Authors: Tamara Lee
“No, not at the moment.” I answered, trying to hide the blush that crept across my cheeks.
“Good to know,” he smiled.
“I’m in a relationship, Marc, just in case you’re interested,” Emily interjected and Marc and I both laughed. Thank goodness for Emily’s interlude, because it took the attention away from how truly uncomfortable I was discussing my single status. I hadn’t thought it would be such a big deal until people started asking the dreaded question.
The rest of the evening was relaxed and I was beginning to get comfortable around the group of strangers. We decided to call it a night at around one in the morning. Emily went straight upstairs, but I decided to wash up our wine glasses before heading to bed. Marc followed me to the sink and grabbed a towel ready to wipe the glasses.
“You don’t have to help, go on up to bed.” I said, washing the first glass.
“You are a great singer, you know that?” Marc said and I realized he wasn’t leaving anytime soon.
“Yeah? How do you know that?”
“I have seen your audition,” his confession startled me. “I’ve seen all of the auditions.”
“They’re all online.”
How did I not know that?
“I wanted to check out my competition,” he paused for a moment. “Plus, I wanted to see who I would be living with. I knew that a hot blonde from Seattle was going to walk through those doors and I couldn’t wait to meet her.”
I was both embarrassed and flattered by his confession and it became apparent why he had greeted me the way he had earlier in the day. I hadn’t been single in over two years and apart from the occasional flirt, I hadn’t dealt with a guy coming on to me in all that time.
“I’m definitely logging on to the website tomorrow to check out your audition,” I said in an attempt to break the awkward silence.
“I think you could be my biggest competition,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Oh really? We’ll see,” I said as I finished washing the last glass. “I’m tired, I’m going to head to bed,” I said, as I walked toward the stairs. “Thanks for helping me with the dishes.”
“Anytime.” Marc said as he dried the last glass.
I looked back over my shoulder and he smiled, his dimples appearing instantly, causing a flutter deep in my belly. I returned his smile before hurrying upstairs to the safety of my bedroom.
I’m not here to find a boyfriend…
I repeated the mantra in my head. I needed to steer clear of Marc. I was still too vulnerable and from first impressions, he was far too tempting.
I woke in the morning, the sun seeping through a gap in the heavy curtains. Another gorgeous and sunny Californian day was upon us. I sat upright in bed and my head felt a little groggy, but not too bad considering how much alcohol I’d consumed the night before.
I didn’t drink much in my day-to-day life. The occasional wine over dinner was enough to get me happy and lucid. I replayed the events of the previous night in my head as Emily came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her hair.
“I feel like shit,” she said, collapsing onto her bed.
“Too much wine?” I teased.
“Why are you shouting at me?” she asked with an arm covering her face, shielding her eyes from the sunlight. “Why did you let me drink so much?”
“I’ll make you a coffee. Once you’re dressed and have some caffeine in your system, you will feel much better. Trust me.”
Emily smiled at me, but didn’t move from the bed.
“How do you have your coffee?”
“White with two.”
I walked out of the room and heard a yell from behind me, “make it extra strong.”
I laughed to myself as I walked downstairs.
Later that morning we made our way to the studio where the show was filmed. As I looked around the large space, it hit me that we were apart of something big. Members of the production crew hurried around, looking slightly annoyed as they impatiently stepped around us.
We were given a tour of the studio, shown around enough to ensure we could find our way to the bathroom and kitchen. We got a brief peek inside the arena where we would be performing. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the size of the stage and the amount of seats that would be filled with people watching us sing.
We were separated into our respective teams and taken to separate areas of the studio. Jayce took us to a room that resembled a large living room and didn’t look as though it belonged in the industrialized studio. Couches surrounded a coffee table filled with platters of fruit and baked pastries.
The seven of us took seats on the sofas as Jayce stood before us. A cameraman entered the room, his crew in tow. They pointed the camera at Jayce’s face, the boom hanging just out of the cameras view above his head.
This was the first time I had a chance to look at Jayce up close. He was hot - for lack of a better word. He looked as though he just stepped off of a billboard, modeling some grungy, but sexy, men’s clothing.
He dressed simply. Worn looking jeans that had holes strategically placed in them, teamed with a stylish gray tee, his defined muscles causing the material to stretch across his chest and shoulders. Today he was clean-shaven, with his jet-black hair styled into chunky pieces, messily arranged on top of his head. The sun had kissed his skin, giving his face a light glow. And then there were his eyes. Framed by dark lashes, were those gorgeous emerald green eyes that sparkled when he smiled.
As he stood before us, he spoke with a confidence that I would expect from a musician, but he didn’t come across as arrogant.
“This will be an adventure for all of us. I’m on your side, but that doesn’t imply I will say what you want to hear. I will be your biggest fan and your biggest critic all in one.”
I couldn’t work out if his words were as genuine as they seemed or if it was a rehearsed speech for the benefit of the camera.
“There is a reason one of my artist’s won last season and I fully intend to back it up with a win this year. With the amount of talent in this room, I am confident that a win is fully attainable.” He smiled and his eyes met mine briefly before he cleared his throat and spoke again.
“I wish I could keep you all on my team as the competition continues, but if it doesn’t work out that way, I want you to remember it is a huge achievement to have made it this far. Many doors will have opened for you already, just by being in this room. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but if you believe in yourself, then I will give you the courage to fight for your dreams.”
Jayce clapped his hands together once, startling Regan, who sat by my side.
“Okay, you guys can hang out here, eat some food and I will meet with you all individually to discuss how we’re going to win this thing.”
The guys in the room stood immediately. They walked toward the food that was piled on the table and weren’t shy about grabbing a plate and stacking it full of pastries.
“Regan, you’re up!” Jayce announced.
I sensed Regan tense next to me. I squeezed her shoulder reassuringly before she stood and followed Jayce out of the room.
After Jayce’s speech there was a positive vibe amongst the group and everyone became more talkative. I used it as a chance to get to know my teammates, apart from Regan, Laura and I there was another girl in the team, Katerina. She was a high school music teacher from San Diego. She sang in a local coffee shop on weekends, strumming her acoustic guitar as she performed covers of her favorite songs.
I made my way to the group of guys that had congregated close to the food. I struck conversation with Harry, a soul singer from Baltimore and Leo, a mechanic by trade, who also had his own band that graced the pubs of Chicago with their punk rock charm. We were talking about our favorite bands and the festivals we frequented when Regan tapped me on the shoulder. Jayce was ready to see me.
My nerves surfaced as I followed Regan’s vague directions of where Jayce was waiting. The door was labeled
and when I pushed through the door, Jayce turned at the waist and smiled at me.
“Hey Kyla, come on in.”
I looked around and noticed the room was free of any cameras and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was already a nervous wreck about being alone in a room with Jayce, I didn’t want the awkward encounter taped and aired on television for the whole country to see.
Jayce motioned me to sit down and he sat on a lounge opposite, resting a notepad on his lap. He clicked his ballpoint pen repeatedly, seemingly unaware of the gesture.
It was a simple question, but it took forever for me to respond.
“Very.” I stated simply while I glanced around the room.
“Don’t be. I’m here to help you, guide you, and most importantly, promote you,” he smiled warmly. “You are my priority over the next couple of months. Well you and six other singers, but I have a feeling you will go right through to the end.”
“Oh really?” I pulled at the hem of my skirt as I crossed my legs, one over the other. My nerves finally started to settle.
“Your audition was incredible. I had to have you on my team.”
His comment threw me and I didn’t quite know how to respond. I glanced at his left hand, the hand that was continuously clicking the pen and noticed a silver band on his ring finger.
He was married. I hadn’t even realized. He was a musician that was rough around the edges and he didn’t seem the type that would settle down so young. It never occurred to me that he was married man.
“What do you think?” Jayce caught me staring at his ring.
“Sorry, think of what?” I blinked and quickly pulled my gaze to his face.
“My ring, you like it?”
I could feel myself blushing, completely horrified that he caught me staring at his wedding band.
“It’s a lot of bling,” I answered, hoping to move on from the subject.
I was kicking myself for being so obvious. Why did I care that he was married? In true Kyla style, a million questions ran through my mind and I started to wonder how old he was. Artificial had been around for at least ten years, but I doubted Jayce was much older than me. I really needed to do more research in future, or cyber stalking, as Rebecca would call it.
He studied my face for what felt like an eternity before continuing.
“So, Kyla, what do you hope to gain from this experience?”
“I don’t really know,” I stated honestly. I was off my game and choking badly. Usually when I was talking about music I would blabber on and on, but Jayce had the opposite effect on me. I couldn’t string a sentence together.
“Well, you’re a hotshot lawyer from Seattle, there has to be a reason you’d put that on hold to come here.”
“Excuse me, hotshot lawyer?”
“I assume you are good at your job, no?”
“I do okay.”
“So why come here and put your career on hold?”
I shrugged simply, not knowing where he was going with this.
“Do you want to be famous?”
I held back the urge to laugh.
“To be honest, I can’t imagine anything worse than being ridiculed by the media and having my life used as the next big headline. Not to mention being followed by the paparazzi who are constantly chasing that one provocative shot that would cause my mother to move cities and change her name.”
The corner of his mouth quirked up and he seemed amused by my response.
“Look, I like singing. I love music. Sometimes law can be rather... mundane. I like how alive I feel when I’m singing. It’s a liberating feeling.”
“Good answer,” he smiled. ”You would not believe how many people come here in an attempt to become famous. Their motives are questionable from the start. They’re the type of people I try to avoid. They release one song and then ride on the success of the show to make some quick money. A year later, they are no where to be found and they’re nothing more than a one hit wonder who was famous for five minutes.”
It was a test. He was testing me and it seemed that I had passed.
“Tell me, what music do you like to listen to?” he prompted, holding a pen to the pad paper that sat in his lap, ready to take notes.
“I listen to anything and everything. I love all sorts of music and I don’t think I fit into a particular genre.”
“But you must have some favorites?”
“Coldplay, The Fray, The Script, there are too many to just choose just one.”
“Is Artificial on your list of favorites?” He raised his eyebrows expectantly as he waited for my response. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to be humorous.
“Of course,” I smiled, but held back the eye roll that he deserved. Jayce chuckled as he threw the pad paper onto the coffee table that sat between us.
“Okay, let’s play a game. I’ll tell you a scenario and you tell me what song you’d play for the occasion.”
I looked at Jayce skeptically, wondering if this was a game he played with all of his newly acquired contestants.
“What song would you play for the first dance at a wedding?”
Brighter than Sunshine
“Best song for a road trip?”
Life is a Highway
, Ani DiFranco.” Jayce glanced up at me and noticed that my face was deadly serious. He grinned before continuing.
“A song that makes you happy.”
Hey Soul Sista
“A song that makes you sad.”
, Jason Mraz.” I didn’t think before answering. The song that was playing when I found Brody cheating on me. Jayce looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Why does that song make you sad?” he asked. He hadn’t questioned my other responses, but that song choice must have struck him as odd.
“It just does.” I gave away nothing. My lips pressed together and I hoped that he wouldn’t question me any further. He sensed that I was uncomfortable and moved the conversation along.