When a beautiful R&B singer teams up with a country music hunk, the music they make is irresistible in this contemporary romance.
Worse than a one-hit wonder, Tassia Hogan is a one-line wonder. Infamous for one extremely provocative verse, her career as an R& B singer isn’t going anywhere. Neither is her love life, since men always expect her to be as wanton as those lyrics. But now her label is offering Tassia the chance to shine—with a catch. The album is duets. Her partner is a Country Western singer. And he’s just as reluctant to agree as she is.
Hyde Love has been in the music business since he was eleven, which is long enough to become disenchanted with it. Collaborating on an album seems great in theory, but melding his sound with Tassia’s will be difficult—almost as difficult as keeping things strictly business. Getting involved could risk a career-ruining scandal, but discovering the real Tassia could be truly earth-shattering.
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Tassia Hogan sat in a makeshift director's chair that reminded her of the chairs on the set of the TV show she had done as a pre-teen called the Ratty Rat's Fun Crew. Fifteen years later and she still liked to sit in the taut cloth seat with her leg draped across the arm, leaned back against the stretched black fabric. Anything that relaxed her before a show fit the bill right now.
Since she sat backstage with Aaron's back-up singers and dancers, she felt comfortable with this group. She wore black shorts along with her black leather bra until showtime. Then she would swap the shorts for a matching black leather skirt and heels that would kill her feet as she danced around in them for over an hour on stage. Thankfully, tonight would be the last show on the tour.
The limber dancers all stretched in different corners of the room. Even in a room far away from the main arena area, Tassia heard the crowds all chanting Aaron's name, which sucked for the opening act on stage at the moment. She could relate. Tassia knew full well that the sold-out arena full of people would have their full, undivided attention on the headliner, Aaron. She just happened to sing a hook on his latest hit song. One day she would gain some respect and have fans of her own. Now that enough time had been put between her and that kids' show, she could start making a name for herself.
Tassia rarely gave her attention to the generally foul-mouthed crew that surrounded her.
Most times the backstage area sounded more like a teenager-filled locker room than a room full of professionals working for one of the highest-paid rappers in the game. When she heard the expletive she didn't flinch. Like she did at ten years old when she had worked on the show, she swung her leg back and forth. Then she heard her name.
"I can't believe they still play this show."
The hairs stood on the back of Tassia's neck as she dared to bring her attention to the wide-screen TV that hung on the wall. It didn't take her long to notice the taped opening to Ratty Rat's Fun Crew where she and five other children danced around a man dressed in a rat costume.
A rat. Why the hell did it have to be a rat of all things?
"Aww, Tassia, you were so cute." A female dancer put her hand to her chest.
"Yeah, look at those pigtails." A back-up singer pointed to the screen.
Tassia didn't need to look. She knew what she looked like. For a year, the show pressed her natural hair using a blow dryer and a hot comb so that she could achieve her straight-hair look. With all the dancing she did on the show, by the end of the day, the sweat that had poured from her reverted her hair back to its naturally wavy pattern.
Thankfully with wigs now, she didn't worry about her hair, still in its natural state. Pretty soon she would see a stylist to get cornrows in her hair to get ready for her vacation. Fuss-free hair on a drama-free vacation.
Although she fought hard to avoid looking at the screen, her gaze fell on one of her kiddie co-stars. Tassia remembered Hyde Love being shy and quiet.
As though a back-up singer had read her thoughts, the woman said, "I can't believe that chubby kid turned out to be the biggest star out there." She turned to Tassia, who now had to bring her leg down and squeeze them together when that familiar school-girl crush returned. "Did you know he would blow up like he has?" Tassia shook her head. "We were kids. We didn't know what would happen in the future."
Yes, she wouldn't have known that this man would stab her in the back, not once, but twice. It was too bad because at one time, she completely thought the world of him.
Immediately, Tassia went back to her ten-year-old self on the set of the TV show. She remembered how much she hated the waiting. She knew her lines, could sing her face off according to the producers, and she could dance circles around most of the girls in the show, but at her young age, patience had never been her strong suit.
She sat back in one of the director's chairs that littered the dim area of the sound stage in California while grips and stagehands milled around her, setting up the set for the next scene, one where she would dance around with an eight-foot rodent that wore a sideways-facing blue baseball cap and sunglasses.
She shouldn't have complained about all the waiting. What other ten-year-old girls could say they co-starred on a TV show where she could sing and dance as her job? She could do this for the rest of her life. She knew better though. Eventually, she would get older and her part would be recast with someone younger, at least that's what her father, Burt, had prepped her to expect. No love or loyalty in this business.
"Are you doing okay?" She remembered Burt had stood in front of her and blocked her view of the brightly lit set. As usual, her rock of a father, with his dark skin and glasses resting on his thick nose, carried a harried expression as he tugged on his blue-and-white striped suspenders.
Burt had never come across as mean or as manic as the other stage moms there. Tassia appreciated that aspect of her father. She had watched the parents of the other kids in the show and hadn't liked what she saw. Pushy, demanding and demeaning, and all out rude. Her dad never carried himself that way. He had always told her whenever the show or being in the business stopped being fun for her, she could go. Knowing she had an out plan made the experience all the more fun.
"I'm cool, Daddy." Tassia nodded while she had her leg draped over the arm of the chair.
"Leg down." Burt tapped her against her knee. "Always be a lady."
She groaned and brought her foot down. "I just wanted to be relaxed. No one is paying attention to me." Particularly not the very cute Hyde Love, one of the many co-stars in this children's show.
Too bad Hyde's attention stayed on his career and nothing else, which probably explained how he rose to mega-stardom and she fizzled to the middle. What else could she expect from an eleven-year-old boy? Tassia had kind of hoped that the writing team would be a little progressive and write a new storyline that had her interacting with Hyde a bit more. She already recognized the producers' clever trick of hiring all races for the show. Tassia represented the African-American group. Hyde had to be the poster child for middle-American white boys, complete with blond hair and the most interesting green eyes she had ever seen.
"Have you talked to Mommy today?" Tassia swung her leg back and forth as she awaited the answer.
Burt glanced at his watch. "Uh, yeah. She's fine. She said hi." He looked away.
Tassia's heartbeat slowed down a little. She knew both parents couldn't be with her. She had hoped though that her dad would have given her more information, or, better yet, allowed her to talk to her mother at least. Between work and the tutoring, she barely had time to be a kid. At the end of filming season, Tassia loved going home. She hoped she would have that chance in a few weeks.
"I need to have a word with the producer. You're going to be all right here?" Burt started heading toward a table off to the side filled with men and women who mingled with the writing team.
Tassia nodded. As soon as he walked away, Christina, one of the bubblier cast members, plopped down in the matching director's chair beside her. Tassia always felt more mature for her age, but being around Christina made her seem almost parental.
"I love filming day." Christina pumped her little fists in the air.
Tassia gave her a polite smile and nodded. Her mother would have appreciated that gesture.
"Did you hear the news?" Christina hopped up on the seat of the chair and faced Tassia.
"We're filming two episodes today? Yeah, I heard." Tassia had practiced the dance routine so many times, she could do it without music.
"Yeah, and they're planning on something special." She wagged her backside, resembling a dog shaking its tail.
"Special? How?" Tassia shrugged.
"Well, there are six of us." The young Latina's light-brown curls bounced around her cherubic face. "Rumor has it that we'll be paired up."
Tassia perked up. "Paired up how?"
"You know, like singing partners and stuff. I think it sounds like fun." Christina patted Tassia's arm. "You want to be my singing partner?"
Ordinarily, Tassia would have said yes, ever the agreeable worker. Then she caught Hyde Love across the room. He sat on the floor by himself with a piece of paper and a pencil. He had on a bright red baseball cap that he wore backward on his head and had now become a part of his official look.
"Tassia." Christina patted Tassia's arm again. "What do you think?"
"Sounds great and fun, but you know the producers will decide who gets paired up if that's going to happen."
Christina scrunched up her face. "That's true."
Tassia slid off her chair. "I'll be right back."
Activity around the room seemed to have ramped up a little, meaning filming would start again soon. Tassia had only a moment to get some quiet time with Hyde. Without invitation, she plopped down next to him, but he kept his head down while he continued writing.
"Hey." Tassia stretched her legs out in front of her. She noticed Hyde glanced at her legs very quickly before going back to work. "We don't get to talk a lot between takes."
He gave her a nod before returning to his writing.
She had to do something to break the ice with him. He had been the only cast member she hadn't really connected with since starting the show a year ago. "What's your favorite ice cream?"
He wrinkled his nose when he looked at her as though her words contained a smell. "What?"
"Ice cream. You eat it, right?"
"Are you making fun of my weight?" He glanced to someone behind her. "I told my dad I'm trying to lose it."
Tassia started to look behind herself but decided that she needed to stay connected to him. "I don't think there's anything wrong with how you look now." She smiled to back up her supportive words. "My favorite is something called kitty tracks. It's vanilla ice cream with chunks of chocolate and peanuts and caramel. It's so good." She knocked her shoe against his foot.
Hyde scooted away from her. For being the most energetic of the kids when he performed, he sure did come off stiff and quiet. "Vanilla. Just plain vanilla."
Tassia had to hide her surprise that he had even answered her. "Favorite candy?" Again, he peered toward the area where his father stood before he answered. "Snickers." He smiled. "I like chocolate."
She beamed. "Me, too. I like them frozen."
Hyde wrinkled his nose. "Frozen?"
She nodded. "You haven't lived until you've eaten a frozen Snickers."
"I like them melty. The caramel strings out when you bite into it." To demonstrate what he meant, Hyde held his hand up to his mouth before drawing it out in front of him as though the caramel could get out to over a foot.
"I'm also a huge fan of sour apple Now and Later." She drew her cheeks in. "So good. Okay, favorite meal ever?" Now that she had him engaged, she didn't want to stop talking to him.
"You like food, huh?" He chuckled.
"It's universal. We all eat. My favorite meal is when my dad cooks anything out on the grill. Steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, even corn on the cob. It makes the food taste so good. What about you? What do you like?"
"Come on. I can't be the only one revealing stuff. If today was your last day on earth, what would you want?"
Hyde drummed his pen on the pad of paper he held before he answered. "My grandmother's fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh! And her rolls. I love her yeast rolls right out of the oven with butter. She makes the house smell like a bread store."
"You mean a bakery?"
Hyde snickered. "Sure." Then his smile melted. "I miss my grandparents."
"Oh, did they pass away?" She wanted to reach out to him, but she had already seen him move away from her. She didn't want him to totally recoil from her.
Hyde shook his head. "No. Too much work and school. We never have time to stop and visit like we used to." He sniffed and ran his finger across his nose.
Tassia tapped his pad of paper. "What are you doing?"
Hyde peered up at her. His hypnotizing stare froze her in her spot. She had even stopped breathing for a moment, which made her nervous. She never got nervous around boys.
"Writing." He quickly dropped his stare back to the paper and adjusted his cap.
"Oh. Homework?" She snickered. "I hate having to do that."
He shook his head. "Writing songs." He smiled. "I like writing songs, and I'm learning how to play the guitar."
She sat up taller. "Really? My daddy put me into piano lessons." She scooted over closer to him. "So what kind of songs are you writing?"
"Um, country songs. I like the ones I hear on the radio." He nodded toward the person she assumed had to be Hyde's father. "My dad, who is also my manager, thinks he can get me a recording deal."
"Wow. That's cool. I wouldn't be surprised if you did get the deal. You're the most popular one here in the R.R.F.C." She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. "Can I see what you're writing?" She leaned closer and reached out to him, and he recoiled back, a reaction that felt like a punch in her stomach.
"No. It's not ready." Hyde shook his head hard enough that his hat had almost flown off his head.
Tassia drew her hand back. "Oh, okay." Not willing to give up this conversation, she continued. "Christina just told me about a rumor she had heard."
"What's that?" Hyde put his paperwork down for a moment to give his full attention to her.
"That the writers are going to pair us up. I mean, not you and me necessarily. But that could happen. Wouldn't that be cool?" Tassia remembered how her stomach knotted as she waited for his response.
Hyde shook his head. "Sounds like you won't have an opportunity to shine on your own."
Tassia knew her heart had stopped. Sounded like Hyde didn't want a singing partner or to even be on a show with other children.
He looked at her. "We can't keep doing this show for the rest of our lives. That's what my dad always says." He pointed to his dad, who had his arm draped over the shoulders of the set nurse. He seemed to make friends a lot with various women around there. "What do you plan on doing when our time ends?"
"Um, I don't know." She looked down at the paper he held. "Maybe write songs, too. I sing really well, so maybe start singing, too."
"You write songs? I'd like to see them." Hyde's eyes widened.
Tassia hadn't even finished her homework let alone written a song. Why had she even lied to this boy? Her parents would have been so disappointed had they heard her telling these tall tales.
Before she could explain herself, she heard raised voices, and one sounded strangely familiar. She peered across the room and saw her normally cool and calm father storming toward her.
"Is that your dad?" Hyde pointed to him.
"Yeah, he looks kind of mad."
The story about her little lie couldn't have gotten to him yet.
"Looks like he cares." Hyde returned his attention back to his paper.
"Come on, baby girl. We're leaving." Burt put his hand out to her.
"Leaving? What do you mean, Daddy? We're about to start filming soon." Tassia pointed to the crew, who now had all stopped moving to look at the spectacle in the room.
"You don't have to worry about filming. You no longer are a part of the Ratty Rat family." Burt looked back over his shoulder to the table full of producers. "You and your talents aren't appreciated here." Then he had glared at Hyde, who looked shocked. "It's apparent who they think is the true star of this show. Let's go."
Tassia grabbed her father's hand and he helped her up to her feet. "But —"
"We'll go home to Maryland. You can go back to being a kid."
Sounded nice except Tassia had started to like this grown-up world of filming and being on a TV show, even one on a public TV channel. She also started to like Hyde, even with the little bit of interaction they had between takes. With this abrupt exit and now that she would be going back to the east coast, she knew she wouldn't see Hyde again. At the time, she didn't even know if she would be continuing in the business. Fortunately for her, Tassia had continued on her own.
She jumped out of the chair. "Turn that off."
"Aww, come on. Isn't it nice to reminisce?" One of the dancers asked.
At that moment, a back-up singer started singing the Mary J. Blige song of the same name and getting the entire room, except for Tassia, to sing and dance with her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Crazy on You"
Copyright © 2019 Crystal B. Bright.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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