I headed back to the table, sitting down next to my dad and coughing so hard he recoiled. "I don't feel good," I croaked out, laying it on thick.
"It's because you're perpetually cold," my dad scolded. "Do you even have heating in that hovel of yours?" My parents hated my apartment in Sheung Wan. As soon as I graduated, I had moved out with almost zero cash, and my current accommodations showed it. While my neighborhood was hip and fairly expensive, I had chosen one of the old walk-up apartments. They were tiny and usually above storefronts selling things like dried fish and medicinal herbs. But because the area was up-and-coming, it was still more than I could afford on my own, and I needed a roommate. In a one-bedroom. It was stressful, having to make rent and scrape by. My parents refused to help and I would rather die of starvation than ask them, anyhow. I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep it up, though, and I was trying everything I could to avoid the undergrad experience my parents were hoping for me.
"We do have heating," I lied easily. "Anyway, my throat is starting to hurt, too."
Dad leveled a penetrating stare at me. "Are you pretending to be sick to get out of this?"
I sniffled a very realistic sniffle. "Why would I do that? You know I've been pumped. My first bank banquet. Thing."
While skepticism lined his face, I could sense his phobia overriding his dad BS meter. "All right, this is wrapping up anyway. Go home and get some rest. Do you need Mom to send you some food?"
Most easily won victory ever. "Nah, that's okay. I can grab congee around the corner from my place."
He made some mumbly comment about Korean porridge being better than congee before I slipped out of the ballroom and into the lobby of the fancy hotel.
My family wasn't from Hong Kong. Both my parents immigrated to the US from Korea when they were kids, and I was born and raised in Los Angeles. And then a year ago, my dad got this enticing offer at the bank that he couldn't turn down. Hong Kong being the financial and banking capital of Asia.
It was always about the money. My dad had put aside his dreams of writing the Great American Novel when my mom's family put pressure on him to get a "real job." Which led him to a bank. And then he had kids. Which further entrenched him in the banking world. And that's how we landed here.
Two doormen opened the double doors for me and I ducked outside with a nod of thanks. I glanced up at the hotel from outside, a sleek, dizzying tower of glass surrounded by other tall skyscrapers. Many of them lit up with pink or green trim. A light fog had settled in from the water, giving everything a dreamy, futuristic feel. I rubbed my arms for warmth through my jacket. It was unseasonably cool. Summer heat usually lasted well into winter here.
Even though the homesickness almost killed me at first, I'd started to like it in Hong Kong. Sometimes you can go somewhere new and it feels weirdly familiar, as if you once saw and moved through it in a dream.
Not to romanticize it or anything.
I walked alongside the curved hotel driveway. Luxury cars lined the drive, and I narrowly missed getting hit by one of them—a black Escalade that screeched to a halt at the entrance. The valet guys sprinted to open the back- seat door, and a white guy in sunglasses with a shock of red hair got out.
I recognized that red hair. It was Teddy Slade, American action star. Holy crap, was he staying here? A preternatural sense of knowing someone was up to no good had me pause and follow him back into the lobby. He strode straight into an elevator being held open for him.
A woman in sunglasses and a dark coat stepped in right after.
The woman had the distinct profile of Hong Kong superstar Celeste Jiang. I couldn't believe it. I immediately texted Trevor Nakamura: "I have eyes on Teddy Slade at the Skyloft Hotel. Celeste Jiang's with him."
Trevor was the editor-at-large for the biggest, sleaziest tabloid website in Hong Kong, Rumours.
And I worked for him.
He immediately texted back: "Everyone's been trying to catch this affair. Can you get a photo?"
For the past four months, I had been moonlighting for Trevor, getting him photos whenever I could. My parents, of course, had no idea I was doing this. I texted back: I can get it. Then I watched the numbers on the elevator.
They didn't stop until the penthouse floor.
This excerpt ends on page 18 of the hardcover edition.