Authors: Ginger Voight
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Family Saga, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Sagas
“We’re so glad you could join us today,” he said as he led us to the front row.
“I think if I hadn’t, Jorge would have hogtied me and brought me here,” I teased.
He laughed. “
So you’ve worked with him before!” he joked.
We all settled into the plush theater seats in the front row, where rehearsals were about to start for their upcoming premiere of the new season. Graham explained that they were inviting the finalists back from the previous season, starting with Jace Riga.
Jace was a vet from the Iraq war, who lost one of his legs in battle. “He never even knew he could sing,” Graham said as we watched the stage crew set up equipment. “He learned while in therapy to learn to walk again with a prosthetic leg.”
“That’s amazing,” I said.
“He’s amazing,” Shannon grinned.
I could do nothing but agree the minute he burst onto the stage. Though he had lost one leg, he was all over that stage as he belted out his latest single, which happened be the number one hit across the nation. It didn’t matter what had happened to his body, he was all man as he strut
ted confidently, wearing ripped jeans that showed off his prosthetic leg painted with flames and a lightning bolt. He had dark hair and light eyes, an almost impossible green I could see from twenty feet away. He worked the limited audience, hopping down to romance all the ladies. Even Millicent blushed as he sang directly to her.
When I thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, another explosi
on drew our eyes to the stage.
judge and megastar Giovanni Carnevale exploded through a cloud of smoke wearing nothing but skin-tight leather pants. His long, brown hair swung about his strong, bare shoulders in an unruly curtain as he landed center stage, to launch into one of his hits.
“This is the opening act,” Shannon leaned in to whisper with a triumphant smile. She knew what she had with these two idols.
“It works,” I answered, unable to take my eyes off of the two men while they performed. It was an onslaught of sex from the stage, and though I had never leaned toward such proclivities, I felt my inner groupie squeal every time they looked my direction.
Max didn’t know what to make of it. He tugged at my shirt and whispered, “He doesn’t have a leg!”
“And he doesn’t let that stop him, does he?” I whispered back.
shook his head as he watched wide-eyed, processing this new information. He watched someone different, someone unusual, someone unlike everyone else, own that stage without apology. Jace was confident and strong, and I knew Max marveled at this adult who was rocking the hell out of his challenges.
They ended their set with Giovanni’s
hit, “Make It Happen,” which put Max right on his feet as he clapped along to their direction.
Jace hopped back down to scoop Max into his arms. I was in tears as he brought my special boy onto the stage, and he and Vanni guided him through the chorus, allowing him to sing along. Max was on
cloud nine as the music ended, with each male on stage holding up a triumphant fist like the true rock stars they were.
Both Millicent and I jumped to our feet and applauded, cheering and whistling for our command performance.
Both Jace and Vanni, as Graham called him, descended the stairs to return our Max to us. He was giddy with excitement.
“Did you see me, Rachel?” he cried as he ran into my arms. “Did you see me, Nana?” he asked Millicent, who had as hard a time fighting her tears as I did.
“I sure did, sweetie,” she said as she pulled him into her arms to cuddle him close. “Maybe one day you can audition to be on the show.”
patted Max on the arm. “I’ll hold you to that, sir.”
Vanni extended his hand
to me, and I felt my knees buckle slightly as I toppled headlong into those dark, velvety eyes. “You must be Rachel,” he said in a voice so smooth and rich I honestly had to think about his question for a moment before I gave a small nod.
“Yes,” I think I squeaked.
He smiled and I felt some of my insides melt. I could see why he had sold billions of records all over the world. “It’s nice to meet you,” he said with a smirk I knew indicated he knew exactly what kind of effect he had on women.
I turned to Jace, who was no less potent. “I’m Jace,” he said with a genuine smile. “Who’s our little superstar?”
“This is Max,” I offered. Jace made sure to offer his hand in a formal greeting. “It’s especially nice to meet you, Max,” he said. “Thanks for honoring us with a performance!”
Max giggled and turned into Millicent’s shoulder
, unusually shy around these two powerful men. “This is Millicent, Max’s grandmother,” Shannon introduced.
“Impossible,” Vanni dismissed with a charming grin as he pulled her hand up for a kiss. I watched the older woman blush, and I felt less silly for my own
“Rachel is on her way to see Jorge for that big fundraiser this evening,” Shannon explained. Vanni pulled me into a friendly side hug.
“Why does she need Jorge? She’s flawless.”
Shannon laughed. “You know Jorge.”
Vanni chuckled, too. “Indeed. I think he’s given everyone around here the star treatment.” He grinned down at me. “You’re in good hands.”
Graham shook his head with a playful eye roll as he pulled me from Vanni. “You’re incorrigible, Vanni.”
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks,” he teased with a wink.
Both performers had to head back to the stage to tweak their performance, though I thought it was perfection as it was. Graham offered to give Millicent and Max the grand tour while Shannon led me to Jorge’s magical workshop.
“Have fun,” she winked before leaving me to it. I gulped hard before I walked through the beaded entryway.
was dancing to loud disco music as I entered the room draped in black lace and scented with patchouli incense. He pulled me to him to get me to dance to the heavy beat, presumably to loosen me up. His long dark hair flopped over one eye, and I could see the canvas of tattoos on his chest, which was bared by his torn T-shirt. “I just gotta know,” he said as he guided my hips in the dance. “Do you trust your fairy godfather?”
I laughed. “I think so,” I said.
“Good,” he answered with a smile before he twirled me into a chair to begin his transformation.
He sang along with the music as he mixed hair color. The dance track kept going as he started to apply highlights in between foil flaps.
He turned me away from the mirror as he applied my overall color. I faced a TV screen that showed classic disco videos with glittery disco balls and strobe lighting. While my color set he worked on his next victim, who was presumably a new contestant on
. I could see him turn the plain Jane housewife into a pop diva right before my eyes, which helped ease my own trepidation about what he was going to do to me.
He leaned me back toward the sink as he sang sexy lyrics to me. Off came the foil as he ran his long fingers through my hair along with water just hot enough to make my toes curl. He then applied toner, putting me three steps beyond what I traditionally requested of my hair stylist. Twenty minutes later he was clipping much of my long locks onto the floor, and I tried not to panic as I felt the steel of his scissors much higher on my back than I had ever intentionally trimmed my hair. He cropped it to the shoulder, layering my full head of hair as he fussed over each clip. He dried it and styled it before he turned his attention to my makeup.
“What color is your dress?” he asked.
“Pale pink,” I told him.
He grinned. “Perfect.”
He reached for a palette full of pearl shadows in whites and pinks, from the palest blush to a dark burgundy. I closed my eyes, leaned my head back and let him do his thing.
When he swung me around to the mirror ten minutes later, I barely recognized the woman staring back at me.
He had darkened my hair with a coppery brown
overall color, and added bright red highlights as tiny “ribbons” throughout. My hair brushed my shoulders, and stylish bangs framed my face. The makeup was elegant enough for a fancy ball, but subtle enough to walk among politicians and dignitaries. My hazel green eyes lightened under the pink shadow, which glimmered thanks to a dusting of white pearl powder.
“Oh my God,” I breathed as I stared at myself.
He placed both hands on my shoulder and leaned in to grin at me through the reflection in the mirror. “Like I said. Never question the master.”
When I caught up with Shannon, she was lunching with Graham, Millicent and Max, along with a lovely redhead named Maggie. Max’s mouth nearly fell open as I approached. “Rachel?” he asked.
“I think so,” I replied as I kissed the top of his head. “I’m not sure anymore.”
Maggie and Shannon shared a glance, and I knew from their amused expressions they had both been given the Jorge treatment.
We headed back to the ranch, as I still had to change into my dress. I still couldn’t believe my appearance after I had changed, and I walked with shaking legs down the spiral stairs to where Alex presumably waited. We had quite the drive into town to reach Beverly Hills in time for the party.
I saw him before he saw me. He stood with his back to the stairs, straightening the bow tie of his tux in the large framed mirror in the foyer. His hair had been trimmed to his shoulder, and I could see that he had taken special care to groom the beard that framed his strong jawline.
He saw me approach from the reflection in the mirror, so I caught just a hint of his candid reaction prior to his turning to face me. His mouth fell open slightly as his eyes widened. He looked dumbstruck, which only made me more nervous than I already was. He turned to face me.
“Wow,” was all he could say.
I smiled. “Thanks.”
He offered his arm and we headed to the garage, opting for the hybrid for our drive into town.
He remained uncharacteristically silent all the way to Beverly Hills, stealing glances my direction possibly to see if I had turned back into a pumpkin.
When we pulled up to the
opulent mansion I had fled months before, I thought I was going to puke from my nerves. The last time I had been there had been the morning Alex blew my fairy romance to shreds with stark, cold reality. Drew had made love to me in that upstairs bedroom that had leather bound furniture and Corinthian leather on the walls. If I closed my eyes I could still feel him inside me, which left me breathless as the car pulled to a stop. I struggled to take a deep breath so that I wouldn’t panic and beg Alex to turn the car around and get the hell out of there.
I counted to ten, focusing on deliberate inhaling and exhaling, as
Alex walked around to the passenger side. He opened the door and offered me his arm, helping me out of the car. I grabbed his strong bicep with my other hand. He patted it with his free hand as he gave me that famous Fullerton smirk. “Ready to make him eat his heart out, sweetheart?” he said softly.
“Yes,” I said while I shook my head no. He chuckled and led me into the one place I swore I would never return.
Drew and Olivia stood greeting guests, with Jonathan standing woodenly at his father’s side. The adults were all smiles until Drew saw me approach on Alex’s arm. I watched his jaw clench as he glanced me over. I clutched Alex’s arm and he patted my hand as we stopped in front of our hosts.
“So glad you could make it,” Drew murmured as he stared into my face. “Aren’t we, darling?” he asked of the spectacular blonde at his side.
She nodded as she greeted both of us with a kiss on our cheeks. Likely she didn’t even recognize me from the occasions when our positions were reversed, and I was the hostess standing next to Drew. I couldn’t worry about that. Instead I looked down at Jonathan. His eyes were unreadable as he examined my new appearance, and how cozy I appeared with his uncle.
Drew was even angrier as he stared at Alex. “So what spectacle do you intend to make at my party, Alex?”
Alex merely grinned. “Why would I create a spectacle, Drew? We’re family. Right?” Drew didn’t know what to say so Alex guided me toward the ballroom.
The theme as red, white and blue, and important figures from entertainment and politics filled the
patriotically decorated room. Many danced courtesy of the stringed orchestra set up in the far corner. Every memory I had of the holiday parties I had thrown here came flooding back and I felt panic rise in my throat. What the hell was I doing here?
I turned to see Harrison offer crystal flutes of bubbly liquid on a silver serving tray. “Harrison,” I breathed gratefully. He smiled and I could see his true joy in seeing me again. I wanted to apologize for leaving so suddenly, but he was old school. He’d never expect anyone to explain such personal behavior to a servant. I just accepted a glass with a nod and he moved along to other guests.
I drained the flute in one swallow as I surveyed the room.
“You’re doing fine, champ,” Alex leaned in to whisper. “Let’s dance.”
I deposited the glass on a table as I allowed him to lead me to the dance floor. We fell into step easily, with his arm around my waist. Unlike the awkward two-step back at the ranch, he fitted me to his strong body. My eyes shot to his, which were unreadable as he stared down at me.
Our eyes stayed locked the duration of the dance. I could only assume that he was willing his strength to me, as his gaze was powerful and sure. He swung me around the floor until the song ended, when we stopped to applaud the band.