Authors: Veronica Tower
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Rock Idol by Veronica Tower
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Smile for the camera!”
the early front runner?”
you make a prediction?”
Look this way!”
Blaze slipped out of the back of her limousine with an easy smile on her face.
It wasn’t difficult. A lot of stars hated the paparazzi and their constant
intrusions into their lives, but Ember had begun to enjoy the attention again
in these past two years. It was the difference between good and bad press.
After two decades of assholes fighting for a picture of her which made her look
foolish or strung out without her makeup, she was glad to be getting some
positive coverage again.
How was Tahiti? Did you find a new man?”
suppressed the instinctive urge to flinch at what she took as a reminder that
the sharks were always ready to turn in a frenzy and feast. Instead she started
up the walk toward the Atwood building and threw an answer over her shoulder. “Tahiti is always beautiful. I love it there.”
about the guy, Ember? Do you have a new boyfriend?”
ignored the question. It truly was ridiculous. Dance with a man on two
different nights and the world was ready to hear wedding bells.
do you pick to win this year?”
to turn the mob back toward the positive, Ember paused to answer this one. “Now
you know we judges don’t pick the winner on
started forward again.
was close enough now to see her reflection in the glass doors ahead of her.
She’d come a long way since her teen idol days and even further since her fall
from grace. Gone were the skimpy skirts, golden bangles, and mile high afro of
her youth. Now she wore far more elegant knee-length skirts, silk blouses,
leather boots and tastefully restrained jewelry. She may have been hotter at
seventeen but she honestly looked much better now at forty-two.
uniformed doorman spoiled her image by opening the glass doors as she
approached. “Good afternoon, Ms. Blaze. Don’t you look lovely today?”
afternoon, George, and thank you,” Ember greeted him. The doorman had been a
fan of hers twenty-five years ago and still lit up every time he saw her. If
only the rest of the world was so easy to please.
Hartley waited for Ember just inside the doors. The junior assistant to
moneyman producer, Fox Atwood, had slightly lighter skin than Ember’s—creamy
coffee as opposed to Ember’s rich mocha. Like the coffee Gina superficially
resembled, she oozed warmth and comfort. “Ms. Blaze, I’m so glad you’re here.
Mr. Atwood has called an emergency meeting of the executive staff before the
meet-and-greet with the contestants later this afternoon. Everyone is waiting
frowned. She didn’t like the facial expression. It intensified the lines in her
face and added half a decade to her apparent age. Past experience had also
taught her that one good picture of her frowning face could bring past charges
of prima donna attitudes rushing back to the surface. But sometimes, unfortunately,
it was impossible to censor an honest reaction. “Am I running late?”
shook her head. “No, ma’am. Mr. Atwood didn’t decide to call the meeting until
about thirty minutes ago and since everyone was already coming in for the
meet-and-greet, there was no need to phone you with the change of plans. The
contestants will just have to wait a few minutes to re-meet the men and women
who sit in judgment over them.”
nodded cautiously. She didn’t like unannounced meetings. She’d had bad experiences
with them in the past.
we join Mr. Atwood?” Gina asked.
followed Gina to the elevator and up to the twelfth floor. Fox Atwood, the man
, was a Hollywood legend who’d made his fortune
primarily from talent search programs and then managing the careers of the
stars he brought to America’s
attention. He’d been Ember’s manager two and a half decades ago. Going her
separate way was one of the errors that led to her fall from grace.
was Fox’s current flagship with
twenty-five million viewers on a bad week and three times as many on a good
one. The show’s finale in the first two seasons had approached Super Bowl
ratings and the pressure was on to achieve those results again. His other
Race Car Alley
weren’t nearly as successful as
, but they still pulled in
respectable numbers. After all, it was difficult not to take Atwood seriously
when he’d discovered so many big names in the business—Greta Davis, Matt
Bosworth, Serendipity, and of course, teen sensation Ember Blaze.
a dozen people already filled the Executive Boardroom including fellow judge,
Fawn Fields—a singer with a more sedate but stable career than Ember had
enjoyed. Fawn had never experienced the heady heights where Ember once ruled,
but then she’d also never sunk so far into the depths of hell. Fawn was
judge with never a harsh word for a contestant. As a
sadly predictable consequence of this attitude, she also never had any truly
Fawn greeted her, crossing the room to offer her a perfunctory peck on the
cheek. At five-foot-two she was a little shorter than Ember but her anorexic
blonde frame made her seem even tinier by comparison. “You’re here at last. Now
Mitch’s ego will finally permit him to enter the room, and Fox can stop working
and tell us why he called this meeting.”
all the mystery about?” Ember asked. “If I’d know about this meeting I could
have rushed and gotten here ten minutes earlier.”
swung into the room behind Ember. He’d probably been sitting in one of the
offices down the hall, watching for her arrival. “It wouldn’t have mattered,”
he announced. “I couldn’t have gotten here any earlier today if I’d tried.”
and Fawn both made a show of greeting Mitch. It fooled no one into thinking
they were actually close, but it made Fox happy. Mitch Daniels produced several
of Fox’s talent labels. He didn’t quite have Fox’s keen eye for potential, but
he had a wonderfully sarcastic wit, which had a very positive impact on
ratings. It seemed that everyone in America loved to hate him.
Atwood strolled into the room about five minutes earlier than Ember expected
him. She wondered if that was a happenstance or a sign of how seriously he took
this meeting. “I’m glad you’re all here. I want to make this quick and to the
point. If you haven’t heard already, you’ll learn tonight on the entertainment
news shows. I had to fire an assistant producer and a contestant on my show,
yesterday. They were fooling around and well, especially on a show
like that where true love is what we’re marketing, I simply can’t have it.”
shrugged. “Thanks for the heads up, old man, but what does that have to do with
glared at him until Mitch backed up half a step. Mitch had a notorious
reputation for encouraging
with pretty young women
hoping to get on the show. It was obvious to Ember that Mitch was the whole
point of the meeting.
been thinking about this all last night,” Fox continued. “In the short run at
least, the scandal is only going to help the ratings on
it’s already a risqué show. People tune in expecting to be titillated.
, however, are a different story. We market them
as family entertainment and I want to keep it that way.” He looked directly at
Mitch. “So let me be crystal clear about this. I don’t want to hear about any
of you fucking the contestants! I’m not going to risk my audience because you
can’t keep your pants or panties up.”