So, we begin again.
Welcome to Season 3.
The chapter is late, because you surprised me (I should be getting used to that, right?) I made an assumption about who you were going to choose to follow this season and I WAS COMPLETELY WRONG!
That meant a little bit of work for me to get my head around who we’re going to play with for the next twenty-odd chapters.
Without further moaning (from me) let’s get into the start of another season.
Enjoy this week’s chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
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This weekly serial is now available as a complete book set:
Book 1: Dylan & Destiny - Breakout
Book 2: Liam & Alannah - Breakthrough
Book 3: Jesse & Ruby - Breakdown
“Jesse, this one’s for you.”
The magazine reporter’s words registered in my head and brought me back from my musings around the delightful photographer she’d brought with her to the interview.
My head snapped up to attention. I wasn’t used to having to field any kind of questions during these long, drawn out publicity sessions. Usually, I got to sit in the background, pose for a few photographs and let Dylan and Marty do all the talking.
I mean, who wants to hear from the bass player, right?
It’s an old insider joke, but it’s an insider joke for a reason.
You’re a long way from Motueka now, Jesse Davis.
The strange thought ran through my head as I brought my focus to the serious frown of the reporter who had directed the question to me.
Instead of concentrating on said reporter—let’s face it the same old questions over and over—I’d had my eye on the photographer who had decided to tag along to the diner where we were doing the interview.
Ruby—her name matched the striking colour of her long hair—had been at pains to arrange us with great care in front of one of the large graffiti walls that made the arts district of the city so colourful and vibrant.
The image of the skeletal knight on a blood-red background taking on a writhing hydra struck me as a fascinating choice for a backdrop and it made Ruby even more interesting to me.
“Sorry, can you repeat the question?” I really had to stop staring at Ruby and pay attention to what was happening around me.
“Do you ever feel as if you’re out of the spotlight, as the bass player?” The middle aged reporter nodded in Dylan and Marty’s direction—I’d decided early on in the interview that she really didn’t give a shit about us or our music. She should have been reporting on some of the old 80s revival bands, not sitting here talking to us.
Ruby on the other hand, she seemed eager to be taking it all in.
Our aged reporter added, “It seems like all the glory goes to your band mates.” Then she eyed Liam with one of those you know I won’t say no looks that I was so accustomed to watching women give him.
Maybe I’d made an assumption and pegged her intention wrong.
I watched as Liam physically flinched and I’m sure it couldn’t just be because our interviewer looked like she had double the years on him.
I coughed in a vain attempt to bring the reporter’s attention back to me. “One of the reasons that I was drawn to bass in the end was because it’s slightly out of centre stage. I prefer to lurk in the shadows.”
I caught sight of the smirk on Ruby’s face and the affirmation made me bold.
“You weren’t always a bass player?” At least now the reporter was showing some interest in me again. Liam could thank me later.
“Nah, I can play six strings as well as I can play four. The day I picked up the bass I remember thinking that it was like playing one huge solo, but I didn’t have to worry about anyone looking at me.”
Right now, all I wanted was for Ruby to keep looking at me.
“I’m a control freak too,” I added. I thought I saw a shudder pass through Ruby’s curvaceous body. “Most people don’t realise how much control the bass player actually has on stage. Me and Liam,” I tipped my head in Liam’s direction again. The reporter’s eyes followed. Maybe he wouldn’t thank me later. “We keep the back line straight so these two out the front look good.”
“Would you agree with that statement?” The reporter looked at Dylan and Marty for some kind of confirmation.
Dylan waved a dismissive hand at me, “We let him think that, it keeps him happy.”
I was glad to have the attention taken away from me—but pleased to see that Ruby continued to watch me from under the bright red strands of her long hair. The colour couldn’t be natural, but I didn’t care if it came out of a bottle. The bold red contrasted beautifully with the pale white of her skin. How did she manage in the Californian sun, I wondered?
There were a lot of things that I wondered about Ruby.
We’d been in LA now for more than four months and I’d had my share of women throwing themselves at me after the club gigs every night, but none had appealed.
Well, none had appealed until today.
Besides, we were on such a manic work schedule, between rehearsing, performing and spending the rest of our spare time doing interviews like this one, I’d scarcely had a moment to think about anything other than the band.
I was living the dream that Liam and I had chased for so many years, but no-one told me how exhausting living that dream could be.
Ruby, however, had captured my interest from the second that she’d picked up her camera and started shooting the band.
If I achieved only one thing today, it would be to leave with Ruby’s number.
I wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Another day, another photography contract—at least I consoled myself with the fact that this was likely the last one in this country.
Bigger things on my horizon and I’d waited so long for this break.
That was what I thought until I set eyes on Jesse Davis.
I’d gotten the call from the magazine that they had another shoot of another up-and-coming band and they needed me.
As I headed out to the arts district, I’d wondered how many of these same-old, same-old interviews I’d attended?
I should have been documenting something of real importance, but somehow I’d managed to get myself attached to the Lifestyle section of the magazine.
I’d endured an endless succession of bands, who’s-doing-who features and celebrity news stunts that left me feeling as if nothing real ever happened in this city.
The City of Angels they called it—what I saw was fake tan, fake hair and a fake outlook on life. The benedictine monks who’d named the city so many centuries ago after their fair lady probably had no idea it would turn out this way.
I loved my city—but I remained out of love with the culture that seemed to permeate the coast and that the magazines I worked for embraced.
I yearned to catalogue deeper, more meaningful stories than I found myself assigned, but even I had to admit that there was something different about the boys who called themselves, “Yellow Lady” and it wasn’t just about the way they sounded their vowels or referred to the sidewalk as a footpath.
For the first time in as long as I could remember, I found myself drawn to a group of people and the fascinating stories that I imagined their foreign accents would tell.
I felt something too, that I couldn’t recall ever feeling around a man.
It wasn’t even as if Jesse, the band’s bass player, could be described as dark and mysterious. He looked like a Californian surfer, but when he opened his mouth to speak—the tone of his voice, his accent, the way his eyes danced when he teased his fellow band mates—the combined chemistry of the man made my skin tingle.
I could have stood in front of the mural I chose for the shot all day listening to these men exchange spirited banter with each other.
As I tried to keep my mind on the job at hand—an increasingly difficult thing to do—while I arranged the squabbling band members, I had the strangest feeling that the fates may have been working in my favour today and that something big might well come out of this job.
All I’ve ever wanted to do was catalogue the world. Sometimes I wondered if I should have been on the end of a pen, like the reporters that I tagged along with, instead of on the end of a lens.
But there was something so seductive about the way a picture came together.
Making that something come together with the men from Yellow Lady, however, had become quite something else.
They weren’t like the other bands that I’d arranged artfully in front of various backdrops in the city. These guys seem less about coasting on the gloss of their reputation and more about allowing me to capture the real men behind the band.
There was something about the way the reserved bass player held himself that made me want to know him in a more intimate way.
And the way I caught him looking at me after the shoot.
When he should have been paying attention and answering questions.
I desperately found myself wishing that Jesse had been required to divulge more about himself.
The couple of questions that he did answer did nothing more than feed my desire to find out more about the man.
With the interview at an end, I found myself for the first time in the strange place where I didn’t want to leave the diner.
“You able to get those shots to me before deadline?” The magazine’s pop and cultural reporter asked me the same question after every interview we ever did. Not once had I let her down. The question grated, but I held my tongue.
“Yeah, no problem. I’ll have them to you by tomorrow morning.”
I had to treat the shots once I downloaded them onto my computer and then I’d send a selection of the best for the editorial staff to decide which ones complimented the look and feel that they wanted the story to portray.
“You’ve made a note that I’m to see a proof before the article goes to publication, right?” I watched with some amusement as the crusty manager of the band wheeled himself forward and thrust a business card into the hand of our reporter.
Most of the managers that I’d seen attend these kinds of interviews with their bands would be happy for any kind of publicity that we brought, but apparently this band’s manager had standards.
I liked that about him.
In fact, I liked everything about the way the band were handling themselves.
Until today, I’d never heard of Yellow Lady, but I was damn sure that I was going to become well acquainted with them as soon as I got back to my apartment.
Especially the intriguing, Jesse who happened right at this moment to be walking straight towards me.
“Do you have to rush off anywhere?” The striking sound of his voice rolled over me and set my body a tingling all over again.
Was it the accent, or the proximity of the man?
I swear, I could smell the scent of the ocean on his body—maybe I was becoming delusional.
“Have to get these off the card and on my computer,” I said stroking the side of my camera bag. I had a strong desire to stroke the side of the dark denim jeans that hugged Jesse’s legs.
This wasn’t how I behaved around people. What the hell was going on?
I clenched my hands together in the hope that I’d somehow be able to keep them to myself. I’d been in rooms with mega-celebrities, a who’s who of Hollywood and yet I’d never felt this destabilised before.
What was it about this man? Why was he affecting me this way?
“Surely you can stay behind for a drink with me?” Jesse leaned in, bending to look me eye-to-eye. He stood a full head above my 5’4’’ frame and the movement caught me off guard.
I took a step backwards.
Gulping for air.
The world did a little skip and I put one hand on the nearby diner table to steady myself.
I didn’t want to feel like some kind of star-struck fan, but the unaccustomed feelings continued to swirl around me.
Had I missed lunch?
The random thought ran through my head. Anyway, with the knot forming in my stomach at the moment, food wouldn’t be a good idea.
“I guess I could stay…”
The edges of Jesse’s mouth curled into a quirky smile. “Don’t sound so enthusiastic.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled, “I think I forgot to eat lunch. Getting here from the other side of town and all.”
“Great,” Jesse said, taking the opportunity to slip his arm around me, “Let’s get something here and you can tell me all about LA.”
Against my better judgment, I allowed the strange sounding bass player to guide me into an alcove at the back of the diner.
Before I knew what was happening, two glasses of water had been deposited on the table, together with two large menus.
“Order whatever you want?” Jesse said, “lunch is on me.”
I didn’t like anyone buying me lunch—especially someone who did such strange and interesting things to my body by just sitting opposite me.
What the hell had I gotten myself into, I wondered?
Why now? The timing was awful. Down to the last three on the short list for the chance to work with a real investigative journalist and I found myself sitting opposite a bass player in a band.
It took all my willpower to stay the trembling of my hands so I didn’t knock my teeth out taking a sip of the cool water.
I wanted to get to know this man better, but something about him terrified me.
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