The Playboy's Proposal (Sorensen Family)(4)

By: Ashlee Mallory

“It was an after-party. The picture makes it look far worse than it was. Ask John and Ted. They were there. Where’d you get that? TMZ?”

“It doesn’t matter where I got it or how innocent it all was, the point is how you’ve let yourself be represented these past few years as this immoral, partying playboy with no ties to family or community. And now it might be coming to bite you in the butt. These clients are looking for a firm that they believe shares the same vision of community, of family values, of moral integrity as they do, or at the very least, they want to know we understand that vision. Photos like this popping up aren’t helping, nor was the latest gossip that you’re throwing all-night ragers at your place that have the residents of the building wanting you out.”

He froze. “Excuse me?”

“I’ll let you read all about it later, but apparently you’re one complaint away from being tossed out on your butt if you don’t clean up your act.”

Had his neighbor actually had the temerity to go to the press?

He’d thought her fiery before. Now he thought she was a menace.

Becks sat back and studied him. “You know, Henry, I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked all these years to prove yourself, prove your merit to me and the clients, to not stand on your family name to get where you are. You’re good. Very good. Which is why I’d hate to see everything you’ve worked for—that we’ve worked for here at Studio 180—reach a plateau because of this public persona you’ve fostered. We need this account, Henry. Fix this. And for crying out loud, when we meet with these clients Friday to convince them we are the best agency to represent them, there had better not be any reports about the playboy heir getting kicked out of his condo for having too many damn parties.”

He could stand there and argue all day that if the clients couldn’t separate Henry’s private life from the award-nominated work he was doing at the agency then they were shortsighted and narrow-minded. But it would be a stupid argument. In advertising, the client’s needs and wants and opinions were all that mattered. If this group had any doubts that Henry and the agency would be able to encompass their vision because of tomorrow’s headlines, then they’d go somewhere else. And he’d be royally screwed.

So instead, he nodded. “I understand.” And he did. There was no point in being mad at Becks. She was just the messenger. “Thanks,” he said and headed back out.

Marion didn’t look up from her desk when he returned. “Mrs. Davenport is holding for you on line one. Should I take another message?”

“No. Just give me a minute.”

He shut the door to his office and went around to his desk, setting his now cold coffee on the corner before taking his seat, his conversation with Becks running through his head.

As blasé as he’d acted earlier about the agency’s nomination for best ad campaign, he was secretly ecstatic over the accomplishment. An accomplishment that he and his team had achieved based on hard work and creative merit. Not because of who he was or who his family was—something that had hung over him since childhood. No, he’d busted his ass through college and for the past nine years to get this recognition.

This award nomination was for a campaign that he, not his predecessor, had fostered, which meant everything to him.

He grabbed the baseball from his desk and rolled it in his hand. The feel of the soft leather under his fingertips, the predictable weight and size in his hand, was familiar and welcome. A souvenir from the last game his dad had taken him to just before he’d passed.

His dad had always told him how important it was not to rely on his family’s laurels and to make every achievement his own, through his own hard work. It would have been easy to rely on the Brighton name—a name belonging to his mother and her family. A name as renowned internationally in the jewelry business as its competitor Tiffany & Co. But witnessing the way his mother placed the business over Henry, his sister, and even his father had made him resentful of it—as well as her. Maybe that was why he’d practically thumbed his nose at her and the family business over the years, uncaring of how he was portrayed in the media if it meant sticking it to the oppressive Brighton name.

But with his mother’s passing last fall, he was beginning to wonder whom he was sticking it to after all this time. It had become rather tiring.

Up to now, he’d been able to keep that fake persona separate from his business reputation and his work for the agency. He knew that this award would be his. From his hard work. Nothing else. And he wouldn’t let anything jeopardize that.

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