“Well, hot damn, Garrett, you’re right!” Steven Hunter said, then turned to Riley, “You were that adorable little powerhouse that rocked Chart Toppers.”
Everyone turned to stare at her. She smiled weakly.
“See, I knew I recognized you. You were damn good, too.” Steven looked at the producer. “You should have seen her. I’m hangin’ in my living room, mellowing with a smoke in front of the tube, and this little firecracker trots on stage and blows the judges right off the panel.”
Riley chewed the edge of her lip.
“She must have been what, ten years old?”
“Thirteen,” she said under her breath.
“Hell, the vocals coming out of her were impossible for her age. I couldn’t believe it. I’m telling you. It was mind-blowing.”
Despite Riley’s embarrassment at being called out in front of all her coworkers, her heart soared from the famous Steven Hunter’s compliments.
“And then she sang her own rendition of ‘Eclipse’ that was freakin’ brilliant.”
Riley remembered. That song launched her into the competition’s top ten. It was also the last time she sang anything she chose.
“You should sing it for him,” Garrett goaded.
Riley felt the blood drain from her face.
“Hell yes, the band’s gotta hear this!” Steven waited in the live room like a kid with a new toy to show off.
She couldn’t move. She could barely breathe. She certainly couldn’t sing.
Garrett leaned back in his chair and eyed her in amusement. Her coworkers waited expectantly as if she were supposed to pop right up and break into song. The cameraman aimed his lens at her. She’d forgotten about him.
“What are you waiting for? Get in there and sing,” Garrett said.
“I can’t.” She seethed, clenching her fists, despising Garrett more than ever.
“Come on, Red! Let’s make some music!” Steven called out, waving her in.
Garrett stepped over and spoke in her ear. “You’re seriously going to tell Steven Hunter that you won’t sing with him? Get the hell off your ass and go.” He practically shoved her out of the room.
Riley moved like a zombie. She couldn’t sing in front of all these people, and definitely not in front of Steven Hunter. She entered the live room trying to figure out how to escape.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were on Chart Toppers? I can’t believe I’m meeting you. The way you sang our song was brilliant. I’ve heard a lot of renditions, most of them a disaster, but yours was genius. Did someone write that version for you?”
“No. I used to sing along to the radio and make up my own countermelodies.”
Steven looked at the guys in the control booth, who’d all taken a new interest in her. “Brilliant, what did I tell ya?”
Despite the awesome compliment, Riley wanted to crawl behind an amplifier and hide.
Steven turned back to her, excitement in his eyes. “You’ve gotta sing it for me. Don’t make a grown man beg.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t sung in front of anyone in a really long time.” The last time she sang publicly, she’d cried and blubbered through the song. Riley fought the urge to vomit.
“Seriously? That’s a crime right there.”
“I’m really nervous. I haven’t sung since I was on the show,” she whispered, hoping that would make him understand and give up.
“Aw, Red, there’s nothing to be nervous about. We’re all friends here.” He spread his arms and indicated the guys in the control room, too.
She pictured cocky Garrett laughing from behind the safety of the console. She wanted to run away and hide, but it wasn’t an option.
“Tell you what. We’ll sing together. Hey guys, can someone bring in another headset for Red?”
Her stomach dropped.
Angie Stanton never planned on writing books—she wanted to be a Rockette. However, growing up in rural America with her brothers’ 4-H pigs as pets, she found that dance didn’t quite work out. Instead, she became an avid daydreamer. After years of perfecting stories in her head, she began to write them down, and the rest is history. When not writing, she loves watching natural disaster movies, going to Broadway musicals, and dipping French fries in chocolate shakes.
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