Fame, (fame) makes a man take things over
Fame, (fame) lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, (fame) puts you there where things are hollow
Fame – David Bowie
Christian watched as his normally upbeat, affable brother slumped in his seat, totally defeated.
“I’m sorry, son. They’ve cancelled the contract.” A mumbled ‘shit’ is all that Elliot can offer to the metaphorical punch in the gut he has just taken. Christian stared at his father’s impassive visage. Sorry, my ass.
“I don’t understand, Dad. The contract was for three albums. How can they just drop the option?” A desire for clarity and action overtakes Christian who would, under normal circumstances, stick to his role as the silent assistant in his father’s dealings with a client. He would make partner in less than three years if he was a good boy, kept his mouth shut and learned to take orders, but right now he couldn’t give a shit. Not when his father had his finger on his brother’s self-destruct button. Carrick Grey was a powerhouse in entertainment in Seattle and he would be the first to bring the recording company to its knees on behalf of any other client. However, Christian knew that Carrick never wanted his oldest son in show business so his motives for inaction were not entirely pure. Even if that son was part of a duo that currently had the female population of the world creaming their panties with longing. So if Christian had to step up and advocate on Elliot’s behalf he would. Elliot was a real musical talent as far as Christian was concerned, with passion and a dream, and he would be damned if their puritanical dictator of a father would take that away.
“Jack’s contract was renegotiated and the record company drew on the drugs clause to cancel Elliot’s.” Carrick showed zero emotion and Christian pulled back from a long held belief that a carefully placed punch to the stomach would make his father look a little more sympathetic. Instead, his hands clenched into fists for a moment then released as he counted backward from ten to bring his breathing under control. Christian knew that exploding in any way would shut this meeting down quicker than a virgin’s knees in a frat house. He willed his brother to stay quiet so they could work this out later. No such luck.
“This is bullshit! Fucking bullshit!” And he’s off. Elliot leaped to his feet, storming around the office throwing his arms about. “It was one fucking mistake. I’m not some sort of addict. How the hell can they do this?”
Christian and Carrick both watched in silence; Carrick with disgust, Christian with resignation. Elliot had his demons and addiction was only one of them. They both knew that he would run out of steam eventually. The question was what would happen then?
“I think you better calm down, son.” Carrick glanced at his watch. The bastard was already moving on to his next meeting. Christian tried not to hate anyone as a rule but his father had a habit of making it to the top of his shitlist on a regular basis. Carrick Grey ruled his world with an iron fist. Unfortunately, for his children, this impacted them in two ways. First, Carrick’s world extended to the highest echelons of the entertainment industry across the United States, which meant for pop icon, Elliot and newly minted celebrity chef, Mia, their sister, they would forever be known as Carrick Grey’s children first and foremost. The second, was that Carrick had no time for nepotism where his children were concerned. That was why Mia had moved to another country to pursue her dream and why Christian, who at 28 with his sterling Harvard credentials and impeccable legal bloodlines that should have made him at least a junior partner, was still little more than a glorified clerk as an associate in the family firm. It was also why his older brother had just had his contractual balls cut off and his father would do nothing to assist. If Christian didn’t know better he might have thought that his father had engineered it this way.
“Why the hell should I calm down, Dad? I’ve just lost my career, my income and it wasn’t my fault.” Elliot was working himself up and heading across the room to stick a finger in their father’s chest. Things were going to get messy. Christian held himself back but was ready to move in if needed. “And you! You won’t lift a finger to stop it! You’re meant to be on my side! You’re meant to represent me!”
There was a pause where Carrick merely leveled Elliot with a glare that stopped him in his tracks. “Don’t point your finger at me. Remember, I represent Jack, too.”
“Oh, God, how could I ever forget… Dad. Jackie boy is your cash cow, isn’t he? Your little golden goose just shitting out those golden eggs.”
“Jack didn’t screw up the contract, Elliot.”
“Jack is a no talent pussy parasite and when the record company realizes that they will be begging me to come back. And I will tell you and them to go get fucked!”
“This meeting is over.” Carrick looked at Christian as he said this. The signal that Christian had to clean up Elliot’s shit and get him out of his father’s sight before World War 3 truly erupted. He would have loved for a moment to not be the one that had to do this but it had always been this way. With a sigh Christian moved forward and grabbed his brother’s shoulder. Elliot shrugged him off.
“Don’t fucking touch me, Christian.”
“Bro, come on.” Christian tried to grab him again. Elliot backed away from his father with a sneer. Finally he seemed to get that there was no more to be said and turned pushing Christian away from his body as he staggered to the door. Christian wondered what Elliot had taken today.
“I don’t need his fucking help.” Elliot mumbled as he swayed toward the door.
Ana stood in the back of the room watching her sister finish her set. She was trying to gauge the audience response but it didn’t look too hopeful. A room like this was just a little bit small for what Kate had to offer the world. Sure enough the restaurant manager was making his way over to her before the applause ended.
“Ana, this isn’t going to work out. She’s far too loud again. I’m losing patrons.” Ana wanted to point out how dead the restaurant was, how the food was too smothered in garlic and oil and the drinks were priced too high but she knew she would be on a hiding to nothing. Better to smile and try to keep the client happy.
“She was responding to the audience, Mac. I’m sorry, I’ll have a word with her but she gets a little in the moment, you know, and I can’t very well walk up on stage and turn down her amp in the middle of a performance.” Not without getting her tits ripped off.
“If you don’t, I will. People can’t hear themselves talk.” Good, Mac could lose his tits. Ana rolled her eyes in her mind while keeping a smile on her face. They couldn’t afford to lose this gig.
“I’ll deal with it. Just, please, let her finish the next set. If the place empties out before the end we’ll cut our losses and not darken your doorstep again.” Mac hurrumphed and moved back through the tables toward the kitchen as Kate arrived at her side.
“What was that about?”
“The old curmudgeon wants to be able to hear his eggs sizzle. Says you’re destroying the ambiance of his deep fryer.” Ana watched as the door of the restaurant opened and two of the most gorgeous guys she had ever had the pleasure to observe walked in. The tall unkempt blond had that Kurt Cobain vibe to him, troubled and dangerous, which made her shiver. By the looks of him, he could be on the same path to self-destruction as Kurt, which on the surface seemed like a colossal waste. The dark-haired God next to him in the Armani suit looked like he owned the place. The waitress was trying to get them to take a table in the most populated zone near the front of the restaurant, probably hoping to keep the place looking full if someone happened to glance in the window. Armani shook his head and pointed to a table over near where they were standing in the back of the room before grabbing Cobain’s arm and hustling him through the room. Ana turned back to her sister.
“Look, we need this place. I know it irks but let’s keep it down for the next set and see if we can untwist Mac’s knickers.” Kate nodded before throwing back the rest of her bottle water. “You need another one?”
“Yeah, my throat’s killing.” Ana nodded and moved off to the bar while Kate walked back up to the small stage and grabbed her guitar to re-tune it before the next set. The sisters moved with complete grace and ease drawing the eyes of the males in the room. A few wives’ and girlfriends’ hands slapped out to stop the staring but it couldn’t be helped. The Steele sisters were quite simply stunning. Kate, a tall leggy strawberry blond with a voice that simultaneously soothed and stimulated nerve-endings, had the type of personality that people adored and hated. She was intelligently effervescent but incredibly insecure about her talent. Musically, she was driven, a perfectionist and that was both her blessing and her curse. Ana, not quite as tall as her sister but just as perfectly formed, had long dark hair and intense blue eyes that penetrated souls. She could also take down an over-enthusiastic drunk in a bar with her bare hands and was a ruthless business woman when it came to the interests of her talented sister. Christian hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her since they arrived.
“Lelliot, have you taken any shit today?” He tried to turn his attention back to his brother but the dark haired girl was like a magnet for his eyes.
“Me? No, bro. I told you, I’m done with that.” Pigs would fly. Elliot tried to look hurt by the accusation but his eyes couldn’t quite focus. They worked enough for him to know that his brother didn’t believe a word of his bullshit. He stared down into the beer that the waitress had just delivered and drew a deep breath. “One joint. That’s all. I promise.”
Christian made sure he was looking in Elliot’s bloodshot eyes. He could always tell when his brother was lying and even through a drug induced haze Elliot knew it. Elliot glanced over at the blond as she strummed the strings of her guitar. Fuck, she was like a goddess with a lute. He was sure she was glowing and shit.
“Did you catch the pussy, bro? Man, what I wouldn’t give to tap that.” Christian sighed inside. Elliot Grey, ever the charmer.
“Yeah, and if you could get it up maybe she would give you chance.” Christian lifted his glass to his mouth but stopped when the brunette at the bar looked directly at him. The breath left his body for a moment and when the oxygen finally returned he got himself together enough to raise his glass to her. She nodded before unscrewing the lid of the water bottle in her hand and gliding up to the stage.
“Good one, bro. You’re a regular Robin Williams with that quick fire wit of yours.” If this was the best come back that Elliot had to offer the weed must have been Grade A. Christian called over the waitress and they placed orders for some greasy shit that would attack in his stomach and clog his arteries but he hoped it might sober up his brother enough to pay attention for a moment. Elliot leaned on the table with one elbow running his fingers through his hair with a sigh.
“I fucked up royally this time.”
“Yep. You did.” Elliot paused and glared at him.
“Candy coat that shit, why don’t ya.”
“What do you want me to say, Elliot? You were caught with a bag of coke and an underage hooker.”
“I was set up and she already testified that I didn’t do anything.”
“Only cos you were too wasted.” As the words left his mouth he knew he shouldn’t have said it. Lucky for Elliot the charges had been dropped but the media had had a field day and even Grey and Winston Associates hadn’t been able to bury it.
“You asshole. You’re meant to be on my side. She said she was paid to be there for the photos. And you know I don’t do coke. Pot, pills occasionally and booze but never anything hard.”
Christian sighed. “Look, Elliot, I am on your side but since you never seem to know what is in the weed or the pills don’t you think that ‘hard’ is a relative term?” It was like dealing with a five year old. All talent and no responsibility. “Why do you take it, anyway? You haven’t written anything decent in months.”
“Thanks, dude. So ‘You’re My Everything’ is crap, huh?” Even Elliot couldn’t keep that line of reasoning up. Yes, the song had shot to number one on the back of the previous three hits from the first album that Awaken had released. It was also being sung all over the world by teeny boppers who couldn’t be more than eleven years old and it was not a patch on the music that Elliot used to write in college. They both knew it. He swallowed. “Fuck, I hate that shit.”
“So why do you do it?” They’d had this discussion before and got nowhere. The reason was Jack. The reason was the shit sold. The reason was that selling his soul for fame and fortune had eventually sucked the life out of him. The booze, the drugs and the whores that posed as fans were anesthesia against success. And success was killing him, one number one hit at a time.
“You don’t need Jack.” Elliot looked up at Christian with bleary eyes and a look that said ‘eat shit and die’.
“Think you got that wrong, dude. Seems that Jack doesn’t need me.” Now he was going to get fucking morose.
“He doesn’t have an ounce of the talent you have.”
“Doesn’t matter. He’s the one they pay to see. He smiles at those chicks and the undies fall off them.”
“And when they realize that he can’t write a song worth wiping your ass with?”
“They won’t care. You know the record company can pay for the songs. Jack is the face and the body. He’s the one they all want to take home to their Mama’s so they can all screw him or take care of him or whatever shit these chicks are into.” The thought of Jack tied up in the basement of some rabid fan’s house had some appeal.
“He’s also as camp as row of frilly tents.” When Jack Hyde had come leaping out of the closet after the third hit, the record company execs had gone into melt down. It was meant to be a disaster of epic proportions as the collective hearts of a billion underage fans and their mothers shattered. Instead it was the PR coup of the century. He was compared to George Michael as the fans took him into their collective bosoms.
“They don’t care. They all think they can ‘turn’ him.” Elliot’s air quotes hovered precariously over the table before his arms crashed down making the cutlery rattle and the other patrons stare.
Chords from the guitar cut over the top of the clatter causing them both to sit back and take another sip of their drinks. The food arrived with the music and they poised to raise their cholesterol when Kate’s voice stopped them in their tracks.
“Holy crap!” Elliot sat back in his seat again, instantly sober as he watched the angel on the stage work her way through her set. No more than three or four mouthfuls of food made it past his lips and that was only because Christian was prodding him in the arm every few minutes to remind him to eat. Clapping and eating eventually became too much for him and all he could do was watch.
“Dude, you’re drooling.” Christian leaned over to talk in his ear but Elliot raised both hands and shushed him before turning his attention back to the stage. Christian shrugged. “I’m going to the can.”
Christian stood up and moved away from the table towards the bathroom exit. When he was out of Elliot’s sight line he doubled back to the bar where the brunette was leaning, bottle of water in hand. Fuck, she was gorgeous and his body tightened more as he approached her. She didn’t turn to acknowledge him so he stood one foot up on the rail and inhaled her vanilla scent. Spontaneous ejaculation would not be a good look right now so he signaled to the bartender for a beer willing his cock to stand down.
“Is he watching her?” Ana kept her eyes focused on her sister, not daring to look right or left. So much of what happened next depended on Elliot Grey’s reaction. She had recognized him instantly when he walked in and although every bone in her body was resistant to letting the Nirvana-wannabe near her sister she knew an opportunity when it kicked her in the head.
“Yeah. Just like I said. He only needed to hear her once and we’d know.” Christian straightened up and turned back to face the stage mirroring her stance. “He hasn’t closed his mouth for the past twenty minutes.”
“And you think you can get him to talk with her?” Christian looked over to where his brother was adjusting his pants. Yep, his brother had a hard on for the chick brought on by a sixth sense for the next big thing.
“I don’t think I could stop him.”
“If he touches her with any of his shit I will burst his nutsack and send his balls to you in your next Chinese take out. Capiche?”
“I don’t eat shit food.” And you’re mixing your cultural metaphors.
“You’re here.” Touche.
“This is business.”
“And that explains the first time, how?” She turned her head and looked directly at him. This wasn’t a topic for explaining. This was a topic for laying down and avoiding.
“Fair point, well made, Miss Steele.” Christian raised his glass in salute and went to turn back to his table. Her voice stopped him.
“Mr Grey. I mean it.” He turned back tilting his head; a silent question. She smiled but her eyes were hard, blue, shiny metal. “The shit? The nutsack? And when I finish with his, I will start on yours.”
He chuckled. The chick had spunk. “I’ll look forward to it, Miss Steele.”
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