Last of the Independents
Chapter 8: Becoming Fearless
“As I recall I know you love to show off, but I never thought that you would take it this far, what do I know?”
Sasha accepted the dismissal and went out to inspect the parade of skirtsuits and tight suits getting ready for the bus. Melinda’s five stood a little apart from Sasha’s ten, and Sasha glanced at Bree to make sure everything was all right with her. “All right, kids, first stop is Tuscon, and just because it’s sold out, that doesn’t mean we stop spreading the words. I want Christy on all channels, every paper, every station, until the buzz is so big that everyone in the city buys a copy of Tough to Swallow,” Sasha commanded, and everyone nodded in agreement.
There was a rack of headphones near the front as they boarded, and Sasha looked quizzically at them. “New buses. Christy’s music is piped in through a master system. Eight channels, varying in strength, depending on what they need to be doing and how much of her voice they can stand,” the driver explained.
“Are the outlets working? I have the Powerbooks for my girls. I want them wired in when they’re wired. Best way to code is not think about it,” Melinda insisted, following close on Sasha’s heels with a pile of laptop cases.
“Charming,” Sasha muttered as she went to her team’s seats and gave out their headphones while Melinda gave her team their computers. She looked over at Bree and said, “Go at your pace. If you get passed by, it’s okay, all right? This is a good opportunity, but don’t feel pressured if it gets to be too much.”
“You’re still baby-sitting me? Thank God you aren’t my boss. I’ll be fine. I got into the Internet because I saw how shitty a site you were running, Ms. Public Relations,” Bree shot back, but the tone of voice was pure little sister, and Sasha realized that she had to let Bree do her own thing.
“Have fun. It can be fun if you let it be.”
Bree rolled her eyes at Sasha. ”Duh. I work for Christy Reed! How cool is that?” she said, sounding more like the little sister Sasha remembered before plugging in her headphones and fading out, coding with her eyes focused only on the screen.
Sasha shivered and looked away, turning her attention to her team and saying, “Okay, guys, your hard work is when we get there, so get plenty of rest.”
One by one, everyone slumped back into their seats or sagged against the person next to them, and Sasha wondered if Christy had gone too far this time. As if that was a cue, Christy came on board the head bus and said, “Hey, let’s get this show on the road!” She sounded bubbly and cheerful- of course she is, we’re finally getting out of Hollywood, Sasha thought. We’re out of the cesspool. But did we bring some of it with us?
“So how much did you sing to them? I don’t remember being so out of it.”
“Of course you don’t,” Christy said with a wink. She turned on a dime and went on, “I did sing a very strong number- I messed up my range in the back, and they got more than I wanted, but you were also pretty much a marching puppet on your first tour. Well, trust me, it’s all right. No slavery here, and not just ‘cause I pay them.”
“I remember enough, including how much I appreciated the background music to take my mind off how much my feet hurt,” Sasha said with a smile.
“That’s more like it. Now, we’re gonna be real busy, so have all your plans ready for when we arrive at the arena,” Christy said, seamlessly going back to boss. Sasha remembered that Christy had to be her own manager for this tour, and the thought sobered her- and judging form the reactions of a few of the other core staff, other people as well.
“All right, we’re live! How’s this for an improvement?” Melinda asked, turning around and presenting her laptop to show off the sparkling black and lavender web site.
“Very nice! Well designed, and I like the links to buy stuff,” Christy said, still sounding cautious about the perils of the Internet.
“And the cool thing is that when someone does buy something, or even if they just sign up for the fan club, all that information is recorded and matched up with our local promotion database so we can send them an e-mail, keep them up to date, and get them more info from you,” Melinda went on gleefully.
“Great way to keep everyone in the circle,” Christy agreed.
“And of course, this is hooked into everyone’s computer on the bus, so we’re always updating with new dates, press appearance information, any signings if you’re so inclined... you’ll never be without your adoring public,” Melinda concluded.
“Good to know. I’ll keep that in mind when I set up her public appearances,” Sasha said with a smile that tried and almost succeeded in hiding her fear about Melinda.
When they arrived, the nonstop onslaught of work hit them like an avalanche, a tidal wave, and a stampede all at once, and the core staff split up to work with their teams. Sasha found herself working closely with Melinda. Melinda was right about most web updates being more effective before they arrived at the arena, so it was comforting to have extra help in the press room as one of Melinda’s staff did the e-mail pitching, freeing up one of Sasha’s team to do more press kits and releases. Those releases only brought a trickle of people compared to the flood that hit them at every stop, people who came to them because they were fans of Christy’s work or because of the demand.
Word came in Miami that Tough to Swallow had crossed the diamond mark. No one had time to celebrate as they prepared the arena for another show. But when the show started, Sasha could see the excitement on everyone’s face and hear the extra buzz in the air. “Oh, man, ten million copies! We did it, Sasha! You think we can get to double?” Melinda said with a smile backstage while Christy was out doing her job.
“Well, she does the main work,” Sasha reminded Melinda.
“She’s no good if the people don’t hear her. Yeah, as soon as one note gets into your brain you’re hooked for life, but she’s only at half power on a CD. We’re the ones who get everyone into the arena to hear her live. You know how long the waiting list is in some cities? It’s enough for Christy to consider doubling back after Europe,” Melinda said proudly.
“That’s... that’s nice,” Sasha said, her knees going weak. As much as she tried to tell herself it was the thought of more long days touring, she knew that it was from the idea of luring more people into hearing Christy’s perfect voice.
“It’s okay. It’s a big day, let go,” Melinda whispered into Sasha’s ear, and Sasha relaxed, drinking in Christy’s music with a relieved smile on her face. After a few songs, Melinda took Sasha’s hand and led her to one of the makeup rooms.
“Ten million! I can’t believe it. You’ve seen what the Hollywood machines are producing, and from what I hear from the house staff, there’s a good reason for Christy to want to keep touring.,” Melinda said once they were alone.
“Yeah?” Sasha panted, not expecting to be knocked out and taken to the makeup room for a business conversation. Or for any kind of conversation.
“The fan base keeps getting bigger, but it can’t last. We’ll always have enough locals, but... okay, I’ll say it. There are other girls with the power out there, or something else. I’m trying to get it through Christy’s head that she should start her own label. Nothing big, just out of the local promotion base. It’ll be a nice pool to draw opening acts from,” Melinda explained.
“And she fired you? I’m sorry. It was a good idea,” Sasha replied, knowing Christy’s hatred of Hollywood.
“No, but I know why you said she would. But supporting small acts before producers snatch them up, use them as weapons, and make them into what she’s afraid of becoming is a smart move. It’s just... Christy’s such- oye, I’ll say it, and I hope you aren’t so obsessed you kill me- but she’s a scared little girl.
“You haven’t gotten the tour yet, right? Hollywood’s a scary place. They’re bloodthirsty there, and they sell people,” Sahsa said, trying not to shriek at the thought of Christy being a producer.
“I know. I’m slated for that as soon as we’re off tour. But if she could save anyone from that? A lot of fans are enchanted enough to send tapes. Some aren’t half-bad, but one- I know what Christy does to us, and this girl has the same power. Wouldn’t you rather have them independent than some label’s whore?” Melinda countered.
“You’re a smart woman, but drop it. Christy doesn’t have the heart to do it. It’s a great idea, and if she doesn’t do it, someone else will. But she’ll never do it,” Sasha said with a sigh.
“That’s what I thought. So I cheated. I knew you’d listen if I got Christy’s voice in your ear a little bit. I’m glad you think it’s a good idea. Bree will be thrilled. She handles the e-mail replies, and she got enough people sending in pictures and asking for where to send their CD that she let me know. She’s working out very well, by the way. You should be proud of her.”
“And I agree with you that she should do it. I just know she won’t. She’s set in her ways, and like it or not we’re sung into obeying her,” Sasha said.
“I know we can’t challenge her. We just need to be more fearless sometimes. That will let Christy know we have her covered,” Melinda explained. She hit the play button on the CD player.
Sasha knew that Christy’s siren music was on before the tape even started. She knew it was time to celebrate, and she started sliding the zipper on Melinda’s black minidress in response.
“Not me, hon. You gotta be fearless. I’m going to get your staff and you’re going to do what you’ve always wanted to do to them,” Melinda said with a smile.
“Fearless,” Sasha mumbled back, her brain going into fantasies she’d told herself she wasn’t allowed, her inhibitions melting with every note. She called for Janice, a pretty young blonde they’d brought on in Raleigh. Sasha tried to keep her preferences straight with her staff, trying not to show any side effects of her control in front of people she was supposed to boss around, but she had to admit that she mostly picked Janice for her toned body. Everyone did the CD meltdown once in a while; it took the edge off and made the units closer. Sasha knew Melinda was very sexual with her staff, but Melinda was always a temptress. Sasha was much more professional, preferring a roadie or a dancer for when the sexuality of Christy’s music built up too much for her to bear.
“Hi, Janice,” she panted as Melinda came back with the girl.
“Hey, what’s...ohhh...” Janice replied, putting a hand to her head. She had already been enthralled by watching the concert, so the recorded siren song was enough for her eyes to glaze over at once.
“Give in to the words,” Sasha managed before starting to pant and moan again. But that was enough for Janice to go up Sasha’s skirt, and both soon faded into bliss
“Time for post-concert lullabies,” Melinda said with a naughty grin, watching as Janice lay naked in Sasha’s arms. Sasha got dressed again and snapped her fingers to cue Janice to do the same.
“I see you started celebratin’ diamond early. You two are just too much,” Christy said with a grin as Sasha and Melinda watched the line form before their eyes.
“Hopefully we aren’t enough yet,” Melinda said with a smile in answer. “By the way, I need another programmer. I think I broke Jessica.”
“I’m good,” Sasha said as the rest of the core staff filed out their orders.
“Can’t have you miss out on all the fun, so.. be fearless,” Melinda whispered in her ear.
The feel of Melinda’s body against hers, the faint Spanish lilt in Melinda’s voice... Sasha blurted out, “Since I don’t need anyone for my staff, can I pick out the dancers?”
“Looks like someone’s horny. Sure, why not? This is Miami, after all. Could use three girls and two guys,” Christy replied.
Sasha watched the parade go by and picked the three girls. One was a blonde who wouldn’t have been out of place in Nebraska, another a caramel Latina with long legs, and the third a Cuban with long hair only a little darker than her black-coffee skin. She followed them to the showers and watched as they burned off their arousal. Their moans were as enticing to her as Christy’s music as they writhed and licked until they were satisfied enough to go blank and be led out in towels by the staff. Sasha stood there even when they were gone, her body ignited with need from head to toe, eyes glazed over as she tried to relieve the ache inside her without anyone noticing.
Melinda leered at her. “So you like strong women on that girl next door body of yours? A cute girl being schooled by the experienced Latin lovers? Yeah, I can just imagine cheerleader over there showing up to her dance lesson in her boyfriend’s school jacket and leaving with nothing else on, a sultry seduction machine trained by experts,” she whispered, running hands along Sasha’s shoulders and tracing the lines of her back. Sasha moaned and closed her eyes, imagining the fantasy Melinda described with the three women she had just seen in the shower. Her hands started to wander. She couldn’t see Melinda’s smile widen, but she heard Melinda’s voice in her ear. “Yes, be fearless. There’s no need to hide your desires. Just because you’re programmed to be loyal doesn’t mean you can’t have your own hidden talents. Now, let’s get you comfortable.”
Sasha was too turned on to protest as Melinda led her to an empty dressing room, took off her dress, and put her in a black robe.
“Now you look like Christy,” Melinda said with a laugh. Sasha smiled at her and struck one of Christy’s dramatic poses. Melinda’s smile in answer widened. “I knew you were one to be in control like I am. Now just sit and watch.”
She left the room for a few minutes, and Sasha only noticed because the need in her to fuck and be fucked was getting stronger with every second. Jan had always said the dancers were finished in the arena so they could be ready to take care of the tour staff, and Sasha had never been interested, but now she was beyond interested as Melinda came back with the three dancers. Melinda had dressed them for the fantasy: the blonde in her own blue jeans and an innocent sweater, the Cuban in tight gold pants and a sparkling black top, the third in a revealing purple dress and strappy high heels. Melinda, now wearing the same purple dress, sauntered over and began to command the innocent blonde. Sasha helplessly reached between her legs as Melinda undressed the blonde, making her more and more confident and daring as Melinda went down on her. When it came time to return the favor, the blonde was vicious and expert in her seduction. When Melinda was satisfied, the blonde got into Melinda’s dress, which had come off when Sasha was too distracted by writhing and moaning, and had a killer smile on her face as she stood waiting to be loaded on the bus.
Sasha took it in with a weak smile as she tried to get up, but a hand on her stomach pushed her back into place. “Adonde vas, bonita? Eres nuestra ahora,” the Cuban said, and Sasha surrendered, letting herself be taken by the other two dancers, letting go of her stress and her fears completely as they showed her every move, every bit of aggression she had been afraid to try. A faint buzz in the background almost distracted her, and she realized that Melinda was enjoying the scene as much as Sasha was. That allowed Sasha to surrender the last of her inhibitions and descend into pure, raw sex.