Millwood - #24 North Lake Drive: 10 AM
Gemma was standing aside until all of them finally made it through the door, Rayne and Jimmy first, Jimmy's grip on her hand tight, reminding her maybe, maybe still reminding her to let him handle it. She didn't even want to walk into that place and kept thinking she should have called her father first, but she hadn't, and she didn't know about the Gemma/Julia woman so she couldn't have asked him about her. Jimmy was almost dragging her in. Vince waited over by kitchen talking to Adrian in a low voice while Woody wandered around looking at the pool in the back and trying to get a yellow cat to come to him. Rayne balked. She wasn't going any further in there. Three steps into the foyer, she stood where she was and watched Gemma until she finally shut the door and turned back.
"We may as well get it out of the way," she said pleasantly. "I'm Julia's cousin."
Her father never talked about his first wife; that was a black hole in his past and nobody ever asked him about it because they knew better. It was possible she was a cousin. Did cousins look that much alike? Jimmy was standing right next to her, his arm brushing against hers, and she told herself she'd committed to being sweet. She couldn't challenge Gemma about Julia and whatever that meant, but she could go after what she did know. "You know my dad? I just know he's thrilled! I mean, how exciting! Julia's cousin just showing up and you're already into the business how great is that! You told Jimmy you had a contract. It must be so wonderful, considering the old family connection and everything. Can I see it?"
Jimmy glanced down at Rayne, and she saw his mouth tighten. Something was wrong and he knew it now. She backed up against him and glared at Gemma, and felt the Toad push his foot against hers, warning, he'd said he wanted to handle it and he knew her and knew what she was doing, and wanted her to back off. "You said you got us a contract," he said to Gemma.
Gemma gestured toward some couches off to the right in a little room past the stairs. She didn't blink, didn't answer him, didn't wave a contract. She walked. She walked gracefully. In the other direction. "Let's have a seat and discuss the situation."
Gemma stepped aside, holding the door open, watching them trail in one at a time, and hardly able to contain her excitement as Cooper's daughter swept through. Jimmy was still hanging onto her hand. Perhaps he thought he was taking care of her, but it didn't take more than one quick exchange to know that Rayne was the one holding onto him. Or perhaps it was a mutual death grip. Either way, they came in together and moved up close to each other, forming a little army of two.
The three stragglers, Vince and Adrian and Woody, they were extraneous. If they worked out, they did, and it would make her job easier. If they didn't, she knew they could be replaced. Jimmy was the only one who mattered.
The girl, tall and tan and wary, stalled in the foyer, played with her hair, and jabbered a long string of almost childish compliments ending in an obviously disingenuous request to see the contract. Gemma hesitated as she tried to read her.
"You said you got us a contract." Jimmy Breaux, still hanging onto Rayne's hand, but trying to take the lead. Gemma took her time, studying them. How on earth had these two come together? She'd heard the girl sing and play; she didn't remember the details but Rayne had an interesting voice for a female vocalist. Nothing as striking as what Jimmy brought, and she struggled to remember how she'd played.
"Let's have a seat and discuss the situation." Both Jimmy and Rayne exchanged glances before she threw him a smile and breezed past everyone into the living room. It took a moment for Gemma to begin. "There has been a small complication."
"There is no contract is there..."
Gemma didn't give him a chance to finish his thought. "Look Jimmy I don't need to remind you how many bridges you burned. It shouldn't surprise you that Cooper is hesitating. His reputation is on the line as well as his label. No one wants to be saddled with cleaning up after your episodes." This wasn't how she wanted it to play. Drawing a calming breath Gemma tried to put a better light on it. "No one can deny your incredible talent, Jimmy; it's your bankability that leaves you vulnerable. I just need a little more time and some kind of assurance I can offer."
Gemma looked over at Rayne. If there was some angle she could use with her that could seal the deal maybe she could make this work. Understanding Rayne's position here would help - or blow it up completely. "I can get the contract Jimmy, you just need to trust me one more time. If I don't deliver, you can fire me."
Rayne glanced at Jimmy. He looked flattened, thinner and paler and older and empty. He was flattened. Gemma had just run over him with a truck and now she was trying to spin it so it was his fault: he shouldn't have been standing in the road. "I can get the contract Jimmy," Gemma was saying. "Trust me one more time. If I don't deliver, you can fire me."
Vince stood up, made a disgusted sound, and said, "Well I'm out of here. I've got things to do." Adrian followed him but not without casting a withering glance at Gemma and adding, "A phone call would have been polite. I don't suppose you're offering gas money to cover the trip we made out here for nothing."
Jimmy was staring at the floor. What kind of assurance could he offer? Rayne wondered. He'd just hopped out of rehab early, and that was the only good faith effort she could think of. It's not my fault, she told herself. This time she had nothing to do with it. It was up to him to work it out with Cooper. That's what she'd told him. That's what she'd always said. If he couldn't get a contract then he'd have to go back to playing in clubs and forget about it. Almost nobody got a contract anyway. It wasn't her problem. He was pressed close to her on the little couch and she could feel him breathe, rapid irregular breaths.
"What kind of assurance?" Woody asked. Rayne had forgotten about him; he'd settled down in a corner and said nothing until now. "You mean like collateral? He wants the pinks slips on our cars or something?"
A car? Between Gemma and her 'trust me' and this idiot and the other two who didn't have a freaking clue about what it would take to get something through her father, Rayne snapped. "What would my dad do with your old junk rides? You think you can negotiate with him using pink slips? Get real - you've got nothing that would mean anything to him! Everything you're collectively worth multiplied by the power of ten would mean nothing! Who the hell do you think you're dealing with?"
Gemma sat back, caught her attention, held it. All right, there was no point in playing dumb anymore, she'd blown that. Rayne leaned into Jimmy, feeling his tension as she watched Gemma. Blue eyes in Julia's face, but they were clear and cool and keen and reminded her, a jagged and still bleeding memory, of another pair of calculating blue eyes. She'd been wrong about him. She might be wrong about Gemma. Gemma didn't want Cooper. Gemma wanted the deal. They both wanted the deal, definitely not for the same reason, but they both wanted it. Gemma smiled. "That's right, Rayne. We are negotiating. And I wonder, do you have something to suggest?"
Everyone stopped and looked at her as if she was hiding the answer in her pocket and was just waiting for the right dramatic moment to whip it out and hold it up and save the day. Uneasy, Rayne struggled to come up with something until the Toad got up abruptly and said to Gemma, "Don't be looking at her to fix it for you. I'm thinking that's what you get paid to do. Come on Rennie, let's go."
But even as he said it, he searched her eyes and her face just as if he were hoping it might be true.
It wasn't true. She had nothing, and he knew it. No magic tricks, nothing. A pocket full of empty air.
Sand Point - 9 PM
"I'll talk to you about it tomorrow...no I am not going to tell you anything more I said I want to talk to you in person tomorrow...Dad you're going to have to trust me." Rennie'd been at it for a while up there in the attic, trying to get her some privacy and he hadn't been listening close but he did listen to some of it. She wasn't yelling. She was telling him something, telling Cooper Stanfield something, giving him one long piece of her mind. Unreal. Fucking unreal. She was sure trying it and trying it hard. One very sweet girl. He smiled thinking about her, and shut it down. He couldn't do a damn thing for her now. Nothing was any good anymore. Not a single thing.
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