Manaconda(4)

By: Taryn Elliott & Cari Quinn


His face was completely devoid of emotion. “Whomever you think you know, you don’t.”

My eyebrows shot up. “I applaud your attention to detail, but I was given this,” I rattled the laminated, high quality photo of Hammered’s album cover with a red and metallic bronze border, “by your boss.”

“I wasn’t advised of a change.”

I tilted my head. “Check.”

His heavy red brows snapped down, but he dipped his hand into his pocket. He took out his phone and swiped away a number of messages from what I could tell. And if it was at all possible, his brows lowered even farther. He was going to have trouble reading his screen if he kept that up.

His face smoothed and he tucked his phone away again. “I’m sorry, ma’am.”

“Don’t apologize. I need about ten more of you working for me.”

His lips twitched, but there was no outward smile. I instantly liked him.

“Has the band arrived yet?” I asked.

“Yes, they’re in the back pre-signing some merch for the auction.”

“Excellent.” I twirled once to get an idea of how many were there for the signing. I’d counted over five hundred in the lobby, and there had to be another eight hundred lined up on the far side of the theater. Already over the thousand. Good. There was a sign in, and more people in the black-on-black uniform from the lobby.

I could taste the buzz of excitement in the air.

I spotted Indiana West at the edge of the curtained off area. I waved to her and flashed Patrick one last smile before I crossed the stage. Again, I heard dissension in the crowd of people seated.

What exactly did they think I was going to be doing? Taking Hunter out the back and banging him? I shook my head and held my hand out to Hammered’s manager. “Nice to see you again.”

Indiana shook my hand firmly. “You got an up close and personal look at me this morning that most don’t. I’m sorry.”

I laughed. “I wish I looked that good right out of bed.”

Indiana’s eyebrow spiked. Laugh lines fanned at the corners of her eyes and around her mouth. She had a wholesome outdoor look that was timeless. “Yeah, you’re definitely a PR person.”

I grinned. “Nah. I just wouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“Call me Indie.”

“Kennedy.”

She waved over at Patrick. “Sorry about that. Patrick was out with Hunter so he didn’t know about you yet.”

“No worries.”

A loud buzz came from Indie’s hip. She unholstered her phone, tapped back a reply to something and clipped it back before I could blink. “Donovan surprised me with that vid-call and I’ve been in crisis mode ever since. Actually, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Everyone is talking about Hunter lately. It’s only smart to do this.”

“I hope he thinks so.”

Indie tipped back a battered straw cowboy hat. “I can guarantee he will not.”

I swallowed a sigh. There were two kinds of people in my business. People who craved the attention and badgered me to get them more, or people who wanted to punch paparazzi. So far, I hadn’t read anything about him attacking the paps, but it was good to be prepared.

“Mr. Lewis definitely wants to use the attention to the band’s favor.”

“And Hunter understands that—mostly.”

I tapped my finger against the edge of my iPad. “But…”

“But he’s less than thrilled with the attention he’s getting, instead of the band.”

Wow. Okay, I hadn’t been expecting that answer. “Admirable, but in this era anything that sells albums is a good thing.”

“I agree. So, I’ll do whatever I can to make things easy for you.”

“Indie!”

We both turned to the petite blonde who poked her head out of the curtain. Lilac-tinted fringe framed her heart-shaped face. The people already seated went wild. Faith Keystone—more well known as Keys—waved to the fans. “Hi guys!”

Indie gripped my raspberry jacket and hauled me after her. “Might as well toss you right into the deep end.”

Keys frowned. “Who’s that?”

Indiana ignored her. “What’s wrong?”

Keys huffed out a long breath that fluttered her choppy bangs. “Hunter’s gone.”

“Dammit.” Indie groaned and dragged her hat off. “I’m gonna kill that kid.”

“Does he do this often?” I asked.

“It’s not unheard of.”

I could tell it pained her to tell me that, but I was relieved she was being straight with me. Managers were used to cleaning up messes for bands. I knew this. I’d been in her position before.

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