CONTROL: part one: “Lizzy”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you're having a bad day at work, something will come up to make everything worse.
Lizzy Bennet shut her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. At this rate she was going to need another aspirin soon. "Mom, this really isn't a good time," she said. She stood behind the desk in her tiny office, unable to sit still. Not after the news she had just gotten over email an hour earlier.
"It's never a good time for you, Lizzy," said her mother's voice over the speakerphone. "It's almost like you never have a minute to spare for your poor mother."
"I'm sorry. There's an emergency at work and—"
"Listen, Lizzy, sweetie. Lucy has been offered her own reality show. Can you believe it? They think it may even be a bigger hit than Tyrell's show even at its peak. We're signing the contract on Friday."
"That's ... great, Mother." Lizzy sighed. So her twin sister was getting her own reality show. It was not at all surprising. After being featured prominently in her ex-boyfriend and rapper Tyrell Ramsey's reality show that had run for three seasons and was a massive ratings juggernaut, apparently Lucy had gained enough popularity to headline her own show. Lizzy wasn't sure why there seemed to be an endless public craving for Hollywood celebrities partying and behaving badly, but while there was an audience for it, there would always be people like her sister who was willing to give them what they want. "Please tell her congratulations and I'll give her a call as soon as I can."
She wished she could be happier about the news, really. But it was difficult. Because of Tyrell's show, Lucy had been transformed from unknown struggling actress to famous screen ditz to tabloid fodder. While she revelled in the attention, unfortunately, that meant Lizzy got more than a fair share of the fame, too. It was something she was never comfortable with. She worked in a magazine and considered herself a serious journalist. She reported the news, she didn't want to be part of it.
"Oh, but there's more, Lizzy, dear. The producer Hannah Covey — you remember her, don't you? — wants to focus a bit on our Lucy's family life. They're especially interested in you as her twin—"
"Absolutely not, Mother," Lizzy said, cutting her off. "We'd settled this. I didn't agree to participate in Tyrell's show, and I won't be part of this one. Not even for two seconds of screen time. I'm a magazine editor, for god's sake." For now, at least, she reminded herself. "I've been very supportive of Lucy's career but—"
"That's exactly why Hannah wants you on the show, honey. You and Lucy are so different. She lives such a glamorous lifestyle while you ... well, you seem serious and so different from anyone in Lucy's circles."
Lizzy bent over, palms flat on her desk. "That's because I am different from Lucy's friends, Mother. Just because my twin decides she wants to make a spectacle of herself on TV, it doesn't mean I have to."
"I feel you're quite judgmental, Lizzy. Just because your sister isn't as boring as your friends, it doesn't mean she isn't as good as any of them. And she always has time for me."
That's because you're the only one enabling her, Lizzy wanted to say. "You know I do my best."
"Honestly, I don't remember raising you to be this selfish. You could learn something from your sister. Why only yesterday, she told me she thought of volunteering a weekend at the soup kitchen downtown."
"They'll be filming the whole thing, I take it?"
"Well, yes. They said they'd be very happy to have the charity center featured on the show. Honey, it won't hurt to give exposure to the conditions of the homeless. Why must you be so cynical?"
Maybe because the only time her sister thought of others was in terms of whether or not they could be of use to her? Lizzy loved her sister but she also knew her well enough to be cynical of any "charitable" activities the latter tries to undertake.
"I'm sorry, Mother," she said, looking at her watch. "I'm sure that will do a lot of good uplifting the plight of the homeless." Or exposing more of her sister's shallowness to the world. "I'm sorry if it seemed like I'm not being supportive. But I have to go now. We have an editorial meeting in two minutes."
"It's a Saturday night, sweetie. You should be out meeting a nice man. Do you want to die an overworked old maid?"
There was a knock on the open door. Lizzy's best friend Sharlene Lucas leaned against the door frame, her iPad clutched to her chest with one hand. She made a fist, stuck out her thumb and ran it across her throat.
Lizzy grimaced. "Not if you have anything to do with it, I'm sure, Mother. Goodnight." She pressed a button to disconnect the call. "Is Jade back?" she said.
"Yup. Let's go."
"Perhaps it would be best if you let me drive, sir?" William Fitzpatrick said. The Scotsman was trying not too sound too alarmed at the way the convertible he was riding in was careering dangerously through the long winding roads that lead up the hill.
"Relax, old man," said Asher Darcy. He looked almost completely calm as he navigated another turn on the road. "We're barely going over eighty, and there's hardly another car in sight."
"Right. Good! That would be excellent if the speed limit in this county was, in fact 80 miles per hour."
"It would, yes." His flight to L.A. had been delayed, giving him barely an hour to get to Joseph Ritter's home in time for their meeting. He couldn't resist taking this opportunity to see how far he could push the abilities of the Ferrari Spider, his new favorite sports car. A car that was built to run should be allowed to run, the way a bird should fly. It was the nature of things and it should be respected. "I've done this many times, Fitz. I promise I won't get us killed."
"I shall hold you to that promise, sir." Fitzwilliam sounded less panicked now.
"You know I'm most grateful for this opportunity to move to the States to work with you. The compensation package is quite good."
"Don't forget the dental plan."
"Right, yes. That too. However, I've been your chauffeur for almost a week now and I was wondering ..."
"Are you quitting on me, Fitz?"
"Oh no sir. I would just like to inquire, respectfully ..."
"When I might actually, well, drive you."
"Asher Darcy. He's chairman of the board of the Darcy Capital Group, and he's branching out to media now."
Groans filled the room, and not a few pens were thrown down on the table.
"Are you serious?" Garret Wilson said. The bearded, middle-aged marketing manager looked almost livid. "This is what we've been reduced to -- some billionaire's hobby for God's sake?"
"I'm sure Mr. Darcy takes this magazine considerably more seriously than his golf game, " Jade said. She did not have the look of someone who had to deliver bad news. The tall, thirty-two year-old editor-in-chief of The Fold was her usual pleasant self, and was in fact sounding quite pleased. As though the acquisition of the magazine by a billionaire playboy with questionable motives was not quite that big a deal.
It was, however, a big deal to Lizzy. A massive deal. "The New York Tribune folded two months after Terry Holding bought it," she pointed out. "Surely we have a better chance of making it without this Darcy taking over."
"Darcy is not completely without qualifications, Lizzy. He does have a bachelor degree in journalism, and a two-year stint at the New York Times under his belt."
"It was an internship, Jade," said Wilson.
"Which he probably paid to get," added Lizzy.
Jade sighed. "You've been quiet this whole time, Sandra," she said. "Thoughts?"
Sandra Las Marias linked her fingers. "Does it really matter what I think?" she said. "I take it this is a done deal?"
"I'm afraid so. Old man Ritter is eager to have Darcy take us off his hands, I think. Honestly,with the way he's been running things, I'm not convinced we're not better off with a new publisher."
"Even if that new publisher is Asher Darcy?" Wilson said.
"The man's no fool," Jade said. "He may have inherited his billions from his late father's estate, but his family's hedge fund company has been doing better since he took over as chairman of the board. The fact that he had a more experienced manager take over as CEO speaks to his leadership abilities."
"Looks like he already won you over, Jade," said Sharlene. "The man is quite charming, I hear." She had her elbow on the table, her chin resting on her palm. "I saw him at a benefit once. So dreamy."
"We haven't met," Jade said. "Emily handled the negotiations."
"Emily Ritter?" Wilson said. "I suppose old man Ritter has lost his touch since he retired."
"Rumour has it that it's Alzheimer's," Sharlene said.
"I'm sure Emily got the best deal she could out of Darcy," Lizzy said. "She's not called the Ice Queen for nothing."
"Oh Asher, that was just..." gasped Emily Ritter. She arched her spine slightly, head thrown back.
She lay on the bed with her arms splayed on her sides and her knees bent. The red silk shirt under her white suit jacket was unbuttoned down to her navel. Her skirt was hiked up to her waist.
Asher was crouched between her parted legs, arms hooked under her knees. He moved his hand from her left knee down her thigh, his lips following the trail of his fingers on her perfect alabaster skin. "Worth the ten-mile drive up here I should say," he murmured.