Holding Patterns

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They were fast asleep when Ashe's phone buzzed from somewhere on the floor. At first, Riley had dreamt that she needed to be at work, but seconds before she would have leaped out of bed and rushed to get ready, she realized two things. First, she was off work for the next three days so there was no need to jump out of bed. And second, there was a man in her bed where there hadn't been since she bought her apartment. But then she remembered who he was, and she nudged Ashe softly and mumbled something about his phone ringing.

"Oh, God, so sorry," Ashe muttered as he searched for his phone on the floor, easing his arm from under Riley's head as he did so. A woman's voice screeched from the other end of the line even before Ashe put the phone to his ear.

"You were supposed to be at the gala last night, Ashe," Collette said. "Because of your damn no-show, you might just have lost your title role to Gareth. He pulled off the accent in front of the studio execs that were there. He pulled it off, Ashe! And I don't care if you look more like Conley than Gareth does, that's what the make-up team is for!"

"Can we talk about this later?" Ashe asked calmly, his voice thick with sleep. "It's six in the bloody morning, Collette."

"I'm just giving you a heads-up, Ashe, because it'll be in the trades in a few hours and I warned you about this. If you don't play well with others, you won't make it in this business, and I'm tired of you being too damn independent and doing your own thing even after I tell you again and again that it's my job to handle things!"

"What are you worried about, Collette? They're using my screenplay. Wasn't that why I was in L.A. the whole time? And don't forget that I own the rights to the songs," Ashe said, exhaling. "I'll speak to you later."

"Where are you? I had the driver stop by your place, and the doorman said you hadn't come home."

"It's none of your bloody business where I am, Collette, but I'll call you later," Ashe said and hung up the phone. He turned to Riley. "I'm so sorry."

"I guess it's true when they say Englishmen always say sorry, but I forgive you," Riley said, burying herself deeper under the covers. "But couldn't she talk a bit louder? I might have missed a word here and there."

"She's upset," Ashe said, lying back on the pillows and pulling her toward him. "She prides herself on making a nobody into a somebody, so whenever I don't play along, she gets quite upset—even when I have actually played along already. It doesn't matter to her that I was already making movies in England before she met me, but that I became a Hollywood name because of her managerial efforts."

Riley laid her head on his chest, her body nestled in the crook of his arm. She didn't really want to talk business—at least not this early in the morning, but with Collette's screaming, even she was as wide awake as Ashe.

"Is that what she did with you—repackaged you for the American market?"

"My success didn't happen overnight though she'd like to think that it did. I was already working when she met me. British TV mainly—specials, mini-series, and a few movies. Supporting roles, that sort of thing, so there was no need for repackaging, or at least, not too much, I hope. I'm still mostly me and I've paid my dues to be where I am today."

"Is that what Gareth went through? That repackaging?" Riley asked. "If I remember correctly, Gareth's career skyrocketed overnight. It seemed like he went from 0 to 60 in two minutes flat."

"That's because of Collette. She calls it her Fast Track to Fame 101, or, at least, Gareth and I call it that, and for which she exacts a higher commission when it works because it does," Ashe said, twirling a lock of her hair around his index finger.

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