Millwood - South Lake Shore
Windshield wipers smacked ineffectually at the mist while Jimmy struggled with an old map, coffee stained and cigarette burned, and Rayne stared silently out the window. No he didn't have GPS. No he didn't know where he was going. No he wouldn't stop and ask for directions. It was early in the morning. She hadn't called her father yet because he probably wouldn't be up. She'd looked at the restaurants and shops they'd passed until they drove way past them, and she was wondering morosely what she was going to do about money, and wondering how high Cooper was going to blow when he found out she'd left rehab. And found out she was staying, even if temporarily, with the Toad.
They were way out somewhere near Millwood. Her grandparents lived out here somewhere with the pine trees and the rocks and the lakes. It was the kind of place grandparents lived, not agents. Jimmy had pulled off the road and spread the map out on the hood. "What kind of agent is this?" she grumbled. "Where'd you find her, in the classifieds on Craigslist?"
He'd yanked at the map so hard he'd torn it. He swore, muttered, dragged one hand through his hair and glared at her. "She's good. She said to me she knows your dad and she's got a contract."
Sighing, Rayne leaned back against a rusty wet light pole. Her back hurt. She'd slept on some piece of crap bed in a hot attic, awful scratchy sheets, sheet count zero, and pillows she had covered with one of her shirts because they looked dirty. Cooper didn't like Jimmy. Jimmy was being evasive about an actual real contract he'd actually seen, which meant he hadn't seen one, which probably meant there wasn't one. "Toad, you're being naive. My dad's had a lot of women. She couldn't use it - you don't know him."
He quit studying the map, lit a cigarette and, sounding affronted, like it was his responsibility to defend the woman, "Jesus Rennie, I didn't mean she screwed him."
"Yeah well you don't know that, do you? That's what most of them mean when they say they know him. He wouldn't do any favors for her even if she did, and if you haven't seen a contract, I'll bet you there isn't one." Rayne paused, another thought crawling up the inside of her head. "She's hot, isn't she?" she demanded.
Jimmy dragged hard on the cigarette, snapped it down and stepped on it. "No. Yeah maybe she is. Look you don't get it, me that's not why I'm working this with her. She says she's got her some connections and I need that. I fucked up bad. Cut it out and help me find the damned road."
Brooding, unhappy, suspecting he was going to get slammed hard, already disliking this woman, whoever she was, Rayne straightened, stretched, and pointed north. "It's probably over there. Jimmy...if it doesn't turn out, I mean you need to be prepared that it won't."
He looked away from her. "It's gonna work, Rennie. I'm gonna make it work."
Millwood - North Lake Drive
Rayne slammed the truck door, slammed it twice since the frame seemed to be bent and it never closed on the first try, and walked around to join Jimmy. "This is it?" she asked. "It looks like somebody's old vacation house." He was taking a last drag on his cigarette and looking at the house. He fought with a lighter, turning his back to the wind. “Look, let me handle this ok? Don't be getting all pissy with her. She don't know anything about you."
Exasperated and confused, Rayne looked at the house again. It was a two story stone building with a garden, the lake behind, heavy bluffs crowding the other side of the road, a cat running around under the shrubbery. Except for the fact that it was stone, it looked a lot like every other place in Millwood. “If she’s been working with my father, she’ll know who I am. You ought to be more concerned about me knowing who she is.”
Two old cars pulled up to the curb, one of them belching oil. Jimmy smiled, leaning close to her. "That’s them. Be sweet for me, Rennie. Will you do that? When we get back, you call Cooper like you said and tell him we’re good. You call him, call him and tell him we're good. You let me work the rest.”
All the sugar in the world wasn't going to sweeten this mess, but she mumbled all right and let it go.
The other three members of the band huddled up on the sidewalk and shared a few tense, inaudible words. Rayne started sorting out what she knew and what she didn't know. Vince Salvatore, the other guitarist and the one with the blackest scowl; Adrian Rutherford who looked about as blond and fey as his name but she knew he'd done work in the studio for Storm Warning, and he was good; and the drummer, Woody. She thought she'd met him once at a club, and remembered he was loud and energetic, laughing and joking and drinking and flirting and generally making up for the fact that he wasn't the greatest looking guy in the world.
Vince strode up, still frowning, glanced at her, looked directly at Jimmy and said, flat and cold, "I thought this was a working meeting. We agreed not to bring girls when we're working, or have you thrown that out along with everything else we agreed on?"
Jimmy stepped in front of her, cutting off her stunned and furious retort. "You want you some rules Vince?" Jimmy shot back. "Here's a rule for you - I make the fucking rules."
Adrian, watching them, maybe not as angry as Vince but he didn't look happy, sliced in one long cool complaint. "Jimmy, you know we had to cover it when you didn't even show for the last gig, and I had to borrow the money. You owe all of us."
Something like oblivious, Woody slid past them with a big grin on his face. "Rayne? Rayne Stanfield? Hey, remember me? The Backyard, maybe a month ago?"
Vince was still up in Jimmy's face, his voice hard and angry. "Make a rule? You can't make your way across the damned street. What the hell are you doing here? You're supposed to be in rehab."
"You think you'd be here without me?" Jimmy towered over him, and he was using it, leaning forward, blowing smoke into Vince's face. "I'm thinking it's me who doesn't need you. You got yourself a prissy little cover band without me is what you got."
Adrian had caught what Woody said though, and he looked past the other two with a strange expression on his face. "Rayne Stanfield? Cooper Stanfield? That Stanfield?"
Brushing aside Woody's question, wondering if Vince really believed anybody would show up to watch Brew perform if Jimmy wasn't there, uncertain whether the Stanfield name was a good thing right now or a bad thing, Rayne cautiously replied, "I didn't bring him with me, but that's the right Stanfield."
Finally the noise must have alerted someone in the house, because the door swung open and a woman walked out. Rayne took one look at her and gasped. Wyatt's mother. Wyatt's dead mother. This was the agent? The wonderful great agent with the magic contract? The one who was working with her father?
The guys quit arguing. Jimmy unexpectedly stepped close, touched her waist, and asked very quietly, "You ok?"
Rayne felt heat in her face and goosebumps prickle up her arms, hot and cold, as she stared at the woman. The woman stared back. Jimmy wouldn't know. He hadn't even known Cooper had a daughter. He certainly wouldn't know about Julia. Something was seriously wrong. The Toad dropped one long arm across her shoulders, weight and warmth, probably his attempt to make it clear she belonged there with him. Maybe he thought the Julia woman would intimidate her, or maybe he was trying to remind her to be sweet. "Hey," Jimmy said, "I brought a friend. Her name's Rennie. Ren, this is Gemma Wilson."
Vince pushed past them on the left,walking in the wet grass. "And we're overjoyed you've got a friend. Can we get down to business?"
She curled her hands into fists, nails biting into her palms, and her nails were pretty short so she was really clenching. The same last name? What was she, some kind of bizarre long lost twin sister? Or a fraud. A woman trying to use the creepy resemblance to get close to Cooper. And she was going to use Jimmy to get there, use his hope and his talent and give him nothing and he was going to be crushed. Reputable agent my ass, she thought angrily.
Gemma Wilson stepped out onto the porch where the wind off the lake blew her long black hair away from a smooth, quiet, and absolutely perfectly lovely face. She smiled. "Rayne," she greeted her. "What a surprise...it's a pleasure to finally meet you. Please, come in."
NEXT CHAPTER: Passages 21