At the end of Bitter Wynter’s two-month dry stretch, the entire team was on edge. Every time the phone rang at rehearsal or Heavy Metal Thunder, the girls would literally jump out of their skins. However, since so much time had passed, they had practically given up. Not only was the stress of their possible deal wearing down each girl, Perion had much more pouncing upon her heart and head.
All Perion could think about was Lein. She hadn’t seen him in over two months, even at the strip club. Whenever Ronnie came into Heavy Metal Thunder or rehearsal, Perion would ache to ask him about Lein, but she dared not. She remained focused on her band, and their music. She became a workaholic and virtually ignored Blaine. Of course, Blaine didn’t seem to mind. He was content as long as the money kept pouring in. Blaine also stupidly thought that his marriage to Perion was the ultimate safety net. He thought his investment was safe from Lein’s hands.
Meanwhile, Ronnie guided the band through the process of hiring a temporary [and cheap] lawyer to help them work through the legal red tape of record deals. Even though the girls had given up on a record deal, Ronnie had not. He knew it was just a matter of time.
Axton Hamilton, an A & R exec from Drywall International, was Bitter Wynter’s first nibble. As the girls rehearsed new material at Heavy Metal Thunder, a tall young man with flowing black hair approached Ronnie. He looked vaguely familiar to Ronnie, but he couldn’t place where he’d met him.
“Excuse me,” the man said with a clipped British accent. “I’m Axton Hamilton.”
Ronnie was about to spit out a bored ‘so what’ until the name finally rang a bell. This guy had been one of the dudes he’d harassed two months earlier. Ronnie was suddenly interested. “Yeah, I remember you.”
“Good. I understand your brother is the band’s manager?”
“Uh, yeah, he is. I’ve been filling in for him. He’s been in the studio recording vocal tracks for our band,” Ronnie explained, telling a partial truth.
“I’d like to discuss business, but I don’t want to go about that ’til Lein is around. Would you mind fetching him?”
“Not at all. Why don’t we meet back here in an hour,” Ronnie blurt out.
“All right. While I’m waiting, I’ll have a seat and listen to the band.”
When Ronnie returned with Lein, Axton Hamilton had a friend with him. It was another exec the brothers knew well. Saturn Records had sent down its own scout. By that time, Bitter Wynter had finished rehearsing their new material and had joined the crowd as well. Dazedly and incredibly happy for the girls, Lein took back his managerial reins and set up appointments with each exec for the same day.
That night, Bitter Wynter rocked the crowd two hours without a break. They seemed to have had four times the enthusiasm they had two months earlier. Lein appeared at rehearsal the next day and told the girls what they should expect and when they would be advised to settle. He didn’t look at Perion once. In fact, he talked all around her without talking directly to her the entire time he was present. What worsened his presence for Perion was the fact that he had not arrived alone.
A rail thin big-breasted woman with a shocking mane of chestnut hair had escorted Lein. Lein introduced her as Estella. Perion didn’t care about the woman’s name at all. What she cared about was how beautiful she was, and how good she looked with Lein. Perion vaguely wondered if he’d slept with her. Jealousy raged through her like an out of control fire. But she knew she had no right to feel that way. He was not hers, nor was she his. It didn’t matter that she had slept with Lein first. She was married to Blaine. That fact should have brought an end to any attraction, lust, or whatever she felt for Lein. But it hadn’t. It was there, building, boiling, and threatening to spill over.