Lein sat out in the audience and nursed a beer. He waited patiently for the band to hit the stage again. He honestly wanted to help them. Not only was he attracted to the singer, but he was also attracted to the band as well. He really did think they had a unique sound, probably due to their ancient instruments. It was the only explanation. Their music was unlike anything he’d ever heard before.
The band came on stage once more and began to play, incredibly, as they had before. Lein tried hard to keep his mind open and his attention on the music being played, but it was no use. Time and time again, his eyes, mind, and heart were drawn to the blonde singer. He had never felt such a strong attraction to a girl before. He wanted her. He actually wanted her. There was no other way to put it.
Perion had a hard time of her own concentrating on the song she sang. She could see Lein looking at her intently, the look almost a gaze. It unsettled her highly. She had never imagined that Lein Blake would ever look at her in such a way, nor had she thought in a million years she’d end up stripping for him and his band mates or almost giving him a lap dance. She tried her damned best not to fuck up the words of the song.
When Bitter Wynter finished their second set, Lein’s mug of beer remained in front of him, totally untouched. He had been too blown away to drink a drop of it. He left the table and made his way backstage again. When he arrived, he had to look away for a moment. Perion’s boyfriend was in the room, and she was sitting on his skinny assed lap. Why am I feeling this way, he wondered, I don’t even know the girl, and here I am acting like a jealous husband or something. I have no right to act like this, no damned right at all. Yet, somehow, he felt he did. It was something primal, something he couldn’t control.
Perion absolutely could not look at him. She had never been face to face with anyone who had seen her act at the other club. The fact of who it was from the club was worse enough. It was somewhat ironic, really. For years, she’d been a fan of Hard Axe and Lein. When she’d finally met the guy, he ended up being a fan of hers, a fan of her stripping. Even though it was the wrong way she had wanted to gain him as a fan, it felt great knowing he was.
Randi pitched a cigarette butt on the floor and stomped it out. “So, what did you think of that one?”
Everyone in the room mentally thanked Randi, the group’s resident loud mouth. If anyone could be counted on to break the ice, it was she.
Lein’s jealous reverie broke at the question. “The same thing I thought when I first heard you,” he answered smiling, “I can’t believe you guys are still playing here.”
Blaine, who thought ‘here’ was as good a place as any, was instantly offended. “What’s wrong with this joint? It’s given them a regular job,” he said.
Lein turned his attention toward the guy. “I didn’t mean to imply that anything was wrong with the club, but I think they ought to be in bigger clubs. They would probably knock down Heavy Metal Thunder, and could do it with the right manager.”
Blaine, again, took offense. ”I’m their manager.”
“They need someone who knows the business, who can work their way around the circuit, somebody who has been there.”
Like you, motherfucker, right? Blaine thought to himself. He knew what Lein’s angle was. He was trying to take the band over, out of his grasp. Not only that, but he was also definitely moving in on his girl. It was subtle, but happening before his very eyes. He didn’t know why Perion couldn’t see it.
“Are you suggesting yourself,” Debi asked.
Lein glanced at the tall bass player. “Yeah, I guess, in a roundabout way. I think I could get you out of here and into other clubs in no time. Of course, I could only do it until my band hits the road. But I think you’re going to be signing a recording contract before that even happens.”
Perion felt the urge to defend Blaine, even though she didn’t want to interact with Lein at all. “Blaine has done right by us. He got us the gig here. A year and a half ago, he helped us get a demo cut. No one wanted it; it still sits and rots. It’s not him. It’s this town. Nobody is interested in us, no one wants to hire a second rate metal band.”
Lein looked directly into Perion’s clear blue eyes. “You’re really underestimating yourself, and your band. You’re far from second rate. How many clubs have you been pushed to?”
“Dozens, nobody is interested,” she repeated. “I’ve been with Blaine on some of those so-called pushes, and I’ve heard the turn downs with my own ears.”
“Then obviously, your present manager isn’t pushing you to the right people. More exposure might have made your demo attractive to the companies around town, even the Indies. I mean no offense to you, man,” he said directly to Blaine. “None taken,” Blaine spat out, but his eyes said he’d taken plenty of offense. Another person had stepped on his turf. Like a guard dog, he wanted to show his fangs and protect what he perceived to be his territory. Almost jovially, Blaine said to Lein, “Okay, dude, I got a plan for ya.”
Lein stared intently at Blaine. He didn’t know what to expect from him. “I’m listening.”
“I’ll pass on my duties as manager to you if you can get them a gig at Heavy Metal Thunder,” he said, smirking his best smirk.
"Heavy Metal Thunder! Blaine, aren’t you shooting just a little too high,” Perion gasped.
He smiled at her. “No, not at all. If Lein’s so damned good, he can do it. Can’t you Lein,” he asked.
Lein knew as well as the adolescent punk in front of him that the talent coordinator at the club refused to hire new, relatively unknown bands. The only band David Cochran had hired like that had been Hard Axe. They had gotten that gig purely by accident. Cochran and his wife had been out partying at a club where Hard Axe was playing, and he had fallen in love, signing them to play that very night. But that didn’t happen often. Cochran normally wanted those bands that were on the eve of record deals. He would likely not want anything to do with Bitter Wynter. Yet, he felt he could do it. After all, Lein was now very friendly with Cochran. He might be able to persuade the man to at least blindly hear the girls play at Tranquility Lane.
“I’m up to it,” Lein said, taking Blaine’s unspoken challenge.
“Oh jeez, come on, you can’t be serious. I read somewhere that the guy who runs the shows won’t hire no-names. And we’re the biggest no-names in L.A.,” Perion voiced.
“Cochran hired a no-name before,” Lein told Perion, “I’m sure you’ve heard of Hard Axe?”
“Look, I know we’re good, but I hear he’s so picky.”
“Peri, I think he can do it, you know? I say go for it,” Randi said.
The other two members voiced the same opinion. Only Perion and Blaine remained unconvinced.
“Four against two, huh? I suppose I can agree to it, too, I’m already out numbered,” Perion said.
“Good luck, you’re gonna need it. You got your work cut out for you,” Blaine told Lein.
After leaving Tranquility Lane, Lein headed over to Ronnie’s apartment. Ronnie wasn’t surprised to see his brother, he visited often, but he didn’t expect him to still have been searching for the dancer known as Wild Innocence.
“Fuckin’ A, dude, you found her,” Ronnie spat out in surprise.
Lein couldn’t help but smile. “I found her, all right. I went to the club to see her act like I’ve been doing forever. And since forever, I went backstage to talk to her. But she wasn’t there. This dancer came up to me and told me where she and her band play. I checked ‘em out, and hell man, they’re smokin.’ You ought to go down with me sometime and give ’em a listen. Anyway, I actually got to talk to her, too.” Lein felt so adolescent that he almost searched his face for pimples. It was silly, funny, and serious all at the same time.
Ronnie didn’t seem to notice his brother’s adolescent tone. He laughed and said, “And you probably put the moves on her, didn’t you? Britta hasn’t been gone two weeks and you’ve already got another one in line. You’re crazy.”
“Well, that’s the bad part. She’s got a guy, a real punk, if I’ve ever seen a punk. They look kinda comfy, too. I don’t see the arrangement changing any time soon. But I didn’t go away totally disappointed. I’m going to talk to Cochran and see if he’ll give them a slot at ′Thunder.”
“Lee, your dick is thinkin’ for you, man. How in the hell do you think you’ll get them in at ′Thunder? The last no-name that got in was us, and that was a long shot fluke,” Ronnie said, telling Lein something he already knew.
He shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m going to try. I have to try. I don’t want to give her guy the satisfaction of seeing me fail.”
“You’ve got to stop thinkin’ with your dick,” he repeated, “how many times do I have to tell you that? You can’t get them a gig, no way. Are you really doing this for them or for the girl?”
“I don’t think my dick’s got much to do with it at this stage. I’m doing this for them first and foremost; I don’t think I have a shot with the girl. I told you. She and the punk are comfy, extremely comfy.”
“I know you, you’ll try and bust it up, won’t you?”
Lein shook his head. “No, I don’t want to cause any friction.”
Ronnie laughed. “Since when? Friction is your best sport.”
Lein was serious, deadly serious. “That would probably make her hate me, and I don’t want her to hate me.”
Ronnie was somewhat taken aback. He’d never heard his brother speak that way before. “You’re not gonna do anything about her,” he asked incredulously.
He shook his head again. “No, I’m not. Not until she’s ready.”