“Eloisa Rae, over here!”
“Eloisa, to your right!”
I groan under my breath, but make sure to keep the fake smile plastered on my face. Fame, and everything that comes along with it, never appealed to me. It still doesn’t.
“Why did you pick Hartford, Connecticut, to kick off your tour?”
“What’s going to be your next single?”
Ignoring their questions—questions I already answered during my announcement—I turn to go. I stop when I spot a small face in the crowd trying to get my attention. Making my way over, I bend down to address her through the metal bars.
“What’s your name?” I ask, smiling at her wide-eyed expression.
“Marie,” she replies. She thrusts a small Post-it note and marker in my direction. “Can I have your autograph?”
“Of course you can.” I scribble down my name and hand it back over. “It’s so nice to meet you, Marie.”
“Thank you so much; she’s such a big fan.” I meet the eyes of a woman standing behind Marie and nod. Cameras flash around us, taking in the moment. I try not to roll my eyes. “You made her day!” the woman continues brightly, kissing the top of the little girl’s head. Marie is now beaming as she stares down at the paper with my signature.
“She’s made mine, too,” I reply truthfully. The woman gives me a thankful smile but probably doesn’t realize how much I mean that statement. Fans like Marie are the only reason I do this. My fans have saved my life. Literally.
I brush down the front of my dress to straighten it as I stand and take a quick peek around. I hate leaving any fans disappointed if they have gone to the trouble of hiding among the media. No doubt my manager, Rob, will try to force me into more interviews if I linger, but I just have to make sure.
A red hair ribbon catches my attention, and I lock eyes with a small woman who looks to be about my age. She pushes the errant bow away from her face when we lock eyes and smiles before aiming her phone to snap a picture. I smile widely and make sure she gets the photo she wants before looking away. A few more cameras go off after that, and I hold still.
“Eloisa, I love you!”
The declaration comes out in a shockingly aggressive shout, and I turn to the left, waving to the screaming fans who are lined up across the street as far as the eye can see. The turnout is much bigger than I expected for a last-minute press conference.
As expected, I feel a warm, slightly clammy hand at my elbow. “Ellie, we’ve got People mag for five minutes.”
Without waiting for an answer, Rob steers me back toward the middle of the red carpet. Keeping my annoyance in check, I smile at the eager young woman in front of me. She doesn’t waste any time.
“Unsteady’ is going to be your first tour—are you nervous?”
My body tenses up. If she only knew. I make sure my smile is still in place. “Yes. If I wasn’t nervous, that would mean I had no business doing a tour.”
She takes a quick peek down at her pad before meeting my eyes again. “Did you ever expect your first album to do so well?”
I give her the PG version of the truth I could recite in my sleep. “Writing Hold on to Me was an incredible experience and very therapeutic. That my fans have embraced it is an absolute blessing, and I owe all my success to them.”
Her eyes narrow, and I know which question is coming next. “What do you have to say about the snub? Word is you’ve gotten on the wrong side of Martha Mathers.”
Rob tenses behind me. He was hoping the snub wouldn’t come up today. I, of course, am naturally cynical and knew it would. For such a clever businessman, Rob can be incredibly naive. Besides, I don’t see the big fuss about refusing to work with Martha Mathers. By all accounts, she’s a manipulative, angry, overly ambitious woman, and I don’t trust her. She also happens to be the most sought-after, successful producer in the country, but that doesn’t mean anything to me. My music is my own, and it always has been.
Rob steps between us. “We’re only answering questions about the announcement of Eloisa’s tour. That’s what we’re all here for, right?”
I place my hand gently on his arm and answer the woman anyway. Hiding from this has gotten old. “I’m not worried about Martha. I appreciate her interest and think she has made some incredible music, but for right now, I’m working solo. I’m just starting out and hoping to carve my own path.”
“So it’s true that you write all your own lyrics and music?”
Before I can answer that question, something off to the right catches my attention. I only have a split second to lock eyes on the object hurtling toward me before everything fades to black.