At this point my throat is aching like someone poured acid down it, so I simply nod politely. A blonde girl appears holding out a bottle of a murky looking liquid. I take it, giving her a curt nod, and she instantly disappears. Tipping my head back, I swish the nasty stuff around in my mouth and force myself to swallow it.
“Better?” Davis chuckles as he sees my wince.
“Yeah,” I say before taking another sip. “The scream in ‘Emperor’ always gets me.”
Davis nods. “You did great, though.” He pushes open the door to my dressing room, and we both step in.
He walks around me, striding across the sparkling black concrete to take a seat on the red sofa, grimacing a bit as he does. I can’t blame him. Davis is in his seventies, and these late night concerts full of screams and drums and flashing lights take their toll on him.
I cross the room and step into the bathroom, positioning myself in front of the full-length mirror, working on untangling the tie around my neck.
“You’ve got an after-party to get to. There’s a girl there, Stella. I want you to get to know her, understood?” Davis’s powerful voice carries easily to the other side of the room.
“Understood,” I respond, yanking on the tie a bit harder.
Davis rounds the corner and places a thin, blue glass card on the vanity sink. “Read up about her before you go.”
I pull the tie off from around my neck and give him a nod of consent, starting on the buttons of my high-collared white shirt.
“I’ll let you get ready. Meet me outside in an hour.”
“Sounds good,” I flash Davis one of my award-winning smiles (I’m not joking – I’ve won literal awards for my smile.) and hear the door clang shut after him.
I finish unbuttoning my shirt, and take another sip of the liquid, wrinkling my nose. “It’s 2084. We should have something better than this to heal damaged vocal cords,” I mutter before swirling the stuff around my mouth again.
My voice was never really meant for screaming, but that never stopped me. When I was younger, I’d done serious damage to my vocal cords trying to hit the notes in my favorite songs. I’m paying for it now.
I swallow more of the liquid and glance over my appearance in the mirror. While my female fans might prefer if I didn’t wear a shirt to my concerts, I much prefer that I did. It wasn’t so much that I minded performing half-naked (heck, I’d done crazier things for publicity) as much as the scars that crisscrossed my body. There are more scars on my chest than tattoos on my arms, a ratio I wish I could change. I shake my head, forcing my thoughts back to where they need to be as I step into the steaming water, letting it wash off the last traces of sweat and stage makeup.
Shower. After-party. Stella.
I step out of the shower and pull on a pair of suit pants, before walking across the cold floor to grab the fresh black shirt my stylist left me on the back of the vanity chair. I’m buttoning it up nice and high, arranging the tie around my neck when I hear a click of dress shoes on concrete. The red tie falls to the ground as I spin around, eyes searching the black and red dressing room.
There’s nothing there. I crouch down to snatch up my tie, and then straighten, facing my reflection in the mirror, telling myself it’s just post-show jitters. That’s when I hear several more clicks. I spin around, this time, knowing there’s someone in the room.
“I know someone’s here. Stop hiding.” My voice, still scratchy from the concert, sounds a lot more menacing than how I actually feel. In reality, I’m terrified.
That’s when I see him – a figure standing in the shadows behind the sofa.
My fingers press against the cool metal of my bracelet, hoping they’re charged enough to let me disappear.
“Don’t bother.” The man steps into the light a bit, just enough so that I can make out his lined face and white hair. “You’ll find that those are useless. I’ve turned off the aura.”
My fingers find the one thing they can grip, twisting themselves in the red silk tie. “Security!” I call, my voice breaking slightly, half from the strain, half from fear.
“You’ll find that the intercom system has also been shut down.” He smiles a bit. “Scream all you like, but they won’t hear you.”
“Who are you?” I demand.
“No one you would know. I came because I have a proposal for you. And not the marriage kind.” I can see him shove his hands in his pockets, and chuckle a bit at his own joke. “There’s something we’ve managed to find out about you, Charming Prince – or should I say Sahir Brenan Harb.”
My fingers dig into the silk, as I try to remain calm. “I don’t know –”
“Oh, don’t even try it. You see, I can tell everyone exactly who you are.” The man chuckles again. “And I know you don’t want that. I have a deal for you. I won’t tell anyone who you are…if you do a few small favors for me.”
Thanks for reading! Part 3 will be up next week. 🙂