Authors: Kat Attalla
Books We Love Ltd.
(Electronic Book Publishers)
, Alberta, T1X 1C2
Copyright 2012 by Kat Attalla
Cover art by: Michelle Lee Copyright 2012
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
The audience went wild. Screaming teens stood on the seats and waved their arms, in a desperate attempt to catch the attention of their idol. Electricity charged the arena. The loud music didn't seem to bother the adoring fans that had come to see Leather.
She performed onstage for two hours without stopping for a break. Beads of perspiration formed on her olive skin, giving off a luminous shine as the hot white lights followed her across the stage. Clad in a skintight black leather miniskirt and a clinging metallic gold top, she prowled across the stage with feline grace. She played to the audience the way most singers wish they could. She was a tease, a shameless flirt.
Every young man wanted to have her, every young girl wanted to be her. She inspired many a fantasy with her long mane of raven ringlets cascading down her back and china blue eyes that could melt the coldest of hearts. She stood center stage and held the microphone with two hands, inches from her bright red lips. The audience watched spellbound while she sang. She swayed her body invitingly. Her husky voice echoed the passion of the words.
As the tempo picked up, she pranced around the stage. She moved with pure kinetic energy. Uninhibited, seductive, she offered with her dance a promise of things to come.
When Leather left the stage, the excited audience stamped their feet and flicked their lighters, demanding her return for an encore. Letting the tension build, she waited in the wings. After a few minutes of deafening applause, she returned to the stage without the backup band, carrying only an acoustic guitar. The large stadium went silent while she sang a haunting ballad with such pain that it brought tears to the most cynical among them. "Betrayal”, Leather's trademark song, ended every concert.
She thanked the audience and left the stage. There was no second encore. The fans demanded, but Leather never responded. "Always leave them wanting more," her agent once told her. The advice had proved to be invaluable, for it kept her at the top for five years.
She’d just ended her six-month road tour, so she spent a few minutes talking with the band and the stage crew. The moment polite manners permitted, she proceeded to her dressing room to shower and unwind. The warm water caressed her body. Her tension slipped down the drain along with the black temporary hair rinse and mousse that held the ringlets in her otherwise straight brown hair. Using the cold cream generously, she removed the heavy layers of stage makeup. She could wash away the illusion, but not the confusion that had plagued her the past few weeks.
It's almost over, she reminded herself.
She wrapped the towel around her body and went to the sink to remove the contact lenses that made her topaz eyes a vivid shade of blue. Finally dressed in her jeans and a white front-button shirt, she checked her reflection in the mirror to make sure that all traces of the makeup had been removed.
Kate Costello fiercely guarded her privacy. Offstage, few people knew her as the sultry singer who had graced the stage just one hour earlier. While on tour, she made herself available for interviews regularly so the press didn't hound her, but otherwise she avoided the spotlight. For two hours on any given night, Leather belonged to the fans. She owed them the best show she could give and an occasional autograph. Her soul belonged to no one.
Kate glanced up. Her half sister stood by the door. Kate's elder by three years, Nikki was the only person Kate truly trusted. Jealousy over her success had brought a period of distance between them. Nikki soon realized that money and fame didn't necessarily equal happiness, and her envy had evaporated.
"Bill's waiting. He's a little nervous that you haven't signed the new contract yet. He said he can't set up any future bookings until it's settled."
Kate shook her head and groaned. "I don't want him to set up another tour right now. Doesn't he listen when I talk? I told him I needed some time off. I'm exhausted."
She’d planned this day for two years. The road tour ended. All her obligations with the recording studio had been fulfilled. Even her agent's contract expired. March fifteenth become her personal independence day. The ides of March came ominously to mind, but she quickly dismissed the superstition. For the first time in ten years, she didn't have to answer to anyone. More important, no one could answer for her.
She desperately needed a break. Her grueling schedule tested the last shreds of her sanity. The double life made her paranoid. She understood why so many of her peers got involved with drugs. If she didn't get away, she might fall into the trap herself.
"Should I tell Bill you don't want to see him right now?" Nikki asked.
Kate massaged her fatigued legs. "No. Send him in. I want to get this settled tonight so that I can leave in the morning."
"Have you decided where you're going?"
"My first decision is that I'm not going to make any decisions. I'm going to get in the car and drive wherever the spirit moves me." Kate felt the warm glow of freedom spread through her body. She hadn't felt this alive since before Kelly had . . . No! She refused to think about that now. She hadn't come to terms with her grief. After three years, the pain still tore her apart.
Determined to cast the sorrowful memories from her mind, she slipped her feet into a pair of slippers and opened the door. "Come in, Bill."
William Harris stepped into the room and closed the door behind Nikki as she left. Dressed impeccably in a three-piece pinstripe suit, he possessed a commanding presence. For many years, Kate had found her agent intimidating, but not tonight.
"Kate," he greeted her, placing a friendly kiss on her cheek. "You were magnificent, as always."
She rolled her eyes back and laughed. "Who are you kidding? I blew two numbers."
"And covered it like a professional. No one noticed," he said in his ever-patronizing way. As her agent, he excelled at his job. As a liar, he needed to fine-tune his performance. "I brought the new contract with me. I'm sure it was just an oversight that you haven't come into the office to sign it. After we clear this up, we can discuss the plans for the upcoming year."
Bill placed his briefcase on the table and flipped the locks. Before he opened the lid, Kate laid her hand on top. "Don't bother, Bill. I'm not signing tonight. I told you I wanted some time off. No tours. No recording sessions."
His gray eyes darkened perceptibly. He cupped his hands on her shoulders, but removed them immediately when she glared at him. For ten years he'd tied her to an unbreakable contract, and he‘d called all the shots. That was over, and they both knew it.
"Katie. I understand. Take some time. A month or so to get it out of your system. In the meantime, I'll set up a contract for your new album, and we can schedule a tour for the winter. You're hot now. You have to go with it."
Kate let out an exasperated sigh. She knew he spoke English. Why didn't he understand her? "I'm more than hot, Bill. I'm burned-out. I don't want a month or so. I want a year. One full year."
"A year?" he bellowed, slamming his fist down on the briefcase. "A year will blow your entire career."
Kate remained cool. Bill excelled at the art of manipulation. She couldn't let him get to her or he'd have her signing those papers before she realized what she’s done. "Other singers have done it."
"If your mother was here-"
She sucked in a deep breath. Just the mention-just the memory-of her mother made her tremble with rage. "Don't you dare bring my mother's name into this conversation, Bill. I was sixteen years old when the two of you tied me to a ten-year contract. I honored it to the letter in spite of everything she did, but that time is over."
"We made you a very wealthy young woman, Kate. How many other women from your old neighborhood in Jersey City ended up millionaires before they were twenty-five?"
She’d wondered how long it would take before he brought that up. As if the money made up for the hell her mother put her through. "No, Bill. I made you a wealthy man. You got a cut of everything I ever made, and I know how often you've cashed in on my name."
Color flooded his face. "Keep in mind, Kate, the fans are a fickle lot with short attention spans. As it is, you're publicity-shy. If you don't keep Leather in the spotlight, you might find yourself singing in malls again. Or worse, doing those dreadful rock and roll revivals for has-been singers trying to recapture the glory."
Kate shrugged. He would never understand. Keep Leather in the spotlight. He spoke as if Leather were another person. Leather was a character- a stage persona who didn't exist outside a concert hall or stadium. "I'll take the chance. If you feel you don't want to represent me any longer when I get back, I'll understand."
Bill tucked his briefcase under his arm. "I hope you know what you're doing."
She smiled. She’d stood her ground and won. "Leave the contract, Bill. If I realize I've made a mistake in a couple of days, I'll sign it and have it expressed to you."
He grinned and handed her the papers on his way out the door. He seemed a little too sure that she would reconsider when she had time to think rationally.
Minutes later, Nikki returned to the room. She eyed Kate carefully, as if to gauge her mood, which of late had been bearable, at best. "What happened?"
Kate tossed her hands in the air, and tiny bits of confetti floated around the room. "It's Independence Day."
Nikki laughed. "What's that?"
"My contract." Kate rose from the chair and led Nikki in the direction of the door. "Let's go. I don't need anything here."
* * * *
Two days later, Kate took to the road. Once she left the mountains of Pennsylvania, she found the simple repetition of the farmlands a soothing foil to her scattered emotions. With the cruise control set at an even sixty, her driving required little effort. She needed time to think, and the constant, unchanging landscape afforded her that luxury.
She was twenty-six years old. Where had it all gone? It seemed like only yesterday she’d stepped onto the stage for the first time. The press had touted her as a Cinderella story. Little did they realize that her overnight success took years of personal sacrifice.
She owed much of her success to Bill, but she had more than paid him back. For the past ten years, he had controlled her every minute until she felt as if she needed to make an appointment to use the bathroom. And Bill was the easy one.
While still a minor, she’d had to contend with her mother, too. The only battle she'd ever won was when she insisted her private life remain as such. Leather made no public declarations of family and granted no interviews out of character. Rosie Costello, quintessential stage mother, resented that she could not bask in the glory of her daughter’s fame.