Pop star Abby Murphy has fame and fortune and handsome boyfriend and guitarist, Sean. That changes the night she finds him in the arms of another woman. But Sean won’t accept the breakup, and she soon finds out he’s working with her mother, who’s also her manager, to keep him in her good graces.
As Sean ratchets up his threats against her, Abby turns to her bodyguard, Danny Nucci, who will do everything in his power to keep her safe.
But when Abby realizes her feelings for Danny run much deeper than she’d like, she pushes him away as much to keep her own independence as to protect him from Sean’s machinations.
When Abby finally finds the strength to confront all that is wrong with her life, she seeks refuge with Danny, but is it too late? Has she pushed him away one too many times for him to trust her now? Or can he put his own demons aside to help repair them both?
The house lights went on and Abby took in the huge crowd. They were screaming for her to sing one more song. Some held up signs that read “I love you, Abby” and others took pictures and recorded the show using their phones, trying to capture the magic of the night.
She had just spent the last two hours tearing down the house with an elaborate show that included dances, pyrotechnics, jugglers, acrobats, and fucking circus animals. She hated all the glitz and glamour but she was just a pawn in a game much bigger than her.
However, she never liked disappointing her fans. She smiled and waved and the volume in the arena increased tenfold.
“You want more?” she asked her audience and the crowd went crazy. She signaled to the drummer and he started the intro to a song that was recently pegged as her next single to be released by her record company, “Beg Me.” Seemed fitting, since that was what the crowd was doing. Dancers launched from the bottom of the stage and Abby picked it up from there, and sang her guts out and danced like it was her last night at a club. As the last note faded, fireworks lit up the stage.
“Thank you, Vegas” she shouted into the mic. “I love you. Good night.”
The crowd cheered and screamed for her. With one last wave, Abby went backstage, but stopped by her guitarist and latched onto him before she gave him a quick kiss and ran off the stage. The crowd continued to scream and shout her name and she could hear it, even as security whisked her to her dressing room.
Once there, Abby sighed. As she suspected, it was completely packed with staff, media and random groupies all vying for attention. She hated this part of a show, and immediately lost the high from the stage. Her one request for her tours was to have a private area so that she could escape for a little bit. Looked like that wasn’t going to be an option, yet again.
She thought of her mother, who always took that request to the extreme, when all Abby needed was four walls, a door, and maybe a humidifier to keep her vocal cords healthy. But no. Her mother insisted on a “pop star life,” so Abby was met at every venue with a private, completely over-the-top dressing suite filled with unnecessary things and usually unnecessary people.
This one had light lavender walls and soft lighting to help “set the mood.” The floors were cappuccino-colored hardwood, and a lavender area rug had been placed in the center of the room. A deep purple sofa with accent pillows stood on the rug, while two slim lined cream-colored side chairs with brown piping had been placed to the right and left of it. A square glass coffee and a sofa table held freshly cut roses in various shades of pink. A humidifier was placed discreetly behind the sofa, because Abby’s mother thought such things were ugly and didn’t match the décor. No matter that it was the only necessary thing in the room for her.
Lavender-scented candles in various sizes had been lit at least one hour prior to an arrival at a performance location and the dressing room also contained high-speed wireless Internet connection. All things Abby didn’t want or need at the moment. But she had stopped trying to change her mother’s mind. Some days, she just wanted to run away, to some place where no one knew who she was.
Abby scanned the room and found the friendly face of her assistant Sophie. She knew once she could make it to Sophie she’d be in the clear from all the bad stuff.
“You killed it tonight.” Sophie gave Abby a quick hug and handed her a bottled water.
“Thanks, where’s the evil one?” Abby asked as she took a quick sip of the cool drink.
“Bailed as usual.” She gave Abby a warm smile, which took a bit of Abby’s annoyance away.
“Thank God. She knows just how to ruin a good night.” She smiled at Sophie but Sophie didn’t look very happy.
“Don’t get too excited. We might’ve dodged one bitch but there’s one waiting for you. Gina’s looking for ‘a few minutes of your time.’ Don’t worry I’ll save you.” She patted Abby on the back.
“Ugh, fuck. What does that lady want from me? She’s a fuckin’ nosy-ass bitch.” She sighed, knowing there’s no way she could get out of talking to her.
“Well she is a gossip columnist. It’s kinda her job to be nosey.” Sophie giggled.
“Not funny. You were my favorite assistant five minutes ago but now you’re just mean,” Abby said as she stuck her tongue out at Sophie.
“What if I promise to rescue your ass after five minutes?” She playfully poked Abby in the arm.
“I’d say you’d quickly become my best assistant in the world again.”
“Here she comes,” Sophie warned.
“Don’t go far,” Abby pleaded.
“I’ll be over here, keeping a close watch, if she gets too personal use our signal.” She scratched her arm and smiled at Abby. “Five minutes and you’ll be able to get some quiet.”
“Abby, sweetie! Wonderful show tonight.” Gina placed her hands on Abby’s arms and gave her an air kiss on either side of her face.
“Gina, lovely to see you,” Abby said with her best fake smile.
“You and Sean looked cozy up on stage. Things going well?” She asked, totally fishing for something and Abby knew it.
“Yes, perfect. Sean’s amazing. I’m very lucky to have him.” Abby gave her best smile.
“Oh, that’s so good to hear because you know the rumors are flying that he was seen in a very compromising position with a young woman with bright red hair. But I’m glad you think things are good.” She smiled at Abby with a wicked little smirk. Abby knew exactly who she was talking about but she also knew they were just friends. Kelly had introduced Abby to Sean. There was no way anything romantic was going on between them.
“Well you can’t believe everything you hear now, can you?” Abby smiled as she scratched her arm.
“I suppose.” Gina answered and gave Abby a ‘yeah right’ look.
“Excuse me ladies,” Sophie interrupted. “Abby, you need to get ready for your meet and greet. Gina, if you’d like to sit down and do a formal interview with Abby just give me a call and I’ll set it up.” She smiled.
“Sorry Gina, gotta go meet my fans.” Abby gave Gina a quick hug and air kiss. Sophie ushered Abby away.
“Thank God that’s over,” Abby said and sighed with relief.
“By the way, that dress is hot on you, girl.” Abby scanned Sophie’s outfit, a black shift dress with a thick white band down the middle and a square-cut neckline. She sported a pair of black sparkly four-inch platform shoes and had pulled her reddish-brown hair back in a bun. “That’s the other reason I hired you. Our fashionista sensibilities.”
“Learned it from you. Now come on. The inner sanctum awaits!”
Abby followed her into the other room of the dressing area and sank down onto a sofa. She closed her eyes, savoring the quiet.
Always a pillar of efficiency, Sophie retrieved her binder from the coffee table and took a seat across from her. She opened it.
“Okay, tonight we have a meet and greet with a bunch of radio station winners. It starts in about an hour and a half. This should give you time to shower and get ready. We also promised you’d stick around to sign autographs and take pictures. I have an outfit set aside. Amy and John stayed behind to help get you ready.”
Abby sighed in resignation. “I thought you were just saying that to Gina to rescue me. Who signed me up for this little get together?” But she already suspected the answer to the question before Sophie responded.
“I knew it. I thought we talked about doing shit like this before shows. Is she coming, too?”
“No, she told me she was going back to the hotel.”
“Well, I guess I should be thankful for small favors.” Abby got up off the sofa. “I’ll shower in a bit.” She went back into the crowd still in the common area of her dressing suite. She wanted to talk to Sean. He always helped her with the stressful “make nice” aftermath of a show. She worked her way around the room, smiling and greeting people as appropriate, then saw Sean tucked in a corner talking a bit too closely to a scantily dressed blonde with her tits hanging halfway out of what little dress she had. Not again. His tall frame leaned over the blonde, and he was running his fingers up and down her arm.
Abby stared, shocked, then headed right for them, ignoring people who were trying to get her attention. She approached the couple from behind so Sean couldn’t see her.
“Am I interrupting anything here?” she snapped.
Sean immediately backed away. “Baby, I was just talking to–”
“Brandi,” the woman said, sounding offended.
“Yeah, Brandi.” Sean smiled nervously. “She was telling me about a club we should check out.”
“Oh, really?” Abby used extra sarcasm in her tone. “Too bad we have no time.” She smiled back, extra sweet. A small group of onlookers had inched closer. “Can I talk with you for a moment, baby?” She continued to smile. With a room full of reporters, she had to keep up appearances. She took his hand and pulled him toward her private dressing area.
Once inside, she shut the door. “What the fuck was that? I can’t leave you alone for more than five fucking minutes without you trying to get into some random skank’s pants? Really?” She kept her voice low, but her tone had an effect. He frowned.
“I was just being nice. She came up to me and wanted to talk. What was I supposed to do? Be rude?” He ran his finger along the seam of Abby’s shirt and looked down at her with a smile.
She always had a hard time resisting him, especially his damn blue eyes. She ran her hand through his longish brown unruly hair that was still sweaty from being on stage.
“Mmm. There,” he said. “See? It’s cool, right?”
“Fuck you, Sean. I see that shit again and you can say goodbye to me, this tour and your fucking career.”
Sean stared at her. “I’m sorry.”
“Fine,” she said with a sigh. “I have to get ready.”
He stepped back to let her pass but grabbed her hand. “Where are you going?”
“I have a fucking meet and greet that my dearest mother set up.”
“I was hoping we could spend some time by ourselves tonight.” He looked down into her eyes and brushed her bangs off her forehead. “I mean it. I’m sorry and we really don’t get time to ourselves. I just thought–”
Abby sighed again but this time she let go of some of her anger. “I wish I could get out of it.”
“Um, sorry to break things up here, but you have to start to get ready if you want to be able to get back at a decent time.” Sophie smiled, apologetic, and Abby wondered how much she had seen.
“Wait up for me?” Abby whispered after giving him a quick kiss.
“Absolutely. How long are you gonna be? I’ll have a bath waiting for you.”
“That sounds nice. A couple of hours, I guess.” She looked over at Sophie, who shrugged.
“Give or take,” she guessed. “The sooner you get ready, the sooner you can finish up.”
Abby smiled. “All right. See you later.” She blew Sean a kiss and headed for the bathroom.
Abby walked into the elevator and leaned against the wall, completely exhausted from her long day. All she wanted now was the long hot bath she was promised. Sophie, Danny and Ron followed Abby into the elevator.
“That wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been,” Sophie said as she stood next to Abby.
“Danny was lucky enough to get cornered by the little girl’s mother.” Ron chuckled and pressed the buttons for their floors. “Left me to hold back all the squealing teenagers.”
“You could’ve given me some help. She was disgusting.” He shook himself free of the horrible memory.
“She was quite fond of you.” Abby giggled.
“Not one of you threw out a lifeline. I think I’m gonna need to shower for a week before I get her perfume out of my nose. She reeked.”
“Yeah you do smell pretty.” She goaded and they all laughed.
“I’ll remember this. Just wait.” Danny declared as the elevator door opened to Sophie’s floor.
“Night,” Sophie gave Abby a quick peck on the cheek and waved to the boys.
“Night,” Abby said, waiting inside the elevator with Danny holding the door open, while Ron walked Sophie to her door.
“So, what are your plans for the rest of the night? A late night rendezvous with the smelly cougar?” Abby continued teasing Danny as Ron walked back into the elevator.
“Aren’t you just the funny one this evening. Well, baby doll, it’s two-thirty in the morning, so I’m thinking sleep. Why? Did you have something in mind?”
She got lost for a minute in his deep brown eyes. She’d always thought he was cute, but for some reason, tonight she really wanted to touch his dimples and five o’ clock shadow.
“Um, you still with me, Abby?”
She snapped back to the elevator. “Oh, you want me to answer you?” she said with a little touch of sarcasm. She didn’t want him to think she’d been ogling him. “I told you how I feel about your stupid nicknames.” She tried to sound pissed but didn’t pull it off.
Danny tried to hide his laugh, but didn’t succeed.
Abby changed the subject. Much safer that way. “So, what time are we heading out in the morning?”
“Oh, nine hundred hours,” Danny replied.
“Okay Sarg, I’ll be ready.” She looked at Danny and smiled. The elevator dinged and the doors opened onto the semi-private floor, which held only two suites. One of them for Abby and Sean, and the other was for her personal security guards.
“Well, military man, it’s been a pleasure. I’m gonna go pass the hell out before I have to get up. Have a good night. ’Night Ron.” She smiled at them both while they waited for her to enter her suite.
She slipped the keycard in the slot and walked into the foyer. She strolled into the large sunken living room that was semi-dark, the muted lights from the Vegas strip was the only light that guided her. She made it halfway through the living room before she stopped to remove her shoes from her aching feet. Clearly, some sadistic man created high-heeled shoes.
“Sean?” She called out and continued her journey into the bedroom. Abby opened the door and threw her shoes down next to the dresser.
Sean wasn’t in the bedroom, and a twinge of anger gripped her throat. He said he’d be here when she got back. Even if he decided to go out with the band, he was supposed to be here. She turned the light on then dug into her bag for her phone. It wasn’t there. “Fuck,” she muttered as she walked to the phone next to the bed and dialed Sophie’s room.
“Hey, sorry to bother you, but do you have my phone?”
“No, I don’t think so, but let me look. Hold on.”
Abby chewed her lip, thinking about Sean. Where the hell was he? Worse, who was he with? Her stomach started to ache with stress.
“Hey,” Sophie said. “I don’t have it.”
“Fuck. I must’ve left it in my dressing room.” Typical, considering the way her luck had been tonight. “It makes me nervous not to have it. I’ll go back and look.”
“You can’t go alone.”
“It’ll only be twenty minutes. I’ll just run downstairs and ask management to let me check my room.”
“Bad idea to go by yourself. Ask one of the boys to go.”
“They’re probably already in bed. I won’t be long. You know where I am. When I find my phone I’ll call you.”
“I’m still dressed. I’ll go with you. I’ll meet you at the elevator.”
“You sure?” The last thing Abby wanted to do was take advantage of Sophie, who already had to jump through millions of hoops for her mother.
“Yes. Positive. By the time you reach my floor I’ll be there.”
“Okay, thanks.” Abby hung up and slipped on a pair of flats before she left her room. At the elevator, she hesitated. Should she tell security? She stabbed the button but let guilt lead her the few paces to the other suite where she knocked on the door. A ding sounded behind her and she decided to grab the elevator and call her team when she got her phone. She hurried in before the doors closed.
Debra is a native New Yorker who made her escape to the suburbs. She often visits her hometown to enjoy a bagel with butter from her favorite deli, because there’s no better bagel than a New York bagel. When not in search of bagels, Debra spends her time running Book Enthusiast Promotions, an online promotions company that helps indie authors spread the word about their books. She’s also the owner of The Book Enthusiast blog.
She started writing lyrics in her wall-to-wall NKOTB bedroom at the tender age of thirteen while dreaming of the day she’d become Mrs. Jordan Knight. That dream never came to fruition, but she has continued to write. Now she’s working on her first novel.