The club was Regency, and it held approximately eight hundred people, twice the capacity of Tranquility Lane. The girls were backstage, nervous as kittens, while Lein remained out in the crowd, warming them up. The girls believed the crowd was so enthusiastic because Lein Blake had decided to show up, not because of them. Each girl fiddled nervously with something. Randi drummed her sticks on a table, Syndi kept checking and rechecking her strings, Debi twisted her hair around her fingers, and Perion paced.
Blaine sat and watched Perion walk from one end of the room to the other. “Peri, why don’t you sit down, you’re making me nervous,” Blaine said.
She shook her head and kept walking. “I can’t stop, if I stop, I’ll go nuts. Man. I hate waiting for a show to start. Jesus Christ,” she spat out, “let’s go!”
At that point, Lein appeared with his brother and a leggy blonde in tow. He introduced Ronnie and Britta to the small crowd. Ronnie took an automatic interest in Debi and approached her.
“You’ve got about ten minutes before show time. I think the crowd is ready,” Lein told them.
“I just hope they like us,” Perion said, finally standing still for the first time since they arrived.
Lein smiled. “Why wouldn’t they?”
“No,” she said, “why should they?”
“Such a pessimist. You’re worried for nothing,” he told her, “trust me. They’ll love you.”
A few minutes later, Lein dragged Ronnie away from Debi, and the trio left the backstage area to find their table.
Once seated, Britta turned to Lein. “Does that girl have a thing for you,” she asked.
Lein looked at Britta for a moment. “Huh? What girl? Who are you talking about?” He had asked the questions stupidly, he knew damn well which girl to whom Britta referred.
“Oh, I think you know,” she said, picking up on his thoughts immediately, “the girl with the funny name, I think you said she was the singer of that band.”
She nodded. “Yes, Perion. I think she has a bad case of the hots for you.”
“Please Britta, she’s engaged to that guy who was in there with her,” he said, and wished desperately for a subject change.
“It seems not to matter to her. I’ve seen that look before, hell, I’ve had it myself. She’s really got a case for you.”
Ronnie looked at Britta, then at Lein. Lein looked back at Ronnie and shrugged secretly. Ronnie smiled behind his hand. He knew if Perion gave Lein one ounce of encouragement, Britta would be dropped like a pair of jeans in the back seat.
The show began with a heavy, hard driving song. Perion’s high-pitched, throaty voice swelled in the room and shook the walls. The music backing her shook the walls even more.
Ronnie smiled and nodded, thinking: yeah, they’ve got it.
Lein wasn’t paying attention to anything except the audience’s response. They were wild, screaming, cheering, and raising more hell than any audience ever had. Lein couldn’t have been more pleased or happy for them. Bitter Wynter was a hit. Heavy Metal Thunder was like icing on the cake for them. After playing ′Thunder, they absolutely had to put together a demo. Lein was sure they could get a contract.
After the set ended, Lein went backstage with Britta and Ronnie. He literally beamed. There were many people trying to get backstage to meet the band and that made Lein beam even more.
“You were excellent,” Lein told the dazed young women.
“I think we can do Heavy Metal Thunder in our sleep now,” Syndi boasted.
Lein smiled. “You probably can.”
The room crowded with people anxious to talk to the band. Lein singled out Perion. “See. I told you they’d love you.”
She blushed a little. “I’m glad they did. I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t.”
“Nonsense, Perion. I can’t wait to see what you guys will do to ′Thunder,” he told her.
“At least it’ll be easier.”
“You know, I’d really like to hear the story behind your band sometime,” he said. He wanted to say more, stay with her a little longer, but Britta approached, declaring she wanted to leave. Lein gave Perion one last look and said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
She simply nodded and walked away from him.
Britta took his hand. They walked away from the scene, and out of the club. They climbed into an awaiting limousine. “You know, I think you want her as much as she wants you,” Britta said, clearly out of the blue.
Her comment brought him out of a thoughtful silence. “What did you say?”
She smiled sardonically. “That confirmed what I just said. You’re interested in her, aren’t you?”
Could he lie? He could, but didn’t want to do that. “Yes, I guess I am,” he said quietly.
She kept her smile. “You guess? Oh, come on, you are. You’re not good at hiding what you’re really thinking or feeling, has anyone ever told you that? She wants you, too, I saw that plainly. The thing is, I don’t understand why you’re not doing anything about it.”
She wouldn’t allow him to finish. “I know. She’s engaged. So what? I don’t think she really wants to be. That’s what I got from her. I kept thinking to myself all night, God, I wish he would look at me like that. I wish anyone would look at me the way you looked at her tonight. I can’t compete with that, I couldn’t actually hope to. You ought to be sitting here with her, not me. You should either try to be with her if you want to be as much as it seems, or totally forget her.”
“It’s not like that at all,” he said, unconvincingly.
Britta laughed. “You can lie to yourself all you want, but you don’t have to lie to me. I know what I saw, and there was definite chemistry happening there. You should really do something about it.”
“I’m not going to intrude on her engagement. I’ve accepted that she’s taken, and I want to be with you,” he told her sincerely, he meant it.
“That sounds fine, but do you really believe it? I don’t want to be with a man who’s mentally with another woman, and that’s what is happening here. I’ll bet you haven’t stopped thinking about her since we left the club, have you?” His silence was answer enough. “See what I mean? You’re physically here with me, but mentally making love with her. Go get her, stop fooling yourself.”
Lein looked away from Britta and out the window. It wasn’t that easy, she didn’t understand that, his brother didn’t even understand. He could desire Perion all he wanted [which was exactly what he did], but if she didn’t want him for whatever reason she had [namely Blaine], then where was he? He was right where he started, nowhere, that’s where.
“I really don’t think you should call me again, not until you get her out of your system.” She laughed a little. “I mean, if you get her out of your system,” she told him.
Still, he didn’t look away from the window. “Yeah,” he said, almost sighing, “I agree. This isn’t fair to you at all. I’m sorry.”
The rest of the ride home was made in silence.