FREE FRIDAYS: WEEKEND READING—ON US.

Crazy in Love

Crystal B. Bright

“Up. Don’t mess up your makeup.” Her manager tapped Shauna Stellar’s shoulder.

Shauna shivered at his touch. On a day like today, she needed the comfort and resented it. She stared at a picture on her large, rectangular phone. Her mother with her wild mane of chocolate-brown hair and wide, expressive dark eyes smiled in the shot. If Shauna inhaled deep enough, she could smell her mom’s flowery scent.

Moments like this, she missed having her mother sit by her side to tell her everything would be okay. Then again, with Shauna’s busy schedule, it had been a while since her mother had been able to do that. Now, she would never get that chance again.

Shauna knew Craig would stay around her, hovering, until she complied with his directive. Until she sat up and looked him in his eyes, he wouldn’t move on to his next task. Shauna waited a beat before connecting her gaze to his through the mirror.

“Good girl.” The large man in an expensive suit winked at her.

She started to open her mouth, wanting to scream at him for so many things right now. Why wouldn’t he let her be for a moment? Why did she always have to appear perfect? Why did she have to sing today? Why couldn’t she say no?

He held up his finger. “You open that mouth of yours for hot tea or vocal warm-ups. Nothing else until show time. You know the rules.”

Yes, Craig George’s rules. Shauna pressed her lips together.

“You need tea?” He didn’t even look at her when he asked the question. His stare stayed on his diamond-encrusted Rolex.

No. Having tea before a performance reminded Shauna of her mother. Before every dance class and singing lesson, Shauna had shared hot tea and great conversation with Fatima Evans. Tasting the bitter drink now would bring back too many memories and way too many missed opportunities that she didn’t want to admit.

Like him, Shauna didn’t answer until he acknowledged her again. When he connected his gaze to hers, she shook her head. The diamonds in her drop earrings brushed her cheek.

“You want to do some scales?” He snapped his fingers for her vocal coach who always came with her on the road.

As soon as she spotted him, Shauna felt her eyes get scratchy. She didn’t care if tears messed up her makeup. Besides Craig, her vocal coach had been with her from the start of her career at fifteen. Now she saw him as a reminder of Fatima, the woman who had given her life in more ways than one.

Again, Shauna started to say something. She needed to be heard.

“Get out of here.” Craig held the coach’s shoulders before he could get any closer to Shauna and turned him to the door. He pointed to a makeup artist. “You. Get in there and fix her up. The Princess of Love Ballads has to be impeccable.”

A young man scurried to Shauna with a silver-and-black makeup case in hand.

“Make sure that mascara is waterproof. She has to look flawless. This has to be like every other performance.” Craig took a seat on a couch next to her, but kept his attention directed to his phone.

His request pushed Shauna to the edge. She waved her hands in the air to prevent anyone from getting too close to her. “Get out.” She pointed to the door.

Craig bolted to his feet. Before saying anything, he put his hand on Shauna’s shoulder as though to remind her to remain silent, preserve her tool.

“Okay, you all heard her. Everyone, get out.” Craig nodded to the door. “Come get her when it’s time for her to get on stage.”

Shauna shook her head. “No.” Now that she found her voice, she didn’t want to stop.

Craig silenced her with a raised hand and waited until the room emptied before he spoke to her. “I know you’re feeling a little shaken up right now. Raheem—”

The mention of her ex-boyfriend had her head throbbing. Shauna balled her hands into fists before she bolted to her feet. The dangly sequins on her dress clinked together like a wind chime, creating a soothing melody for her. Something had to be on her side.

Craig powered through his speech. “I know the breakup was rough, especially how he did it.”

She started to pace in her spindly heels. To say Raheem broke up with her in a grand and humiliating way would be a severe understatement. He crushed her spirit. Everything else that happened to her crushed her soul.

“I made sure he wouldn’t be anywhere close to you. According to his recent tweets, he’s in California right now.” This time Craig held up both hands. “Universe Records has asked that you keep this obligation.”

Of course the record label would want her to continue performing no matter what. They needed money to line their pockets. It didn’t matter how Shauna felt.

When Shauna worked, which seemed to be all the time now, Craig remained business-minded. It seemed so easy for him to switch from business to personal mode in a matter of milliseconds, a trait Shauna never acquired.

All the laughing and joking stopped with the involvement of money. Shauna ached for a friend right now, someone to commiserate over recent events. Even with Madison Square Garden being packed full of people, she felt so alone.

Craig tried giving Shauna the most sincere look he could muster. “Fatima would want you here doing what you’re doing.”

Shauna doubted that. The mention of her mother stilled her in her position. She held on to the back of a chair as she regarded her manager. When she brushed her thumb over the wood, she brought her gaze down to it and the rest of the room.

What happened to her large throne-like white velvet chair that felt like a hug when she sat in it? She’d done shows at the Garden before and had had that piece with her when she performed there.

She scanned the room and noticed that the normal all-white furniture she always requested didn’t make it to her dressing room. The drab battleship-gray walls brought her mood down even more than the burnt burgundy-colored carpeting with stains in various spots. Where was the expensive Oriental rug that came along with her for every show?

Shauna glanced over to the area where the venue normally had her specialty drinks and snacks. Nothing. No. Not nothing. Bottled water. Generic bottled water. She turned to Craig.

As though reading her thoughts, he answered what had been running through her mind. “I’ve asked them to scale back on some of your perks.”

She felt her eyebrows furrow. On a day like today, having overpriced water, bouquets of daisies, and an assortment of Now and Later candies didn’t seem like it would be too much to get. Then she noticed how much Craig fidgeted in his spot.

“We need to talk.” He took a step closer to her. “About a lot of things. In the morning, we’ll see the lawyer about your mother’s will.” He ran his meaty hand over his shaved head. “Hopefully, she left you something.”

The way Craig’s voice dipped, it seemed like he didn’t want her to hear the last part of his statement.

Shauna’s heart raced. Forget preserving her voice. She needed to say something.

When she opened her mouth, a knock sounded at the door before the person came inside.

A young woman wearing a headset glanced at Shauna before dropping her gaze, avoiding eye contact like she had been instructed to do so. “Your stage is set. The second opening act is finishing their last song. You’re up.”

“Thanks.” This time, Craig waved her away. He held Shauna’s shoulders as he gazed at her.

The way Craig stared made her feel like a commodity, an art piece he wanted to buy, or a horse he had put his life savings on for a race. She tried taking a step back, not to run but because she needed some space.

Craig must have thought the motion meant she didn’t want to be there. He gripped her arms tighter.

“You can do this.” He turned to the door. “You have thousands of fans out there cheering for you. They paid a lot of money to see you. Fatima’s death was a setback.”

Shauna blinked. Did he actually call her mother’s death a setback? Losing her mother had been more than an inconvenience. What the hell was she doing there?

“I can see you looking a little unsure.” Craig shook his head. “I don’t need Chantel Evans right now. I need you to be Shauna Stellar.”

The mention of her real name gave Shauna another reminder of how disconnected she had become from her family, her mother. She turned her head and caught her reflection in the mirror, and had to drop her gaze just as fast. She couldn’t take staring at a stranger.

Although she understood Craig’s hard-nose attitude, she wished he would drop being Craig George, the business manager, and be the nice man who vowed to protect her and her interests when she, at fifteen years of age, and Fatima sought him out to represent her in the music industry. She could be Shauna if Craig would just hug her before she went on stage.

“Don’t let the fans down.” He pointed to her chest. “You can do it. You’re a pro. Always have been. Always will be.”

No hug. Not even a pat on her back.

Right now, Shauna didn’t feel like a professional. She wanted to rip off her designer gown, take off the skyscraper heels that hurt her toes and probably cost as much as the house she grew up in, throw on a well-worn T-shirt, crawl in bed, and not come out for years.

Craig swiftly moved behind her and pushed her to the door. Like he had to, he guided her through the long hallway, up several flights of stairs, and to the backstage area. Shauna knew the path, although the place now appeared blurry all the sudden.

She couldn’t get her eyes to focus, and her head remained cloudy. She had been that way ever since she placed her hand on her mother’s coffin before they lowered it into the ground only a few hours ago.

A young man in a dark suit approached her. He looked familiar. Maybe he worked at the funeral home. Even with his blond hair and blue eyes, he looked sinister, like he had an agenda. The dark lighting in the backstage area might have had something to do with it.

“Good evening, Ms. Stellar.” He stood in front of her. “I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Laz Kyson. I work at your label. We, at Universe, want to thank you for your bravery. You’re going to put on a great show.” It looked like he had to choke out the last part of his statement before he plastered a fake smile on his face and nodded.

Shauna didn’t acknowledge him. She swiftly moved around him to get into her position. Someone placed an earpiece in her ear and covered it with her long, flowing chestnut colored hair that had pieces of fake hair mixed in it. Craig placed a white microphone in her hands and had to wrap her fingers around it for her to hold it. Her dancers ran by her to go to their marks on the stage.

“We didn’t pray.” She whispered the words about a forgotten ritual she used to do with her dancers and everyone that worked on her tour.

The same woman who had gotten her from her dressing room approached her again. “Your spot is there.” She pointed to the center of the stage. “I understand why you couldn’t do a run through earlier today.” She patted Shauna’s hand. “Sorry about your mom.”

The sentiments crushed Shauna’s heart. She covered her mouth, afraid of the tears she felt coming.

Craig pushed the woman away. “I told you not to mention that in front of her.” He signaled for the makeup artist to touch up Shauna’s face again.

Shauna didn’t need to be dolled up. Before her cue, she walked out on stage while her dancers performed their routine. She noticed their surprised looks as she came out before her choreographed moment.

A wave of screams and applause hit her as she stumbled to the center. The strength of the clamorous crowd kept her upright for a moment, but she knew it wouldn’t last. She couldn’t see faces as she looked out into the sea of people.

The music around her sounded foreign, not like she had sung over it before, but she knew she had, a million times for millions of people. Nothing seemed real.

She kept looking out into the crowd until she could focus on some faces in the front row. Shauna walked toward the front of the stage. It occurred to her that she must have missed her mark in the song when the music stopped.

Shauna found her dancers and her band standing still and staring at her. She needed an ally. Someone who would understand her.

She crouched down to make eye contact with a young man who screamed and cried.

“I love you, Shauna Stellar!” He reached for her but the barrier wall and the group of buff security guards held him back.

“I don’t know what love is.” She spoke in the microphone out of habit. “Why do you love me?”

The screams in the arena quieted down a little. Then the flashes started. Everyone with a camera-phone snapped her picture, but no one asked her how she felt.

Shauna reached her hand out to touch someone, anyone. “My body feels like jelly. I can’t feel anything. Today wasn’t a good day. And I didn’t pray before I came out here, and I always do that. Good girls pray. They’re thankful for everything they have because it could be taken away.” Tears streamed down her face. “Do you know what I did?” She scanned the immediate crowd. “Of course you do. You all know every move I make.”

The fans looked around them as she spoke directly to them. They looked as confused as she felt.

“Gone. I’ll never see her again. And you all want to hear me sing.” Her breathing increased. “When people take from you, they don’t know what it does to you.” She shook her head. She ran her fingers through her hair and came across a clip hidden under her tresses and close to her scalp. Without thinking, she undid it and removed some of her fake hair and tossed it to the ground. “I’m nothing. I don’t like myself. I hate what I’ve done.” Tears streamed down her face.

From the depths of her soul, like she had been holding on to the pain for her full twenty-five years, Shauna screamed so loud and so long that her throat became scratchy and ached.

She heard footsteps. When she turned, she spotted Craig running toward her. “Sorry I let you down.” She dropped the microphone, closed her eyes, and let gravity do its work, rolling off the stage and heading to the concrete floor below.

The darkness soothed her.

* * * *

Truman Woodley stared at his phone at a picture of himself with his son, Gage, as he waited to hit the stage with his band. Even as he sat in a trailer that he and his four friends had to share with a magician and an amateur yodeler, he knew he could be a success for his boy. He couldn’t give up.

He checked the time. Nine at night went way beyond his five-year-old son’s bedtime. Plus he didn’t need to get into an argument with his ex-girlfriend if he called. She would ask him about money he didn’t have. At least after two years, she stopped asking if they could be a couple again. That ship had long sailed away.

“Some of us can’t keep doing this.” Charlie leaned against the inside wall of the trailer, and it felt like the whole thing shifted under the big man’s weight. The wall creaked and cracked as soon as he touched it. He must have felt the movement. He straightened up before he continued. “I promised my wife that I would play bass for the Sliders for a year. We’re six months in and I don’t see that pot at the end of the rainbow. I have five kids.”

“We know.” Sully propped his feet up on a counter as he cradled his guitar.

“I know you know.” Charlie scanned the group. “You all know what we have going on outside of this group.” He glared at Truman. “If something doesn’t happen soon, I don’t know if I can keep going with this. At some point, I need to get a real job with real benefits to take care of my family, who I love with all my heart. Being out here in Virginia is killing me.” He snickered. “What country band thinks their career is going to be made in Virginia? We need to go back home to Tennessee.”

Truman returned his phone to his pocket, and then glanced at Ervin who only shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m down for whatever.” Ervin drummed his sticks over his thighs. “But it would be nice to catch a break. We’ve been at this since we were in high school. It’s been ten years going from gig to gig as Truman Woodley and the Sliders. Something’s got to give.”

“I hear you all.” Truman stood in the middle of his bandmates, his friends. “I’ve sent our demo to several record companies. Our videos are getting lots of views on YouTube. We have ten thousand followers on Facebook. We’re so close.”

“Close is not going to be good enough pretty soon.” Charlie sat in the chair Truman had occupied.

When Truman’s phone rang, he hoped it would be some good news. Instead he saw the name Ashley across the screen. He didn’t bother to go somewhere private to take the call. His friends knew the issues he had with his ex-girlfriend. Since she watched his son, he worried that something had happened with Gage.

“Did you get paid?” Ashley hit him as soon as he answered.

Truman sighed in relief. He pressed his free hand on a counter. Had she said something about his son, he would have been out of Virginia, done with touring, and out of his mind.

“I’m fine, Ash. How are you?” He hoped she caught his sarcastic tone.

“Yeah. Like you’d care.” She snorted. “I just want to know if your son gets to eat the rest of the month or not.”

He prickled at the implication that the mother of his child would allow their son to starve because her lazy behind couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go out and get a job.

“I deposited money into your account this morning. Didn’t you get my text?” Truman marched back and forth. “It’s not a lot, but it’s something until—”

Ashley cut him off. “Until what, Tru? Gage needs clothes. He’s growing like a weed. And I need—”

“The money is not for you.” He tightened his jaw.

“If I don’t have money, then I can’t pay rent. If I can’t pay rent, then me and your son will be on the streets.”

He heard Ashley popping gum. His skin crawled.

Why did he make a child with her? Wait. He had made the decision at the time with his head not located above his shoulders. Never again would he be led around by his dick.

“You live with your mother in an apartment. You’re trying to tell me that between the two of you and my money you can’t pay rent?” He kicked his boot against the wall.

The motion and noise startled the magician, an older man with a lot of sweat covering his vast forehead.

Ashley huffed. “Mama’s on disability. You know that. And Gage’s not in school yet and I can’t afford a babysitter.”

Before he could tell Ashley about her mother being able to watch their son, Ashley cut him off by reminding him that her mother, only in her late forties, couldn’t run after their five-year-old handful.

He exhaled loud enough for Ashley to hear it through the phone. “We’re about to go on soon.”

“Oh, you’re playing a show? A paying gig?” Not that Ashley cared that each show they played got them closer to their dream of making it big.

Truman glanced at his friends. “I’ll send more money when I can.”

“I need more than your word, Tru. You need to do better for your son.” Her voice rose to an annoying screech that made Truman pull the phone away from his ear.

“I’m doing the best that I can.” He spotted Charlie shaking his head and dropping his gaze to the floor.

Truman wondered how many times Charlie had had this conversation with his wife.

“Do better.” Ashley damn near growled her request. “Or I’m going to have to move to North Carolina.”

“What?”

Ashley hadn’t pulled this Carolina stunt before. Actually, she’d never threatened to keep Gage away from him.

“My grandmother lives there.” Ashley popped her gum three more times in quick succession like a popgun. “Her place is paid off. She can put us up.”

“Don’t take my son away from my family in Tennessee. I’ll do what I can to get you some money to get you by.” Truman leaned back on the counter. He felt like a ton of bricks had been dumped on his back and shoulders. Even though he couldn’t be there, his parents lived close to Ashley and could check up on his son at any time.

“I know you’ll get me the money. And don’t tell me what to do with my son. I’ll take him wherever I want.” The shrieking returned, and so did Truman’s headache.

He could almost see Ashley with her chin jutted out, her blond hair with its dark roots spiked up like a rooster and smoke swirling around her.

Tired of Ashley’s self-centered nature, Truman decided to let her have it. “You are a piece of work, you know that? It’s always me, me, me. Did you ever think that maybe you need to get in there and earn a living for yourself? What do you have to say?”

Silence.

Truman had never known Ashley to be tight-lipped about anything.

So he continued. “And I’m telling you now. If you ever threaten me with taking my boy to some trailer park in Charlotte, I’ll—”

“Daddy, what’s a trailer park?”

Silence.

This time Truman had to stop himself. Thank God he didn’t forget his manners and call the mother of his son anything but a child of God. The woman always fought dirty like a female version of his lead guitarist, Sully. He should have known that she would use their son as leverage in their argument.

“Hey, big man.” Truman took some deep breaths away from the phone to compose himself. “Aren’t you up late?” He would have to talk to Ashley about keeping Gage on a regular bedtime schedule. “How are you doing?”

“Fine. I drawed you a picture of you and your guitar.” Gage’s voice sounded less babyish than Truman remembered.

Truman hated missing out on these important years in Gage’s life. As his father, he wanted to be by him and teach him how to be a man. He heard rustling through the phone.

“See? Can you see it, Daddy?” Gage’s excited tone pumped up Truman.

He smiled. “I wish I could, big boy. We’re not on Facetime right now. Are you being good to your mama and grandmama?”

“Yes, sir. Just like you told me to.” Truman imagined Gage’s big hazel eyes, a combination of his brown eyes and Ashley’s green ones, sparkling as he talked to him.

Thanks to Ashley’s daily social media posts, Truman noticed how his child’s dirty blond hair had turned brown like his.

He loved hearing his son’s voice. His heart pounded a solid rhythm. His shoulders relaxed. More than anything, he wanted his boy by his side.

“I wish I could be there to tuck you in at night.” Truman saw Charlie wiping his hand under his nose before the big man stood and walked outside.

Truman should have taken the call somewhere else. Charlie missed his kids as much as Truman missed Gage. Yes, something needed to happen for them soon.

“Would you sing lullabies?” Gage’s voice sounded jittery like he talked while jumping up and down.

“Yep. All the ones you like.” Truman blinked and a tear almost escaped his eye. Only his son could draw out a reaction like that out of him.

“Daddy, can you sing me one now?”

Before he could sing a note, Truman heard Ashley in the background screaming. “Daddy will need to send more money before he can sing to you over the phone.”

Truman gritted his teeth. “I love you.”

“I love you, sugar.” Ashley chuckled. “But you know we’re no good for each other. I’ll be waiting for more money.”

Ashley disconnected the call. Truman slid his phone back into his pocket. So among everything else going on in his life, he had to find a job so that he could send more money to Ashley.

Screams from kids riding on a nearby Ferris wheel filtered through the trailer walls and broke his concentration. He adjusted his baseball cap on his head and took in a deep breath. Ordinarily, he liked the scent of freshly made popcorn and cotton candy. Now it all smelled like defeat.

“I thought we were done with gigs like these.” Sully kicked his boot against Truman’s.

“This gig is better than some.” Truman picked up his guitar. “It’s a county fair and not a dive bar.” When he noticed his friends starting to get ready to argue about the types of shows they’d been playing, he barreled through with his statement. “We get an album out, I think we’ll be done with shows like these. Consider this as us paying our dues.”

“Are we ever going to record in a studio?” Tony, their fiddler, chewed on his lower lip.

Truman held up his hand. “We’re a hard-working group. We’re going to get picked up.” At least he hoped they did. He understood the ruthlessness of the music business. It would be nothing for them to never get a deal.

His one hope rested with a recording studio in Virginia Beach with an owner who sounded like she cared about him, his band, and the music. Then he heard Fatima Evans had passed away six months ago. With his champion gone, what chance did they have?

“I need some air.” Truman sat his guitar back down and walked out of the trailer.

As soon as Charlie spotted him, his friend went back inside the trailer. Great.

Truman paced to work out some anxiety. His cowboy boots sank into the lush green grass. As the leader, he didn’t want to go on this music journey without the guys he considered to be like his brothers.

Truman’s phone buzzed in his pocket. He fished it out and answered it when he saw that the number came from a Virginia phone. He crossed his fingers, hoping for something good to happen.

“Mr. Woodley?”

Truman heard an unfamiliar gruff voice. “Yeah?”

He looked toward the stage. It looked like the last band had finished their set. Truman Woodley and the Sliders would be next.

“My name is Craig George. I’m a music manager, and I’m helping with the transition of Charisma Music Studio. I believe you signed a contract with the late Fatima Evans.”

Perfect. They had this guy call Truman to politely tell him that he and his friends wouldn’t be able to record their album. He knew he had made the right decision not telling the guys that he had a development deal with Charisma.

“Why are you calling me now?” He didn’t want to put words in the man’s mouth by asking if he and his bandmates lost their contract.

Craig cleared his throat. “I need to discuss your record deal, but I want to do it in person. Are you in here in Virginia Beach?”

“Uh, no. We’re doing a show in Roanoke, Virginia right now. We’ll be back sometime tomorrow.” Truman’s back already ached when he thought about the rough ride in the van for the long trip back home.

“Okay, how about the day after tomorrow? Come to my office. I’ll text you the address.”

Patience had never been Truman’s virtue. “Are we getting dropped?”

Craig laughed, and that made Truman bristle. He didn’t see his career as a laughing matter.

After the laughter died down, Craig composed himself enough to explain his reaction. “I don’t think Charisma plans on not honoring your contract.”

Away from the phone receiver, Truman released a long sigh. At least he had something to tell the guys other than saying that everything will be fine. He had a meeting with a stranger who assured him that he had nothing to worry about as far as their first album. Now he worried again.

Craig gave Truman a time and location for the meeting before the call ended. A young volunteer jogged to the trailer and called for the group. Each of them filed out one by one, glaring at Truman as they headed toward the stage area.

“Hey, guys. Wait up.” Truman ducked into the trailer long enough to get his guitar. He caught up with his friends.

“You all right to play?” Sully hung his guitar strap on his shoulder.

“Great now. I got some kick-ass news.” Truman beamed. “I have a meeting about our album when we get home.”

“Album? What album?” Tony scratched his head.

“We have a deal with a label and they want to meet with me on Friday to discuss our album.”

Charlie grabbed Truman’s arm first. “You’re shitting me.” He slapped Truman on his back. “That’s awesome.”

“I told you guys not to worry.” Truman damn near skipped as he relayed the news.

“This is happening. It’s really happening.” Ervin pumped his fist in the air before releasing a loud howl.

“Wait. Before everyone gets too excited.” Sully stopped his trek to the stage, which halted everyone else’s journey. “Did you sign us to a label already without discussing it with us?”

Truman made sure to look each of his friends in their eyes. “Yes. Almost a year ago, I met up with a woman named Fatima Evans. She seemed excited about signing a country group. So she asked if I would take a chance on her and her label and sign with her. I got a good feeling and did it.”

“Without telling us?” Sully slammed the butt of his guitar on the ground.

“And what did you mean by taking a chance on us? Why would we be a risk?” Charlie’s excited demeanor started to fade.

Truman dropped his gaze for a moment. “Because she normally records R&B, pop, and rap.”

“Rap?” Tony’s eyes widened. “And she knows we’re country?”

“Knew.” Truman rested his hand on his stomach. “After I signed the contract, I didn’t hear from her. Then I found out she passed away about six months ago. I waited about a month after her death to make some inquiries. I hadn’t heard back from anyone until today.”

“This is when having a lawyer would help, or at least a real manager.” Sully picked up his guitar and headed to the stage again.

“So they called you and they want to still record us. That’s good news.” Charlie’s smile started to firm up again. “What’s the name of the label?”

“Charisma Music.”

Ervin pulled out his phone and started typing something on it. “Holy shit.”

The group stopped again.

“What?” Tony approached Ervin first, not surprising.

“You know what they nickname this label? Ca-Razy Music. You know that singer Shauna Stellar?” Ervin flicked his finger over the phone screen.

“Can’t say that I do.” Sully shrugged.

“She does all of those love songs. She did that song ‘Love Me, Love Me, Love Me.’” Ervin kept his attention on his phone during his mad search.

Charlie’s eyes got wide. “She sang that one? I know that song. Two of my kids were conceived while I was listening to that.” He released a low, long whistle. “What about her?”

“Her mother was Fatima Evans. The reason they call it Ca-Razy Music is because Shauna went a little wacko about six months ago and took a header off the stage. She was babbling about love and stuff. People think she was high or drunk. She committed herself after that. Either way, if she’s involved with the studio, it might be a problem.” Ervin flipped his phone around. “But it’ll be a good problem to have. Look at that.”

Truman stared at the screen. The woman on it had long, wavy dark brown hair, a slender frame with the exception of her round ass, and skin that looked like caramel covered her body. She had her head back, eyes closed, and the microphone poised above her full lips. He brought his gaze down to her pert breasts and had to hold his guitar in front of his body when his lower half reacted involuntarily.

This Shauna Stellar danced a delicate line between sexy vixen and elegant lady. Truman understood how she could drive men crazy, but he couldn’t see her having a bad day in her life…with the exception of losing her mother.

“Go to that meeting and tell them we don’t want any part of them or their studio.” Sully shook his head. “We don’t need to be mixed up with an outfit that doesn’t do our music and with someone who may not be right in the head.”

Truman had to stare at his friend like Sully had lost his mind. “Are you kidding? This could be our only chance to—”

Sully cut him off. “I mean it. Tear up the contract and walk away. We don’t need to go to bed with this organization to make it.”

Charlie and Tony followed Sully.

Ervin stopped in front of Truman. “I know you’ll do the right thing by us. You always have. If you think signing this deal and recording with them is a good thing, I’ll stand with you.” He looked back at Sully. “To hell with him.”

“No.” Truman shook his head. “That’s not how this works. We said we would do things together. I messed that up a year ago when I signed something behind you guys’ backs. If I’m going to lead us, I need to respect your wishes.” He glanced at the other three in the group who stepped up on stage. “I won’t let you all down.”

Now Truman had to convince himself that he didn’t need to be concerned about this upcoming meeting.

Crazy in Love