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Los Angeles, Today
Sofia sat on the edge of the doctor's table with her cell phone tucked between her shoulder and her ear while her fingers raced across her iPad as she fired off one contract counteroffer after another.
"Sorry, Larry, but that's not going to happen. You've only locked down Ethan Chambers for two seasons of Paging the Doctor. And you got off cheap, if you ask me. If you want to get him on board for another four years then you're going to have come up with a figure that doesn't insult my intelligence."
She only half listened to Larry Franklin's response because she knew that this was the part when studios start crying broke or downplaying just how important her client is to their hit shows. But in this case, it would all be irrelevant because Ethan Chambers dominated the tabloids and magazine coversdespite the mild hiccup with him, her sister and the paparazzi a couple of months ago.
"Larry, if you feel that way then we can just let the contract run out and I can dedicate more attention to the numerous movie offers that have been flooding my inbox. You know Denzel Washington started off on a medical show and then exploded on the big screen. That just might be the way to go here. Ethan has the looks and the talent, after all."
"Damn, Sofia. You're really going to bust my balls over this."
That managed to put a smile on her face. "I don't have any idea what you're talking about."
"I'm sure you don't." He laughed. "Just like I'm sure this hard bargain you're driving has nothing to do with Ethan Chambers being in queue to become your brother-in-law."
"You're right. I fight for all my clients." "Duly noted. I'll get back with you with a counteroffer."
"I'll be waiting," Sofia sing-songed before disconnecting the call. But as soon as she had her phone started ringing again. She was about to answer when Dr. Turner's bored baritone startled her.
"You think you can fit in time for your checkup?"
Sofia nearly jumped and flashed him with an apologetic smile. "Sorry about that, Brian." She quickly put her phone on vibrate and sat it and her iPad down.
"How long do I have before you pick that up again?" he asked, flipping open her chart.
"Two minutes," she answered honestly. Her addiction to her gadgets was well known and quite frankly not a laughing matter.
Her longtime friend and doctor shook his head. "I said it before and I'll say it again. You work too much, Sofia."
"Don't be ridiculous. When you love what you do then it's not considered work."
Still shaking his head, Dr. Turner reached for the blood pressure cuff and wrapped it around her arm. "When was the last time you had a vacation?"
Exhaling, Sofia rolled her eyes while she tried to recall the date. "Honey, I don't know. A couple of years ago, I think." She reached over to take a peek at her vibrating phone.
"Let it go to voicemail," the doctor ordered while pumping air into the cuff.
She withdrew her hand from the phone and tried to pretend that she wasn't about to look at it.
"Not good," he said, listening through the stethoscope and watching the needle on the cuff.
"What?" Sofia looked down as if she could decipher the numbers he was reading.
"Your blood pressure is up again." He pulled the cuff off of her arm and leveled her with a stern look. "Look, Sofia. I'm talking to you as both your doctor and your friend. You have to do better about controlling all this stress. You keep going down this road and you're going to have a meltdown."
"Ugh." She fought hard not roll her eyes. If she had a nickel for every time someone told her thatmainly her Uncle Jacobshe'd be.. well, she was already rich, but she would Bill Gates rich.
"I'm serious, Sofia. You need to cut your stress levels," Brian warned, pulling out his prescription pad.
"What are you doing?" Sofia asked when he started scribbling.
"What does it look like? I'm putting you on medication."
"Great. Then what's the problem? I just pop a pill and everything is cool." She picked up her phone and Dr. Turner quickly took it out her hands.
"No. You don't just pop a pill. You still need to try and slow down, watch what you eat and what you drink or you're going to go down the same destructive path that all workaholics go down that leads to an early grave." He handed over her prescription.
Sofia frowned at his scare tactics. "Will that be all?"
"How's your love life? Are you seeing anyone?"
"What the hell does that have to do with the price of tea in China?"
"I'm going to take that as a no." He folds his arms. "You need to get out. Relax. Get a life. Meet someone."
"Limelight is my life. It's all I need."
Thirty minutes later, Sofia strolled into Limelight Entertainment Management while switching back and forth between two different business calls on her Bluetooth. Still, she flashed smiles to staffers while she continued to chew studio executives and directors out without missing a beat.
"Mrs. Wellesley, your uncle wants to see you in the conference room," Sarah Cole, perhaps the best assistant in the world, whispered to her. "He said to direct you there as soon as you walk into the door."
Sofia just smiled and ignored the order by continuing her march toward her office. Her Uncle Jacob was the last person she wanted to talk to. His little stunt to merge their family company with Artist Factory, Inc.Emmett and Ramell Jordan's companydespite her numerous verbal protests, was a slap in the face that she just couldn't ignore or bring herself to forgive him for anytime soon.
But when she entered her office, she stopped short upon seeing her uncle sitting on her office couch.
"Larry, something just came up. I'm going to have to call you back." She tapped her ear once. "Frasier, I have to call you back." She pulled the gadget from her ear and made a beeline toward her desk. "What are you doing in here?"
"I came to see you since I knew that you wouldn't come to the conference room like I requested."
"I'm busy, Uncle Jacob. What is it?" She asked absently as she plopped into her seat and turned to face her computer.
Jacob heaved himself up from the couch and strolled toward her desk. "First things first. How was your doctor's visit?"
She cut a look toward him as if to ask are you serious?
Still he stood there waiting so she answered with a slight lie. "Fine."
His brows lifted slowly until they stretched to the center of his forehead. "So I look like an idiot now? The shakes, the occasional vertigo and chest pain is all normal for a healthy thirty-five year old woman?"
Sofia gasped. "Allegedly thirty-five." She glanced around him to double-check that they were alone in the room together. Then she said quietly, through clenched teeth, "A woman, especially in this town, never reveals her age."
"Come on, Sofia. It isn't really your age we're talking about anyway. Tell me the truth."
"Fine. Dr. Turner said something about my blood pressure being slightly elevated. He gave me a prescription. It's no big deal." She glanced at her watch. "Now if we're finished discussing my health, I have a ton of calls to get through today."
"They can wait. We need to discuss details about this merger with A.F.I. I've been calling your assistant for weeks now to book a joint meeting with all the parties involved so this transition can go smoothly, but the one person I can't seem to get on the phone is you."
Sofia tossed her hands up in the air. "I don't know what you need my help for. You certainly didn't want to listen to me when I told you that I thought that this merger was a big mistake. Apparently my opinion doesn't matter around here despite supposedly being second-in-command."
Jacob sucked in a frustrated breath. "I'm not going to keep going around and around with you on this. This merger is a done deal. I know in my heart that this would've been something that even your father would've approved of."
"Like hell he would have."
"What? I'm just being honest here. You used to appreciate my honesty. Has that changed, too? Just let me know and I'll just keep my mouth shut."
Jacob slammed his hand on her desk. "How about you just keep the attitude?"
Stunned, Sofia was momentarily unable to respond.
"Now I appreciate and respect your opinion on this matter, but I'm still president of this company, and our merging with A.F.I. makes sound financial sense. Plus, Ramell can go a long way in helping to lighten your load around here and you need to take advantage of it."
"I don't need Ramell Jordan's help with anything."
"Use him anyway. In fact, I'm ordering you to delegate some of your workload to him. No more ninety-plus hour work weeks, Sofia. You need to start taking better care of yourself."
Sofia opened her mouth to protest, but her uncle cut her off.
"You fight me on this then I'll have no choice but to fire you."
"You heard me. Since you're too hardheaded to take care of yourself then it looks like I'm going to have to force you to do it."
With her mouth still hanging open, he turned and started to march out the door.
"By the way, Ramell Jordan is waiting for you in the conference room. You have five minutes to get in there."
Ramell glanced at his watch and then resumed pacing back and forth in the conference room. He was more than a little annoyed about wasting a whole hour to meet with Sofia to discuss the transition between the two companies. This was a power move, plain and simple. He knew Sofia well and he knew that she was still fighting this merger tooth and nail.
He, like her Uncle Jacob, saw the financial advantage in merging their two companies together. Together they would be able to give some of the big-name agencies some real competition in this town. When his father and the Wellesleys started their family agencies back in the day they were more like boutique operations serving a niche market for African-American actors. For Limelight, it was Sofia who expanded their clientele to include other artists in the entertainment field, but now it was time to expand their scope to include all actors, musicians, models and directors, no matter their race, in order to compete in today's mainstream market.
On top of that, merging their Los Angeles and New York offices would also free up capital to open new offices in Paris and London. As far as Ramell was concerned this was a no-brainer. Sofianot so much. In fact, the only thing she'd said to everything proposed so far was a steadfast no. Limelight was a family company and she wanted to keep it that way. End of story.
By now he shouldn't be surprised. He'd been running into the same brick wall with Sofia for the past twenty-five years. He would've thought by now that he would be used to the pain, but he wasn't. The main reason being that he was still in love with Sofia, despite the fact that she made it clear that she couldn't stand to be in the same room with him.
The reason? That was one thing he didn't know. One day they were best friends, talking in her backyard about marriage, and the next she was avoiding him like the plague. Thinking she was just playing games again, he'd gone through with his promise to date Connie Woods, only for it not to faze her. Or if it did, she sure as hell didn't let it show.
Before he could get to the bottom of it, John and Vivian Wellesley were killed in a plane crash. They were flying into Aspen, Colorado, on their private jet. Their death sent a shockwave through the Black Hollywood community and even caught the attention of the rabid mainstream paparazzi.