Since Lein Blake had elbowed his way into their lives, Blaine began to accompany Perion to The Rose Bush on a regular basis. He didn’t know when Lein would be around, but he wanted to catch him. Perion told him Lein had been at the club every night for weeks in the hopes of talking to her. That night, she wouldn’t be alone. Lein would not come anywhere near her, not if he had anything to do with it. It was no secret that Perion really dug Hard Axe’s music, and it would be very easy for Lein to move in and take something away from him that was rightfully his. Blaine was not willing to give over anything involving Perion and her band. He had too much invested interest.
Blaine didn’t go out into the audience and take a table. He waited in the wings, close to the backstage area so he could see if and when Lein showed up. He couldn’t see the man’s bleached blond head at first. He had begun to think that Lein would not bother coming. Just when Blaine was convinced that Lein would be a no-show, he came through the front door and stood in the back. Blaine smiled sardonically. He had almost left and if he had, he would’ve missed the bastard. No one would step on his turf, including a hotshot rock star.
Lein, automatically drawn to the club, sat down at a table in the back. He would spare Perion any further embarrassment. He shouldn’t have come at all, but he couldn’t resist. He was literally hooked; there was no doubt in his mind. A waitress came to his table to take his drink order, but he didn’t want anything. He wanted to keep his mind sharp and clear while Perion danced.
“I know what you’re here for,” a voice told Lein.
He looked up into the face of Perion’s boyfriend. “I’m here because I want to be, okay?”
Blaine smiled. “You’re here to do something you can’t, my friend. Why don’t you just get the fuck out of here?” Lein glared at the punk. “It’s a fucking free country. Besides, you don’t own her.”
“You don’t know what I own. I’m giving you some free advice, pal, leave her alone. She’s not interested. She’s taken. And don’t send her any more fucking roses. I want you out of this place, got it?”
Ah, he thought, that’s what happened to the roses. "Pal,” he mocked, “I’m not fucking going anywhere. Get out of my face, that’s my advice to you.” Tension hung in the air like a thick fog. Slowly, Lein stood. “So, what do you want to do,” Lein asked.
“I’m not afraid to force your ass out of here, you know.”
“And I’m not afraid to keep you from forcing my ass anywhere. What do you want to do,” he asked again.
Just when Blaine was about to throw a punch, a bouncer interrupted. “Come on guys, break it up. We’re here to have a good time, all right? Blaine, get your ass backstage. This guy’s a payin’ customer, you’re a freebie.”
Reluctantly, Blaine left Lein where he stood.
“Sorry about that asshole, Mr. Blake, have a beer on the house,” the bouncer told Lein.
“Yeah,” he said, suddenly needing a beer, “that sounds cool.”
Lein’s beer was brought to him while a dancer hit the stage. He took two long swallows from the mug before he lost his thirst for the beer. As he had taken his first drink, he saw Blaine standing in the depths of the backstage area, likely protecting what he saw as his territory. He wanted Blaine to go away, dissolve, make like a tree and leave, any cliché meaning ‘get the fuck out.’ But Blaine wasn’t getting the fuck out; he stayed right the fuck where he was.
Sonia approached Perion as she readied for her number. “You’re a popular lady here tonight.”
Perion’s brow furrowed. She was confused. “Oh? I am? Why do you say that?”
“Well, your boyfriend has been coming around when he never did before, and Lein Blake is in the audience again. Did you know Lein has been here all these times to see you?”
Perion hadn’t heard anything past ‘Lein Blake is in the audience again.’ What was he doing in the place again? He’d found her. He should have been satisfied. But then, it made her wonder why he had searched for her. You know why, her inner voice told her, he wants you, my friend, plain and simple. No, she told herself. It can’t be. What would he want with me? She was nothing special. Not only that, but she was also attached to Blaine. Although loving him was hard nearly all the time, she did love him. She was simply physically attracted to Lein, but only because he had been her idol for so damn long. He was there, right in the other room waiting to see her strip as he had done for no telling how long.
“I-I can’t go on,” she said suddenly.
Sonia looked at her in confusion. “What do you mean? You’ve danced in front of him countless times. Tonight is no different. He’s just a guy. Go on out there and knock ‘em dead. Make Lein Blake keep on coming back. I’d dump ol’ skinny and take Lein Blake in a second.”
Lein waited patiently, as he had done many times, for Perion to come on stage. When she finally did, the room went wild. The audience stood and literally roared for the blonde goddess. For that routine, she had come out dressed in a bright red business-type suit. Her hair was up and she wore a pair of glasses with false lenses. He couldn’t wait to see what she had on underneath.
He didn’t have to wait long. There was a red teddy underneath the suit. Oh God, she looked so beautiful, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Just once, he would love to touch, kiss, and taste the flesh she was about to uncover. Lein also wondered what it would be like to feel her long fingernails scraping down his back as he made love to her. His heart raced madly. An overwhelming feeling of desire swept through him, nearly strong enough to make him dizzy.
The feeling of euphoria quickly dwindled to nothing as he realized he would never have the girl dancing on stage. He could have bullshitted himself into believing he’d have a chance with her, but it was no use. She would never leave her current boyfriend. Lein didn’t know her at all, but he’d seen through her soul just by looking into her eyes. Her soul revealed to him that she would stick with somebody to the bitter end, even if that somebody were her punk boyfriend. He had to face reality. Perion Thorn would never be his. He would never have her. With that reality punching him bluntly in the stomach, Lein left the club while some of his ego could be salvaged.
When Lein arrived home, he called David Cochran to set up an appointment for the next day. He then dialed up Britta’s number and was glad to hear her voice on the other end of the line. He apologized to her and invited her to come over that very night. She agreed readily enough. With his life getting back to normal, he felt a lot better about the whole situation that had begun to build.
The next morning, Lein left Britta in bed while he made his appointment with David Cochran. Upon meeting him, Lein told him what he had in mind. The first word out of Cochran’s mouth was ‘no.’
“Come on, Dave, you have to hear them play,” Lein said.
“Lee, you know my policy about hiring unsolicited bands. I’ve never heard of Bitter Wynter, therefore, I’m not hiring them. I won’t hire them until I know who they are, or until their manager hits me up.”
“Dave, you hired us when you didn’t know who we were, remember?”
Cochran looked at Lein and smiled a little. “You’re never going to let me forget that one, are you?”
Lein smiled himself. “Nope.”
“I had nothing to do with your hiring, son, it was all my wife’s idea. I suppose I’ll be paying for that until I’m buried.” “So? What are you going to say? They’re a very hot band.”
“They’re females, right? Which girl have you got it for?”
Lein, startled at Cochran’s blunt question, almost blurt out, ‘the singer.’ Instead, he said, “That doesn’t have anything to do with it, they’re a good band,” he said, and meant it. “You ought to give them a chance, what do you say? If you don’t like them, I’ll never ask you to hear another band again.”
Lein felt as if he had just asked to borrow his dad’s car and promised not to wreck it. “Promise! Do it, okay?” “All right, I’ll go where they’re playing and listen. But I don’t want them to know I’m coming. I want to hear them raw, how they sound when they aren’t blatantly auditioning for a gig. Got it?”
Lein had a smile from ear to ear. “Got it.”
“They’d better do some serious ass kicking,” he warned.
“Oh, they will,” Lein said.
“If they do, and that’s a big if, I’ll call you at your place to come down so we can talk business. Since you’re soliciting for them, I’m assuming you’re their manager?”
Nope, but I feel I will be very damned soon, he wanted to blurt. He instead embellished the truth, “Yes, I am. I sort of found them by accident, actually, just night before last.”
“God Blake, you move fast. Okay, get your ugly ass out of here. Some of us have to go out and make a living the hard way,” he told Lein with good nature in his voice.
Lein smiled. “You’re not going to regret this.”
He moaned with exaggerated aggravation. “Oh hell, that’s what Francesca said when we were married.”
“But Dave, if you hadn’t married Frankie, you never would have discovered us,” Lein said. David Cochran was in his pocket now, and they both knew it.
Again, another exaggerated moan. “Don’t remind me.”