Vic let me bow out of yet another brown-nosing lunch with a room full of investors looking for a payout on the next big star. The only reason he let me out of it was to let me work with the wonder-kid herself.
Carissa Travers was a teeny bop sensation on all the teen channels. Her squeaky-clean image only went as far as lining her pocket, and she soon formed a band and did a total transformation to diva slut territory. Barely over legal age now her reputation lately sent all the tween mothers out to protest her upcoming debut, touting her as a bad influence. It seemed she wanted the publicity all along. The controversy already put a buzz on the album that would make it a hit regardless if she could actually sing or not. Lucky for her, she had the pipes but now it was up to me to make her into something that would last longer than a one-hit-wonder.
Her songs were written by a ghostwriter and had an edge to them. We recorded all of them except for the one I knew would shoot her to stardom. Her epic tale. The song all the girls would love as it talked about the throes of passion and the agony of loving someone who deserved a kick in the balls for causing so much pain. Teen angst to the nth degree. The girls would love the song, and the way Carissa looked the men would probably mute the TV and masturbate to her on screen. Win-win all around.
The guys in the control room with me groaned again as she couldn’t seem to hit her mark. The song was made for someone with incredible vocal range and I knew she had it. Maybe singing the same song over and over again was the problem but I couldn’t give up yet. This was the last song of the album and I just wanted it over with so I didn’t need to deal with the prissy little bitch any longer. It wasn’t easy being in the sound room for days on end singing the same song until you couldn’t remember why you liked it anymore. My understanding dealt more with being on the other end so I could commiserate with her and needed to remember that now I was one of the pricks in the booth, unable to give up until I was satisfied. I wouldn’t give up until it was perfect though. She might need this for her stardom but I needed this for a hefty paycheck. One to help me climb out of the mess I made over the years.
If she went platinum, I stood to make enough of a bonus to get me back on top. Busy helping Bonnie with paying off the money owed on mom’s old house as well as paying back Tabitha and her greedy husband, I neglected the debt I owed on my own house. Surprised I hadn’t lost it yet, I refused to let it go to collections. It was the first thing I bought to make me feel like I made it to the top and I wouldn’t let it go without a fight. It barely had any furniture and it desperately needed a remodel from the beer-soaked carpeting to the vomit stained walls but it was still mine. This album would give me the funds I needed to get back what I was so stupid to lose over the years.
“Fuck Carissa! What the hell? You need a nap or something?” She stopped at my voice knowing what she already recorded sounded like shit and knowing I would make her sing it once again.
She took off her headset and threw it at the window separating us. “Fuck you JJ. You’ve been making me sing this shit since this morning. Why are you busting my balls? It sounds fine from in here and you know damn well that it isn’t going to sound the same when I go out on tour anyway.” A fire smoldered in her eyes but it was just a slow ember. If I could get the real heat to surface, I knew I would be able to feel it in her music. The whole world would and it would give it the extra spark I was looking for.
“You won’t be going on tour unless you get this song right. Everyone take a break. Carissa, I want you in here for a talk.” At least her stepfather didn’t join us today. Even if he had tagged along, it wouldn’t be enough to make me sugarcoat anything I said to her. She wanted to be the rock goddess and live the life, then she needed to hold her own.
As the guys left the control room to smoke or get coffee, Carissa sauntered in acting as if she didn’t give a shit. Or maybe she was trying to piss me off and get out of singing the rest of the day as she had tried in the past. Being in the studio was hard, but being a bitch wouldn’t make it any easier, and the sooner she learned the rules of music the better. This industry will eat you alive and if she couldn’t stand up for herself she would succumb to the people who would just use her and spit her out when the money train left the station.
“Oh c’mon, JJ. It really wasn’t bad.” She had a sing-song quality to her voice, such a change from a few seconds ago it made me smell a rat.
Staring at her hard, I mentioned “Carissa do you want to finish this now or come back tomorrow? Your voice is starting to turn into shit.”
“My voice is fine. Besides, I can’t come in tomorrow. I have my photoshoot.” The shoot she referred to was her premiere in a titty magazine. Her push to be extricated from the lollipop image and thrust into the adult skank persona.
“And here I thought you were a serious musician. You want to glitterize your cunt and play runway whore, be my guest but until we are through with this album, you are mine.” Her eyes flared for just a second and I saw the passion I needed to finish this song. It was there and I wanted to draw it out of her. Not only did I want to be free of the bitchy little diva herself, but I wanted this album to work. This was the first full album I produced for the label that was my own venture. Vic gave me full reign and I wanted it to succeed more for myself than even for Carissa.
Her eyes went back to their dull appearance just as fast before an indulgent smile crossed her face. I knew that smile. She used it to get her way. Carissa was the epitome of what the music industry sought to sell the image of seduction. Not too short, not too tall, and supremely skinny. In fact too skinny. She probably skirted on the border of one hundred and I never saw her eat. As an anorexic, she would blend in with most of the singers in this industry. She knew it and liked to flaunt it.
Her long blonde hair went down to her barely-there ass. She had huge cerulean eyes that still showed the little girl inside her. That vulnerability would never be taken out of her. She never had a childhood and it looked as though her adulthood was also spoken for. Her olive-green cargo pants hung low enough to graze her pubic hair should she have had any, which I doubted. The white top she wore displayed most of her midriff and the neckline dipped down to show off her bountiful cleavage. The area around her cleavage and midriff showed her ribs under her skin. Although she proudly flaunted it I could only feel sad for her. Most men in fact would cringe at the waste of a beautiful woman. There wasn’t an ounce of fat or modesty on her which was a shame. I thought she would do good as a musician, but she didn’t trust herself. What would happen to this kid when the looks of youth started to fade?
Carissa cozied up to me and placed her hand on my chest while smiling a truly decadent smile. Her full lips came up in a sexy sneer, and she batted her eyelashes at me before speaking, “There has to be one of those recordings that are good enough.” Her proximity and her lack of clothing as well as the way her erect nipples scraped against my body had an effect on me even though it shouldn’t. I didn’t know if my erection was from not letting anyone get this close to me or the fact I hadn’t had sex in forever. Sex for me in the past was just what it was: sex. A way of showing my mark on stardom. The more the girls wanted me, the more I felt I made it. Being picky or pushing the limits with women, especially young impressionable girls, was a way of saying I made it in a truly cut-throat business. That was until I was tested to be an organ donor for an illegitimate son and finding out that given some time my dick could have fallen off.
Sexually transmitted disease. At least it was chlamydia, a curable one with antibiotics most of the time but I still had played with fire. It could have been worse, a lot worse and it was just another fucked up event that opened my eyes. There were worse STDs out there and I wasn’t as meticulous or good about protection when I was fucked up on heroin. I should count my lucky stars it wasn’t something incurable, so I wouldn’t be able to help Jaeger if he should need it. I was even back to my regimen of STD testing every three months although my dick has only seen my hand since my sobriety.
“No Carissa, every one of your sound bites is shit and you know it. You aren’t getting the low notes right and the scream towards the end is pathetic. If I need to, I will keep you throughout the night and give you some wicked bags under your eyes for your photoshoot tomorrow. Don’t worry they can doctor that shit up nowadays anyway.”
She contemplated my words trying to figure out if I was serious and when I didn’t shift my eyes away she continued with her strategy. “I heard about you.” Her hand moved up and down my chest, and she talked to me in a low sultry voice, “I’ll tell you what. If you find one you can piece together so I can get out of here I will leave with you and we can have some fun.” She snaked her hand down my chest and headed towards my enlarging cock. I held my breath bidding my time as she continued her quest. “I hear you like the girls that are young.” Her voice got to just above a whisper and rustled the hair around my ears as she spoke while pushing her sizable breasts in my chest. “Besides, I’ll let you put it in any hole you want.” I swallowed as her hand found my dick and rubbed it.
There would have been a time she would have held my interests but that time had come and gone. Rich daddy’s girls taunted me in high school and there was a point I made it my life mission to give back to them what they did to me and all other awkward, piss poor teenage boys they would rather step on than treat as human. I enjoyed getting them backstage and pushing them. And they would do it. If they regretted it after? So be it. Yes, I could be an asshole but rich bitches who thought they ruled the world deserved to be taken down a notch too.
My body betrayed me as my cock pushed up against her firm caress. Although she thought she won, I only found her attempt sad. She didn’t know who she was dealing with. I wrote the book on being an asshole. How many girls have played an adult woman without knowing the difference between the two?
“Carissa, if I fucked you I would break you in half. Why don’t you go eat a sandwich or something? You’re so fucking malnourished you don’t have enough fucking energy to sing. Or maybe you don’t have the drive. Either way, you better get your shit together and stop wasting my time.” Her eyes widen and her nostrils flared as she pushed away from me shocked I wouldn’t take her up on her offer even though it was painfully evident that I could.
Firing back at me she screamed out her response, “What? You don’t think I see you watch me. They all watch me. What good is a voice when all the guys want to do is fuck me? You are the worst. I see you watching my tits when I sing.” She was right but not exactly what I was thinking when I noticed them. She couldn’t even weigh a hundred pounds and her tits were too big and too perky to be natural.
“Who bought you your tits, Carissa?”
She only smiled and held them up higher, squeezing them together. “I knew you liked them. They were a gift for my sixteenth birthday from my mother and stepfather.” So, her creepy stepdad bought them for her? At least it made me seem a little closer to father of the year since I wouldn’t buy my daughter tits as a present. Although she said it for me to be impressed I could only feel sad for her.
“Really, how long has your stepfather been whoring you around?” Her hand flew up off her tits long enough for her to slap me. I saw it coming and prevented it easily enough. The fact she had very little strength shocked even me.
“Fuck you, Grandpa! You’re a dick!” She pulled her arm away from me and I let it go trying to prevent her from flying back and knocking herself out before I could finish the fucking record.
“I prefer the term asshole and yes I am trying to get through to you. You are going out on tour after this. Touring is hard. Long hours and little sleep. You won’t make it. You won’t make it as a sex symbol or a singer if you keep up with this shit. Take my advice. Cancel your photoshoot and go into some type of fucking food rehab before you fizzle out and die. Stop letting your mother and stepfather rule your life and for Christ’s sake if you love music, prove it.” Her eyes lit up and this time the flames didn’t die as she bore down on me. “Now get your scrawny ass back in there and sing the fucking song already.” My voice boomed at her making her eyes go wild. She looked as though daggers would shoot out of them and stab me. Just what I was hoping for.
Carissa left in a huff as the guys shuffled back in looking at me like they knew something went down. I probably gave off a crazed vibe but it could only improve the situation. Storming into the sound booth she put on her headphones while still fuming at me. We both gave each other a death stare while I motioned for the guys to start the recording and watched as she poured every bit of rage and frustration into her song. Every note was spot on and when she screamed at the end I snarled at her taunting her into the perfect shriek that brought the hairs on my arms to stand up. I didn’t even notice the door to the control room open but when she took off her headset after completing the song and looked up at me with hate in her eyes, I finally noticed Vic standing to the side and tore my eyes away from her to tell the guys to wrap it up. Flipping on the intercom, I gave her the good news, “Songs done Carissa. You can go. I know you need to go home to glitterize.”
Her eyes kept the same fire in them as before. She twisted her mouth into a scowl as she responded, “Fuck you JJ. You are an asshole.” She threw her headset up at the glass separating us again but it didn’t even make me flinch knowing her tricks by now.
Victor came up experiencing her fury as she made it out of the booth. She flipped me the bird as she finally fled the room. “What was that all about?”
Smirking, I nodded to the guys keying up the song, “You have your platinum fucking album, Vic. You should be dick deep in money as soon as you let it out to the public.”
He studied my face before remarking, “You haven’t been dick deep in her, have you?”
I wasn’t surprised he asked. We worked together early on in my career when my dick was usually buried in one or two women every night. “Nope. I learned my lesson. Especially with that one. I am not going to shit where I eat.”
Seeing my fortitude he backed off. “Well good. The song sounded fantastic. We will be letting it out to coincide with her photoshoot.” He sighed and dropped his head, “I just wish she wasn’t going through with it though.”
I nodded my head in agreeance, “I told her not to. I don’t think she will listen to a word I say though.”
He slapped my back, “That is the other reason I wanted you working for me. God, these kids are screwed up. I can tell which ones will make it and which ones will die in a gutter before they are twenty-five. They need a mentor like you.”
I huffed and turned to him. “Vic, not one kid will glean any knowledge from what I went through. Each one looks at me as something they know they won’t turn out to be.”
He laughed, “Yeah, you are probably right. Too full of themselves to realize they will be lucky to turn out like you.” His honesty startled me. Did I luck out? I couldn’t tell for sure. I went from the top of the world to producing records for lollipop princesses. The lucky part being I was still alive and healthy making it through the industry in one piece, so I guess I couldn’t argue with that.
“I am glad you finished the album, I really had no doubt you wouldn’t push her to do her best. You have an ear for it and as much as you were needed here, I need you out to help with the investors too.” Hating the thought of doting on a bunch of overpaid music investors I backed away so he didn’t notice my repulsion. Unfortunately, the guy was a fucking mind reader, “I know you don’t want to. Hell, I don’t like to suck dick as much as the next guy but without their backing, we can’t maintain the cash flow to do the work we do. You are the golden monkey you know. My name is out there but you are the legend. Everyone wants to meet with you and know that you are producing the record. You need to get out there.”
Turning away I decided my work was done until tomorrow to do the final changes. “Vic, I can’t play their game. My mouth isn’t as couture as yours.”
He laughed, “No, I am pretty sure that it scares me what will come out of your mouth half the time but it isn’t as bad as you think. You can have the company card and take them anywhere. Just take them out and convince them you know what you are doing, and they will let us be for a while. Playing their game doesn’t have to be all bad. Play it and they will let you be.” I nodded as I escaped behind him out the door.
What Vic didn’t understand was that being with the music was helping, being out in the clubs with the women and alcohol wouldn’t help. It made me nervous. I was hellbent on curing my addictions this time, all of them, but didn’t know what the temptations would do. I could have very well fucked Carissa without batting an eye but what would that get me? Nowhere. I had an addictive personality and if I kept up with this bullshit I wouldn’t be any use to Jaeger. Time to get my shit together was a long ass time ago.
Ryder’s club popped into my mind. I haven’t talked to him since the funeral and aimed my car towards his establishment without knowing if he was even there but I needed to talk. I needed the help and for once, I would ask for it.
Being a Thursday night the club wasn’t even open yet but when I walked in and told them my name they brought me back to his office. Going over the books he looked up and smiled when I entered the room. His surprise met my relief when I realized he was genuinely happy to see me.
“JJ, what brings you here man? Your studio isn’t in the neighborhood.” I shook his extended hand and then took a seat when he motioned me over to a sitting area.
Easing down in the plush leather seat I went into my reason for coming. “Yeah but Victor is pushing me to ass lick the investors and I need a hole to do it in.”
His eyebrows raised in curiosity, “You want to use my club to fraternize with your investors?”
I nodded at him. “If that is all right with you.”
He looked me up and down and I could tell his next question before it left his mouth. “Are you drinking again?” Not even disturbed he would ask I gave a small shake of my head. We were friends but have been estranged for the last several months, so he wouldn’t know if I reverted to my old ways.
Looking him straight in the eyes, I answered, “No, that is why I want it to be here. I know that kissing up to these fucktards will include drinking. They may understand why I can’t, but they also may not. With it being here I can take that out of the equation. At least with your help.”
He calmed a bit with my confession and I couldn’t help but be grateful he believed me with just my word. “What type of help?”
“A secret stash of bottles each with something in it that resembles alcohol. Your bartenders would make a drink for me and I would pass it off as any other.”
Ryder’s face erupted into a smile, “You're serious.”
My own smile spread on my face, “Yeah. You know the game. I can play it if I must but I don’t want to stop my progress. I am done with all that shit. Booze, drugs, women.” With the proclamation of women, Ryder lifted his eyebrows in shock. “Yeah, women too. At least for a little while. Can’t fucking believe it, can you?” He laughed a loud hearty laugh and it brought me back to a happier time. When the band was starting out, and we worked and played like brothers. Yes, we fought and brawled but in the end, we were a band, a family.
“Holy fuck I never thought I would see the day JJ Harries would grow up. You were the oldest of us all but yet never acted it.”
“Fuck you. I am only two years older than your forty-two.”
“Yeah, but acted all of sixteen for the last twenty years.”
He kidded me and it felt good to laugh with him even if it was at my expense. “Well, I got a reason to now I guess.”
Ryder stopped laughing and looked at me with a knowledge. “He is doing good you know. He is such a good kid.” I didn’t want to hear it. I would never be a father to him and didn’t want him to even know I existed. Even if I would stay sober for the rest of my life, I would never be father material.
“He is not my kid. Not now or ever. But I am glad he is feeling better.” I averted his concerned look and changed the subject. “How is the new album coming?”
His look of shock turned into one of guilt. Being in the industry I heard things. People would even tell me on purpose hoping to get a rise out of me. I couldn’t be mad though. I was the one to fuck it up.
“Well, you know how it is. Takes a long fucking time to get it right.” He sighed, “It isn’t the same without your smug ass on the guitar either.”
I smiled a little, appreciative of the sentiment. “I heard you have Deacon Junius on guitar. He is good.”
Ryder nodded, “Yeah, he is great. He isn’t you though. The album might do good if it ever sees the light of day that is.”
“Why would they shelf it?”
“Why would they put it out? Our flame has died. We aren’t the money makers we once were.”
I shook my head at the unthinkable. There was a time any record company would have sold their left arm to put us under contract. “I could help. My record company--”
He stopped me, “Brandt would never let that happen.” He was right. I burned my bridge with him while going through my own personal hell. If only I could take that back, but it seemed the story of my life.
We sat in silence for a little while. Neither one of us wanting to end the conversation but not knowing where to take it from here. I asked about the business and his expansion to Miami for the next club. We coordinated with the bartenders and wait staff on how my business meetings would go down and the importance of me not having alcohol. We talked about investors and about playing the game. The only thing we didn’t talk about was Quade. Speaking about taking things back. Well, he was the one I regretted hurting the most and I would never be able to look him in the eye again knowing I cost him his son.
Quade was the male version of Chelsea. Always the good guy. Any shit he did with us was only because we cajoled him into doing it. He had a conscious before any of us did. He didn’t let the fame or fortune get to him like the rest of us. And he surely didn’t deserve me fucking his girlfriend and taking his son away from him. It made me happy to know Jaeger would never find out. It would only make things worse.
Leaving Ryder’s club, I felt a little better about my stance at the studio. Vic would be happy I would be pulling my own weight and I could finally show my worth in an industry who bit me more than I could ever bite back.