Chapter 2 - Of the end
Actually, I think she hated it.
She hated people looking at her.
She hated people making a fuss over how pretty she was.
But most of all, she hated singing. Which really was too bad because her voice put most others to shame.
But she did everything she hated with a smile on her face.
It was admirable, truly.
I'd watched her like a hawk for the past few years while she did everything in her power to avoid me.
Which was fine by me. I had plenty of attention.
But I'd always had this nagging feeling that I'd enjoy hers the most.
"So what do you think?"
My manager asked apprehensively. I could tell he didn't think it was a great idea. But boy did I.
I scratched my jaw and pretended to think it over.
"Well, it definitely isn't what I had planned but I can see the positives in it."
Jessie nodded, he knew it was true.
Della and I could potentially be just as successful career-wise as her parents and I knew that thought was enough to intrigue him. More money for me equaled more money for him.
"This would be a committed relationship, fake or not. So you'd have to. . ."
He narrowed his eyes as he searched for the right words.
"Stop sleeping with other women?"
There were a few other ways I could've phrased it but he already looked uncomfortable enough.
"Yes, it would have to look genuine. Just you and Della."
Me and Della.
I'd never even considered it to be a possibility.
"So the marriage would last for a year, then you'd both go off on your headlining tours and we would release a press statement stating that you both felt you were too busy to fully concentrate on your marriage but you two would remain close friends, of course."
A fake marriage and a fake divorce.
Lord, my mama was gonna kill me.
"We'll announce that the two of you are engaged, we will say that you've been dating in secret for a year. How does that sound?"
Sounded like they already had it all figured out.
"Perfect. Was that all? I kinda have a show to play."
I stood up and grabbed my guitar from the corner of the room before heading to the door.
Jessie laughed and stood up to follow me out.
"Yep, just marriage that's all."
He slapped his hand on my shoulder and we headed down the hallway.
I walked out onto the stage and soaked it all in. No matter how many times I played a show, no matter how many times people sang my songs back to me. It just never got old.
"I know one thing, it's good to be back in Gulf Shores!"
I shouted into the mic and the crowd erupted.
"I'm not sure how many of you know this, but the first show I ever played was in this town and I'll never forget it."
More clapping and screaming happened before I continued.
I strummed my guitar to make sure it was in tune while the drummer kicked off my opening song. It was my new single to country radio and my label was convinced it was going to go platinum.
Sweat dripped down my back as I started singing and before I knew it I was five songs deep. That was normally how it happened. I got so lost in what I was doing that shows just flew by. I had to make myself stop to take it in. I let my eyes graze the crowd to see if I recognized anyone.
The entire front row was jam-packed with women screaming either my lyrics or my name. I made the mistake of making eye contact with a few and they instantly pulled their shirts down flashing me in the process.
I looked to the sides and I could vaguely make out Della's parents.
It was nearly impossible for them to go anywhere discreetly and I was shocked they'd made it through this much of the concert without getting mobbed.
Jasper stood behind Lottie and wrapped his arms around the tops of her shoulders protectively. They both smiled when I saw them but I looked away, too scared to give up their hiding stop.
I looked away at the perfect time to see Della's sweet little frame making her way to her parents. Which was a sure-fire way to guarantee that everyone in the place would know they were here.
I took it as an opportunity to let my guitarists have their solo battle and let the audience judge.
I handed off my guitar and slinked off backstage to let the security know to bring Della and her parents up.
Within a minute I could see them walking toward me as I chugged a bottle of water. I wiped the back of my hand across my mouth and smiled when Della's sour expression came into view. I could tell as they were walking toward me that they were arguing with each other, presumably about me but I couldn't bring myself to care.
"You sound great up there."
Lottie said as she took one of my hands and squeezed.
"Of course he does."
Jasper smiled as if he was taking full credit, and he was right to do so.
"Thanks, I appreciate y'all coming out."
I smiled before directing my attention to Della. She looked like she was about to explode and it was so damn cute.
"Hey, would you want to come out for a song? I know my fans would love it."
We all looked at her and I watched in amazement as she tapped down her anger and turned on her fake smile and cheery attitude.
"Of course, Jameson. I'd love to."
I wasn't sure if I'd ever heard her say my name but damn, I liked it.
"Great, I'll let the guys know."
I heard the guitar riff end and turned around.
"Thank you guys again for coming out."
I told them before heading back on stage. They waved goodbye then Della instantly turned to them and started in again.
I bit back a smile as I made it back on stage.
"How about these guys?"
I said into the mic and the crowd cheered. I introduced my band and there was more cheering and we continued with the setlist.
I made it to the last song and let the guys know that Della would be singing with me. I walked to the side of the stage where she was glaring and reached out for her hand.
"As I'll ever be."
She smiled and it was so damn fake.
"Hey guys, I'm gonna have a special guest singin' with me tonight. I hope that's all right."
The response I received was near deafening just as I expected it to be.
Everyone loved Della.
Someone brought out another stool for her to sit on and we both took a seat right next to each other. I reached out to lower her mic closer to her mouth and she smiled at me so sweetly that I almost believed it.
I played the beginning of When I Get Where I'm Going and the crowd went wild again. Della sang it at every concert she played so I knew she knew all the lyrics.
We sang and the audience ate out of the palm of our hands.
We maintained eye contact the entire time and when I reached out and took her hand, she didn't pull away. Her hand was so small and soft in mine that I couldn't stop myself from bringing it up to my lips and pressing a kiss on her palm. Everyone in the arena lost their minds and the entire place was buzzing with something that I really liked.
The song ended signaling the end of the show but the adrenaline was pumping fast through my veins.
I pulled the mic from the stand and tugged Della up from the stool. She shot me a worried look but nothing more.
"Let's hear it for Della Austin, y'all!"
I spoke into the mic then pulled it away quickly so I could clap along with everyone else.
Della waved and smiled like she always did before returning her eyes to me.
I brought the mic back up to my mouth and spoke but kept eye contact with her.
"I have a confession to make."
The panic in her eyes was obvious but hopefully only to me.
"I'm in love with Della Austin and I'm gonna make her my wife."
I couldn't even hear myself think for the roar of the crowd.
I closed the small distance between Della and me, pulling her into my chest. She tilted her head up and I swear to God if looks could kill I would've been far more than just six feet under.
"What are you doing?"
She said through clenched teeth.
"I'm sellin' it, darlin'."
I tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear and she closed her eyes.
I'd like to think it was because she was so overwhelmed by my touch but I was pretty sure she was hoping she could wish the moment away.
I leaned in closer, the crowd somehow grew louder, and she opened her eyes again.
"I'll kill y-"
The words managed to pass her lips before I could cover them with my own.
I kissed her like my life depended on it.
As if she was the was the love of my life.
And until I felt her giving in.
And based on the screams coming from the audience, they'd bought every bit of it.