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Authors: Michelle Lynn,Nevaeh Lee

Collaboration

BOOK: Collaboration
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Collaboration

By

Michelle Lynn

feat. Nevaeh Lee

 

Copyright ©2014
by Michelle Lynn and Nevaeh Lee

All Rights Reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in whole or in part by any means.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events portrayed in this book are the product of the author’s imagination or are either fictitious or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

This story contains strong language and sexual interactions. We recommend and encourage only mature audiences of 18+ read this book.

 

Editor: S.G. Thomas

Cover photo: @istockphoto.com; shutterstock.com

Cover Design: Sommer Stein at Perfect Pear Creative Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s amazing how thin that line can sometimes be between our life and someone else’s.” 

 

- Wes Moore (from
Discovering Wes Moore
)

Chapter 1

 

Taryn

 

“And the winner of the Grammy for Best Album is….Trace.”

My face falls but immediately an elbow hits my ribs, reminding me to put “the smile” back on where it belongs. I clap my hands, pretending to be happy while inwardly fuming that I lost to that…that guy. He doesn’t even sing, and probably couldn’t hit a note if he tried. How the hell did he just hijack my night, not to mention
my
award?

And speak of the devil, now I’m going to have to listen to him attempt to accept it.
If
he ever gets up there. From the sounds of it, he and his buddies might just be having a party in the row behind me first. Seriously, no one takes this long to get up to the stage. What the he—?

My internal grumbling is cut off when I turn my head and see him walking the length of my row, shaking hands, and wait—is he congratulating the other members of our category? No way. Who
does
that? “Probably trying to rub it in,” my mom says with disgust. I look to my left and have to keep from laughing at the expression on her face. Hearing the venom in her voice and knowing how pissed she is that I lost this award, only my mother could maintain a perfectly-placed complimentary smile in this moment. The woman really should have gone into acting instead of managing my career.

I feel his overwhelming presence before I see him. With a sigh, I turn away from my mother and find myself staring into the honest-to-God most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. They’re baby blue…and he’s black. I didn’t even know that was possible. Slightly almond-shaped with eyelashes that most girls only dream of, his startling eyes are accentuated even more by his mocha-colored skin, ensuring that anyone in a crowded room wouldn’t be able to help staring at them.

And as those mesmerizingly azure eyes begin to crinkle at the corners, I snap out of the trance I’m in and realize that staring is exactly what I’ve been doing. The smirk on his face tells me that he noticed too.
Damn.
I don’t need a mirror to know that I’m blushing something awful.

Then again, what the hell is he doing just standing there looking at me? I suddenly realize that he’s waiting for
me
to congratulate him. Inwardly I face-palm myself, while outwardly I throw on my most gracious smile and stick my hand out, which he immediately captures in a surprisingly steady grip, considering there are no less than thirty million people watching his every move right now. I really shouldn’t be shocked, considering the guy exudes confidence, and unlike me, his self-assurance seems to be genuine. I’m also taken aback by the soft hand that holds mine, since everything else about him screams “rough.”

Before I can offer the obligatory congratulations, he leans forward and whispers, “Sorry, darlin’” before giving me a wink and immediately turning and walking away toward the stage. Is he rubbing it in? And what’s with the Southern-style term of endearment? I think that asshole was making fun of me! I don’t look at my mother because I feel her eyes burning into the side of my face, wanting to know exactly what he said, and I’m too confused and irritated to speak right now.

Not that she would be able to hear a word I say anyway. The sounds of Trace’s name being shouted are so loud that you would think we are at a concert, not the most respected awards show in the music industry.

“It should have been you,” Ryder whispers from my other side and places his hand on my knee, rubbing his thumb back and forth. I shift slightly and his hand falls onto the edge of the chair. Out of the corner of my eye, I see his smile falter just for a second before he turns his lips up into that wide grin that makes all the girls swoon.

Ryder Black is my lead guitarist and has been with me for the past couple of years. Since we’re about the same age, we’ve bonded…I guess that’s what happens when you spend most of your time on tour buses. He’s always been flirtatious, but lately I’m getting the I-want-more vibe and I don’t want more. Not with someone from my band and definitely not with someone I consider a friend. True friendships are hard to find in this business, and I’m not about to lose his.

“I think
they
might disagree,” I whisper back as the crowd continues to holler. I avoid Ryder’s pity stare, which will only piss me off at this point, and shrug my shoulders. Honestly, I’m not devastated that I didn’t win; I’m just surprised who beat me. The competition was freakin’ fierce this year and now I’m more than a little curious what made this guy’s album better than the rest.

I sigh and sit back in my chair, thankful that the cameras are safely turned away from me and now pointed toward the blue-eyed jerk standing on stage.

 

Trace

 

Fuck.
I’ve been so busy celebrating with my crew and offering my condolences to the other nominees that I temporarily forgot I still have a speech to make once I get up on that stage. Now I feel like I’m going to be sick. And once I get up there and look at the audience, I know I’ll be sick. I’ve never given a speech in my life, not unless you count high school civics class, which I don’t. That was only about thirty people I didn’t give a shit about, and this is about thirty
million
people that I don’t give a shit about.

Ten more steps to get it together. I wish I was performing. That I can do. It doesn’t matter how many are in the crowd, I can still tune them out and just do my thing. It’s all an act anyway, and I’m just an actor playing my role. I need to remember that these people want to see a show and that’s what I’m gonna give them. Do they care if it’s the real me or not? Hell-to-the-fuckin’-no. Time to give them want they want.

I put my game face on and give my flashiest smile to the Hooker Barbie look-alike holding my award. All that plastic does absolutely nothing for me. Thank God, since it would be embarrassing as hell to get a hard-on in front of a live TV audience. Now that little Southern Belle I just met…well, that’s a totally different story. I could feel the innocence just pouring off that one, and damn if I didn’t want to be the man to make a woman out of her. Yeah, as if that would ever happen.

Stashing the piece of paper in my pocket that the synthetic skank handed me along with my award, I turn around to face the audience and take a deep breath. I can do this. Hell, most of them are so busy counting the minutes until they can hit the after-parties, they probably won’t listen to a word I say anyway.

“Yo, yo, yo,” I say, using my hands to quiet the crowd, even though I’ve got to admit it’s a rush hearing them chant my name like that. When the noise dies down, I continue, “Yo, I don’t even know what to say.” Actually I do, but there’s no way I could give
that
speech.

“I guess if I gotta say somethin’, I wanna thank all those brothas and sistas who made this possible. You know who you are. The ones who keep buyin’ my shit…aw, shit, can I say that on TV?” The audience laughs and I hear Xavier yell, “Just don’t say ‘fuck’!” The crowd roars even louder and I give them the best fake laugh I’ve got—the one that seals deals and charms interviewers’ socks off.

“’Aight, before they kick me off this here stage, I wanna thank my boys. Dre, Triple XXX, Marcus, Quint, Cal, and yes, even you, Jay,” I say and point to him. He scowls at me but I know he isn’t mad because winning this award will translate into dollars, and that’s the one thing Jay cares about. “I also wanna thank the princess of our posse, Stella,” I continue, “for always keepin’ us in line. We give you a hard time but you know we love ya, girl. Who else? Oh yeah, I need to thank my record label,” I add, while inwardly wishing I didn’t have to. Backlash has been a thorn in my side from day one, but this is not the time to let the whole world know how I really feel about them.

Now for the hard part. Damn, I gotta say it since there’s no telling if I’ll ever win anything again. Plus, I know better than anyone that you’re never guaranteed tomorrow. I sure as hell hope I can hold it together.

“And last, but certainly not least…Momma and Daddy, I hope I’ve made you just a little bit proud because I sure as hell am proud to be your son,” I say, pausing to collect myself before I cry like a damn fool. “What you did…you deserve to be up on this stage, not me. I know it’s not saying much, but I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am if it weren’t for you. So thanks, this one’s for you.”

I hold my hands up, one holding my shiny new Grammy and the other pointing to the sky, and walk quickly toward the wings, thankful it’s over. And that I didn’t bawl like a baby. I hear the audience clapping and yelling, but I don’t look out there. The only faces I’d want to see aren’t there and they never will be.

***

Instead of going back to my seat, I stand behind the curtain and enjoy a few moments of peace as I listen to the next performance. It’s some indie band that recently broke out onto the scene, and even though it’s not my kind of music, I’ve gotta give the guys props for making it on their own. There’s only one more award left anyway and then I’ve got to make appearances at God-knows-how-many after-parties before I can hightail it home for the night.

Home…what a joke. I’m not even sure I know where that is anymore, except that it sure as hell isn’t here. Living in Los Angeles is a trip, there’s no denying that, but would I ever consider it home? Fuck no. Here, it’s all about who you know, whose ass you’re willing to kiss, and more importantly, who you’ve pissed off. Not unlike the projects, now that I think about it.

Thoughts of my previous “home” in Chicago instantly make my heart race. Before my mind can go there, loud applause erupts throughout the building and I realize that I missed the announcement of the award that everyone wants—Entertainer of the Year. That one should be mine too, considering I put on a show every day of my damn life.

I look in time to see a head full of strawberry-blonde curls emerging from below the stage. Well, what do you know? Girl got started the same time as me and is already taking home the grand prize. Hell, I’m pretty sure the other nominees are all old enough to be her grandparents.

Just before she gets to the podium, Little Miss Southern Belle looks my way, and I’ll be damned if she doesn’t cock her eyebrow and smirk at me before quickly turning to accept her award. Country chick’s got some sass, that’s for sure. And an ass, now that I’m getting a look at her from this angle. Baby has
definitely
got back. I better get out of here before I get arrested for even
thinking about her most likely underage ass.

 

Taryn

 

“Considering my daughter just became the youngest recipient of the most coveted award in the music industry, I think you can do a little better than that…” I sigh and tune my mother out, trying to enjoy the calm before the impending storm. We hadn’t even stepped into the limo when the first call came in, and I’ve lost count how many different people she’s spoken to in the past fifteen minutes. I know I should be grateful, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that she can’t just wait and take care of this tomorrow. Then again, she would most likely just harp about the award that I
didn’t
win or tell me that my hair was out of place so I’m probably better off this way.

I hear the ringing of my phone from within my clutch, and as I pull it out to see who it is, I smile genuinely for the first time all day.

BOOK: Collaboration
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