The girls, Blaine, and Lein, with Estella in tow, met Axton Hamilton in his Drywall International office. The instant they entered the room, Axton sat them down and spat out the specifics of the deal he wanted to offer: a short-term contract of one year with a promise of one album and an option to renew; a royalty of eleven percent of the suggested retail list price of each album sold; a six-figure advance; and an extra five-figure sum for recording costs and tour support. The figures swirled around in the girls’ heads. However, Lein seemed unaffected by the terms. He stood, thanked Hamilton kindly, and told him he’d get back to him.
After they left the office, Blaine literally exploded. “Blake, what the fuck were you doing in there? That sounded like a fucking sweet deal!”
Lein glared at Blaine. “Look, I’m the manager here, not you. I think Saturn can do better. If they don’t, we’ll come back, Drywall is just as hungry. Saturn will be hungrier, and Drywall won’t match Saturn’s terms, Drywall is smaller.”
“You’re purposely trying to get them signed to Saturn because your band is part of that whole fucking circus. Listen, I don’t intend for my wife’s band to be exploited so you can profit from your band’s own fucking record company.”
Lein lost any and all control he had. He approached Blaine and grabbed him by his shirt collar. The girls stood by in stunned silence. In fascinated awe, they waited for Lein to deck Blaine. “Goddamn it, Blaine, I’m not-”
"Stop it,” Perion yelled, interrupting Lein in mid-sentence. He immediately let Blaine go and stepped back. “Save this macho bullshit until we get this stuff worked out,” she told each of them calmly. “After this is done, you can kill each other for all I care. But right now, I want it cut out. Now, can we get out of here and go on to the other office?”
Without further argument, the group left Drywall International and made their way to Saturn. Once they got into the lobby of the multilevel building that served Saturn’s main business offices, Lein stopped. “I don’t want you to come up with us,” Lein told Blaine.
Blaine, of course, was highly offended by his request. “Oh? And why the hell not? I’m very involved with this band. After all, Peri’s my wife,” he said, rubbing it in for all it was worth.
Lein sighed. “Look, Blaine, this is between the band, me, and the contract people. I don’t want another scene like the one at Drywall. Your presence will only make everybody nervous, especially if you sit there and disagree with every decision I make with the band. We don’t need that. Besides, you don’t see my girl over there throwing a fit, do you?” Lein said, indicating Estella, who sat on a waiting room type couch leafing through a magazine.
Perion hated how ugly the whole deal had become. She wanted to scream and hide herself forever in the sand. “Blaine, really, I’ll tell you what’s going on.” Just don’t cause another scene or I’ll let Lein beat you senseless this time, she thought. It was a very important day for the band, and they didn’t need Blaine harassing Lein.
“Yeah, whatever.” He bent down and kissed Perion, a move that tore Lein up inside. “Knock ’em out.”
She smiled at him thinly, faking her content. “We always do.”
Blaine moved away from the small group and approached the reception area. He began leafing through his own magazine.
Lein looked at the girls, again avoiding a direct gaze with Perion. “Okay, this lady’s name is Julia Davies. She’s not a hard sell, but she ain’t no slouch, either. She can spot a faker a thousand miles away. If you’re scared, act on it. If you think she’s bullshitting you, call her bluff, although I don’t think she will. She’s a cool lady and I know she’s going to love you.”
The group of five stepped onto an elevator and Lein punched the floor button they needed. All the way up to their designated floor, Perion couldn’t help but wring her hands nervously. She desperately wished Blaine had come up with them. If he had, she would have had someone’s hand to clutch. Once they got up to Davies’ office, Perion felt sickly nervous. Saturn Records was a huge deal for Bitter Wynter. Drywall International was a large label with a lot of power, but Saturn dwarfed Drywall easily. It was a huge conglomerate that only catered to the big hitters. If they won Saturn over, they could do anything.
Julia Davies was a tall woman with long jet-black hair shot with lodes of the purest white. Her hair was held back away from her face in a long ponytail secured by a turquoise clasp. She was dressed in a black suit with a white blouse. Her face was serene and pretty. She reminded the girls of Lilly Munster.
Lein made the introductions, and after, Davies moved to a sophisticated recording system in her office that seemingly dominated an entire wall. She began to play Bitter Wynter’s demo. She seated herself at her desk and indicated that the others should sit as well. They did.
Perion sat on the edge of a straight back chair with her elbows on her knees. She was very nervous. She didn’t like being in an office setting. It reminded her of being sent to the principal’s office for some minor infraction.
“Very raw, but good,” Davies said, “what do you do to get your voice to work like that,” she asked Perion.
“I have an opera trained voice,” Perion answered shyly.
“Opera? Never would have guessed that one. You discovered them,” she asked Lein.
“Sort of,” he said smiling.
“You have a very good ear, Lein, very good. I’ve listened to this compilation many times and I love it very much.”
Perion smiled, Davies’ favorite word was obviously very. But that was okay; it was in reference to her band.
Davies got up and turned the music off. She turned toward her attentive audience. “Well, Lein, shall we get down to brass tacks?”
Lein smiled again. “Yes, Julia, I have a hammer all ready for you.”
Although Drywall’s deal was sweet, Saturn’s was a bit sweeter. Davies offered the band a one year/one album contract with automatic renewal if sales were good; a five-figure sign-on bonus; a royalty of thirteen percent of the retail of each album sold; a six-figure advance somewhat higher than Drywall’s offer; and an additional five-figure sum, also higher than Drywall, for tour support and recording costs.
“We’ll get back to you as soon as we can,” Lein told Davies.
As they left the office and climbed back into the elevator, Lein stood directly behind Perion. She could feel his body heat radiating toward her, and could smell the strong musky odor of his cologne. She inhaled the scent of him, and remembered how she had walked away from his bed with the same scent lingering on her own skin. It was maddening to be so close to him.
He leaned over her shoulder and whispered, “I’m turning everything over to Ronnie as of next week.”
With that said, he moved away from her, and stood against the elevator wall, acting as if she didn’t exist. Perion didn’t react to his words at all. She stood silent and firm.
When the elevator reached the lobby, Blaine was at the door before anyone had the chance to step off. “Well,” he asked anxiously.
“We got Saturn in our pockets if Drywall says no,” Syndi said.
Perion and Lein remained silent, neither of them felt like speaking.
Blaine smiled and embraced Perion as she walked out of the elevator. “Hey, congrats baby,” he told her, kissing her. “At least you got two hungry for you.”
Make that three, Lein thought vaguely.
She smiled faintly. “Thanks, Blaine.”
Estella sauntered up to Lein and took his arm. “Are we ready to go now?”
Lein put on his own weak smile. “Sure.”