Your music has garnered you a growing fan club, and I think you’re on the verge of hitting it big.” Lance Macallister, owner of Twisted Records, always starts these meetings the same: compliments on our music—because let’s face it, we’re good—followed by a reprimand for our behavior. Or, more accurately, Alex’s behavior.
“But?” I ask, prompting the reaming we’re all here for.
“But,”—he meets each of our stares—“we have to do something about the band’s image if you want to go any further in your careers. Ronnie spotted your talent that night six years ago, but talent only gets you so far.”
Ronnie offers me a polite smile. The man has been our manager since we won a battle of the bands contest in some hole in the wall bar, but he lacks any of the aggressiveness needed to keep a band of young twenty-somethings in line. Especially as he’s not that much older than us.
“What do you need us to do? I thought me dating Marcy was enough to eclipse any bad publicity coming our way.” The last time our lead guitarist, Alexander Gregory, pulled a stunt that got us called into this conference room, he’d trashed a hotel room and punched a bellhop. Macallister’s solution was to throw the popular up-and-coming actress, Marcy Dixon, at me. By redirecting the attention to my relationship with the popular starlet—no matter how fake it is—Macallister had kept Alex’s destructive behavior from the press. I’d do anything for Maxim, and it’s not as though pretending to date Marcy is a hardship. She’s gorgeous, and the sex is good. Our relationship may be fake, but I’m still a man with needs. Marcy understands that it’s all for show with a little fun on the side to ease the tension once in a while.
“It is. For now. But you’re gaining in popularity with your new single, ‘For Tonight’. It won’t be long until your faces are all over the entertainment rags. And when that happens, they’ll show the bad alongside the good.” Jude Thomas, Macallister’s friend and business partner, glares at us like the heathens he likely considers us. The man hasn’t had a smile for us since we met. Ronnie assures me he likes us, but that’s hard to believe when all he does is look down his nose at us and glare before rushing from the room after each meeting.
“Jude is right. We need to keep ahead of any potential disasters,” Macallister says. Meaning we needed to get Alex to fall in line before we lose the label any money. “I’ve hired a PR team specifically for Maxim. They’ll be here in two days for introductions before you leave for tour.”
“Tour?” Anderson—Anders—Cartwright, our keyboardist, asks.
“Yes. You’ll be opening for Tainted as they tour the country. I’ve also taken the liberty of hiring a stylist. He’ll be heading on tour with you and the PR team.”
I look at my bandmates to gauge their reactions to the news. Alex looks pissed. What else is new? Anders looks indifferent, ready to go with the flow of whatever we decide to do. Thierry Lachlan, Maxim’s drummer, and Rierdan Hughes, bassist, are both looking to me, concern for the band’s future clear on their faces.
“I’m sorry, okay.” Alex grits out the words between clenched teeth.
“You’re always sorry, Mr. Gregory,” Jude throws back at him, his tone clearly saying he doesn’t believe Alex deserves another chance.
“Which is why you will be required to attend anger management sessions. Since we can’t postpone the tour, they will be held virtually and to ensure you follow through, we have assigned a member of the PR team to attend alongside you.” Macallister gathers the papers sitting on the table in front of him. “I’ll see you in two days, gentlemen. Try not to get into any trouble before then.”
Jude hightails it from the conference room while McAllister and Ronnie leisurely take their leave. No one says a word until the door closes behind them.
“Fuck! Alex, you need to tame whatever the hell issues you have.” Thierry shoves a hand into his dark blond mane, gripping the roots and dislodging the hair tie holding his bun in place.
“I don’t know what’s going on with you, but Thierry’s right. If you don’t get yourself under control, Maxim will suffer for it.” Even Anders, the usually carefree, go with the flow guy, is noticeably frustrated with our guitarist.
“I think this anger management Macallister has planned will be good for you, Alex,” I tell him, and I mean it. He’s always been the angriest of our group, but the past few years have seen him move into a wave of hostility I can only describe as self-hatred.
Alex grunts his disapproval but doesn’t argue. He wants Maxim to be successful as much as the rest of us. After six years, we’re finally getting a chance to prove we’re worthy of all Twisted Records has put in to get us here.
Rierdan slams his palm down on the table, jerking my attention to the smile stretching his face. “We’re going on tour. Maxim is going to be headlining for fucking Tainted!”