date, who I marry even? What if I want something else?”

Richard scratched the back of his head, heaving out a heavy sigh. “Do you even know what you want? One day you want to be this shining Hollywood star, then the next day you want to have your ‘own life.’ Emma Carter, you are no longer Adele Waldvogel. You can be both, whichever you want, but you can never go back to being the ordinary brunette Austrian girl.”

“At least let me love who I want to love!” 

“There is no place for love in Hollywood!”

Emma sank into the bed hands on her face, defeated. She was trembling, trying to hide how she was crying. Richard approached her cautiously. He stood in front of her for a few moments, trying to figure out whether it was alright to sit beside her. When Emma did not try to push him away, he took it as an “okay” to sit. 

“You’re actually worse than Josi,” she told him.

“Excuse me?” 

“At least Josi loved me, despite me being an unlovable “Hollywood star”! Josi tried… he did… or I don’t fucking know! He deceived me in the end!”

He softened. “Baby girl...” 

Emma shook her head, clearly not wanting to continue the conversation anymore. Luckily, she had no idea that it was Richard who sicced the paparazzi on the cabin, that it was all Richard’s plan to get her back. He pulled her close into a warm hug which Emma did not fight against. She grabbed onto the back of his shirt, hiding her face in his chest.    

“Emma… my baby girl,” Richard murmured as he stroked her hair gently, “haven’t you cried enough?” 

“Josi sucks.”

“He does, baby… but we’re out of that now… we’re in a new hotel together… just the two of us…” He gave her head a pat, then smiled. “Shall I run you another bath?” 

She hid her face from him. “You know what? I’d love that…”

“And champagne?”

“And champagne…”

“Okay. Just sit tight…”  

Just like the first night at the Edler, Richard ran a bath for Emma but this time, he opted for a lavender-scented bath gel and violets for decoration on the bathtub. He wanted Emma to relax, but he also did not want to remind her entirely of the Edler. Once that was done, he lit some candles to really set the mood. 

“You’re really extra, you know that,” Emma giggled, suddenly appearing at the doorstep, wrapped in her bathrobe. 

“Well…” Richard gestured to the bathtub with a bow. “Hop in, Princess.”

While Emma was entering the tub, Richard turned to the wall to avoid seeing what she did not want him to see, then turned back when she gave him the signal. Then Richard picked up the champagne bottle and champagne glass that were waiting on the counter beside Emma and poured one out for her. She happily accepted it, before closing her eyes and sinking more into the tub with a big sigh. 

“How are you feeling?” He asked as he sat down beside her on the rug.

“A bit better,” she answered with closed eyes. 

“Good.”

Richard perched his elbow on the top of the tub, gaze fixed on Emma. When she wasn’t stressed out, her cheeks were red as a fresh plum. He liked seeing Emma Carter calm and peaceful. His gaze softened until his eyes were entirely closed, then he daydreamed about bathing in a sea of money with his Emma. He woke when he felt a finger poking him on the hair. 

“This is no place to fall asleep,” she teased. 

“I know,” he murmured, his voice muffled as if he had just woken up from a long nap. He closed his eyes again. 

Her fingers were in his hair, following the swirl of his bangs in a wavy motion. She carded through his locks for a few moments, getting into a bit of a trance as well. Richard sighed deeply as she did this, which prompted Emma to poke him awake again.

“What was that?” 

“It felt good… do that more.” 

And so Emma did, giggling a little. “See, if I married Pablo Garcia, you won’t be getting this anymore.” 

“You say that as if you do this often…” 

“Maybe I should… I like this calm Richard. I wish I could make you this calm all the time instead of stressing you out.”

Richard pried his eyes open and lifted his chin to look at her. “What do you mean?” 

She planted her feet on the bottom of the tub to draw herself closer to him, away from the end of the tub. “I like it when you’re peaceful… I like it when we’re in the car and you’re just holding my hand. I like it when you’re not talking about business or money or Hollywood…”

“But Emma, that’s who I am. My whole life is centered around making money.”

Emma’s hand was on his cheek, fingers grazing where his dimple would be. “Can’t it be centered around me, for once?”

Without wasting a second, Richard anchored his knees on the carpet and lifted himself up to kiss Emma Carter right on the mouth, cupping her face with both of his hands, which got slightly wetted by the soapy bathwater. Emma did not protest or fight back. Instead, her hands nestled nicely on the back of Richard’s neck. 

“You taste like soap,” he whispered against her mouth when they pulled away. She giggled like a giddy school girl.

“Then let me wash off…” Gently, she eased him away from her. “I’ll meet you in the bedroom. Bring the champagne…” 

Richard did as he was told and waited in the bedroom, trying his hardest not to think the dirtiest thoughts of Emma. He kept the champagne and champagne glasses on the bed stand before he opened the window slightly to breathe in the fresh air. He poured himself a nice glass of the drink and let his thoughts be driven away by the flavor in the champagne.

“Hi,” a voice spoke from behind him. 

Richard pressed the glass back onto the bed stand immediately as he turned to the direction of the voice. Of course, it was Emma, his Emma. Well, Richard would be lying if he said that he wasn’t disappointed by how Emma was fully dressed in shorts and an oversized button-up shirt, but he has no room to be picky. 

“Hello, baby girl,” Richard grinned at her and opened his arms to receive her.

Emma rushed toward him, burying her face in his neck. “Hi again,” she said, as she felt herself getting squeezed by Richard more. He pulled away slightly to lift her chin again for another kiss. He leaned into her, arms pressing up to lift her by the waist as her arms were thrown around to hook around his neck. Richard walked her steadily to sit on the bed, kissing all the while.  

“What’s all this?” She asked him, almost as if she forgot that she initiated the conversation that started everything earlier. 

“You, baby girl, have won me over,” he told her, gazing straight into her brown eyes, “okay… you do not have to go to the Opera Ball with Pablo Garcia… but you’re mine. All mine. Not Pablo Garcia’s. Not that stupid Wiener’s.” 

Emma brightened up at the first part, then knitted her eyebrows at the second. “But you’re… my manager… isn’t that like, against the code, or something?” 

He chuckles at that. “Well… not when my most precious client tells me explicitly to make her the center of my life.”

This would be difficult of course, knowing that money is the center of his life, and his plans will always involve making more money. Being in a relationship with Emma Carter, when found out, would cause a scandal indeed, but maybe he can afford one scandal for her. Bad publicity is still publicity after all. Maybe he can allow her this small happiness, and he can have Pablo Garcia’s supposed arm candy for himself. 

“And the Wiener? You don’t want him anymore?” Richard asked her.

“Please… he was fun and good for a night or two, but not fitting for a Hollywood actress as myself~” Emma spoke in such a confident and haughty voice that Richard was almost convinced that this was the rebirth of the true Emma Carter. 

The Emma Carter he knew before was but an illusion of the Hollywood dream, but reconnecting her with her hometown only made her own self-actualization stronger. Adele Waldvogel still exists somewhere inside her but as a part of the many facets of Emma Carter’s story. Without Adele, there would be no Emma; without Emma, Adele would be crushed to dust as well. Perhaps there was more to Austria than the Opera Ball. This Emma: with her platinum blonde hair, dressed in her plain shorts and a cheap T-shirt but still diamond-stunning, was everything the Austrian girl with big dreams has ever strived to be. 

“Emma Carter, you are a dream come true,” Richard breathed. 

“Good.” She moved to bring herself onto his lap, straddling him, “so kiss me again.”