Authors: Shelby Rebecca
A Phoenix Rising Novel
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, businesses, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Any trademarks mentioned herein are not authorized by the trademark owners and do not in any way mean the work is sponsored by or associated with the trademark owners. Any trademarks used are specifically in a descriptive capacity.
All songs and/or quotes are the property of their copyright owners.
Copyright © 2015 Shelby Rebecca
Edited by Juli Valenti of
Juli’s Elite Editing
Proof Read by Marlene Engel of
Book Mama Blog
Cover Art by Kari Ayasha at
Cover to Cover Designs
Interior formatting by Paul Salvette at
For Mitchell. What I wouldn’t do for one more hour with you.
Mia, the saint
Kolton, the sinner
is the conclusion to
The Stage: a Phoenix Rising Novel
After the finale of The Stage, Mia comes to terms with where she’s placed in the competition. But that same night, Kolton and Mia will have to deal with bigger issues—their fear of fire and loss. Not everyone will survive, and the challenges that their relationship cause won’t end when the show is over.
Kolton has a secret about the choices made in a moment of survival. Is he willing to expose his secrets and vulnerabilities to earn Mia’s trust? Even though they can’t stay hidden forever when a celebrity’s life is fodder for the masses, he knows it could tear them apart.
In the midst of chaos and loss, Mia has to balance her love for Kolton with career. Will she sign with him, letting him be her boss with control over her future? Or will she go out on her own with a subpar record contract that makes her equal to Kolton in her own right?
With so many questions, going on tour could either make the answers clear or pull the weaknesses of their relationship to the surface. Will the wounds heal or will they tear until nothing can repair them?
When love burns so bright, is it sustainable?
ven though I didn’t win the title tonight, I’ve won so much from this experience,” I say in response to the leggy reporter’s generic
how do you feel?
I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked that and said the same exact thing. I’m loopy and weary. Gina brought me coffee about three interviews ago; it’s room-temperature now, but I want a sip anyway. “I’m so grateful for everyone’s votes.”
“Do you think you lost because of your relationship with Kolton Royce?” she asks, jolting me alert. I look to Gina who puts a finger up.
“We were clear. No questions about Kolton Royce,” Gina DeYoung, my publicist, gently reminds the young woman from who-knows-what-show about the boundaries.
“It’s a legitimate question. He told her he loved her on national television. They went home together—openly—the night of the final voting. And then she lost. I mean, if you don’t want to answer,” she trails off, looking directly to me. She’s not the first to ask, but my filter isn’t in place anymore. I’m tired of repeating the same lines over and over, and I feel anger rising in my gut. I know I’m red in the face when I open my mouth to speak.
“Jessie deserved to win. She’s an awesome singer and, honestly, it’s really disrespectful to imply otherwise because she won, fair and square. With that being said, I wouldn’t change anything about Kolton and me for any show—ever. I love him and he loves me.”
“Of course he does,” she retorts with a twinkle in her eye that looks less than innocent. Jealousy sparks through me. I immediately think she knows him—intimately. It’s a common thought that I’ll have to fight if I plan to stay Kolton’s … and stay sane.
“Did you know he’s being sued for sexual harassment and wrongful termination by Samantha Jones, a back-up singer who was working with him on his last two albums?”
The smirk on her face is enough to warrant a bitch-slap. Instead, I get up and take off the mic. Walking away, Gina follows close behind.
“It’s fine. You handled it,” Gina says. “And that was your last interview. You can go home now. Kolton’s waiting in the car.” She nods toward the door and I feel like an escaped convict as I push the glass door open and let the air hit my face.
Surprisingly, I’m not upset that Kolton’s being sued at all. It might be selfish of me, but that means he was telling the truth about the voice I heard on the other end of the phone that night when I was back in Sacramento. She was one of his back-up singers—and he’d admitted they’d slept together in the past. He said he’d fired her for trying to make me jealous by whining to him to “come back and play”—or something of the sort—while he was on the phone with me. And now I know for sure, he was being honest.
I trot out toward the parking lot as Manny calls my name from back inside the building. “Ms. Phoenix!”
“I’ve got it, Manny,” I call back to him. “I’m fine!” I see the car; knowing Kolton is inside waiting for me makes me move even faster. He opens the door and steps out.
“Mia, you have to wait for Manny,” he admonishes as I sink into him, kind of like falling into a warm pool of water. I ignore what he said as we climb into the back seat. Manny jumps in front with Devon. “I got rid of all the other security, but that’s the last time you dart out like that without Manny or I’ll bring them all back.”
“I’m so tired. I don’t—I don’t have the energy to—” I say rubbing the corners of my eyes, stinging from lack of sleep.
“Just say it. You won’t go out without Manny again.”
“I won’t. Okay?” And, for the first time, his bossiness isn’t making me mad. I get it. He’s worried about me. What’s wrong with that? Nothing at all. It’s comforting, actually.
“Thank you,” he says, and reaches down, pulling my foot by my booted ankle onto his lap. It’s slow, how he unzips the boot, sensual and completely endearing. It makes me forget that I was planning to talk to him about the lawsuit. Not now when I feel a smile pulling up the corners of my mouth as he takes off first one boot and then the other, rolls down my socks, and presses his thumb into the arch of my foot until I’m moaning and thanking the heavens for this man. When that foot is loose and floppy, he moves his strong music-playing fingers over to the other foot.
I must have dozed off because I feel all heavy and I take a breath like I’m coming up from water when I hear Kolton say, “No, that’s cool. Go ahead and take your smoke break. We’re good. We’re going to go up. She’s exhausted.”
I pull my sleep-heavy head up off the back of the seat and take Kolton’s hand, pressing my boots into the crook of my arm. Barefoot, I stumble onto the elevator, and we are pulled upward to the place I’ve called home for so many months. The tower home, thirteen stories up—so like the one in
The Lady of Shalott
. It’s the place where I learned to trust someone again, where Kolton and I spun a tale and watched it all through the reflections of the votes and fans—sometimes not knowing what was true and what wasn’t. But, as we go up, I feel peace. I’ve told the truth. So has he. I squeeze his hand and look up at that gorgeous face of his.
We can work through this together. The career. How involved he’s going to be in said career. The public’s perception of him and me, even if it’s a negative one, doesn’t make me want him any less.
As we walk into the dark living room, I smell something pungent and sharp. “Do you have a gas leak?” I ask before stepping in something wet with my bare feet.
“What is that smell?” he asks.
“I just stepped in something,” I say. “Turn the light on for me.” As if on cue, the light flips on behind us. It takes me a second to realize what I’m seeing: Katharina Inez standing with her back hunched over and looking at us sideways. She’s holding a beer bottle with some cloth spilling out of it. Her other hand is behind her back.
There’s black eye make-up running down her face and her clothes are dirty, her hair oily. She looks like a character from a bad horror movie.
My heart is beating in my eardrums. My whole body is shaking, and I’m looking for a way out. Riley and Deloris?
Are they okay?
“All I have to do is light it and throw this bottle at that wall right there,” she whispers, monotone, pointing toward the wall between us and the front door. Everything about her gives me chills, the eerie calm hiding the irrational underneath. “You’ll never get out.”
Riley’s room, the staircase, the elevator—they are on the other side of the wall. She looks at me now, her eyes black and intense. She shakes her head
, as if she’s reading my mind.
“I’ve already poured enough gasoline along the floor so your little sister’ll have to escape on her own. That’s her room there by the door, right? You hid in there once. When I came to talk to Kolton—after you stole him from me!” Her voice rising to a high-pitched squeal.