Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three) (18 page)

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
2.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




“Casey, we’re so glad you’re here.”

When I said I’d meet with
Justin, Tanner’s agent, I hadn’t expected a whole room full of people. 

I certainly hadn’t expected

But, as I bit into my second, I figured things could probably be worse.

“Thanks,” I said, trying to swallow a mouthful of icing.  “I’m happy to be here.”

“So, we know you’ve done an amazing job getting press so far,” Justin said, smiling ear to ear.  “I mean, I can’t pick up a magazine without seeing you and Blake, or you and Tanner,” he winked, and I hoped that no one noticed me blush.  ‘
You and Tanner’ still took some getting used to.

“What we really want to hear,”
a woman broke in, a redhead in a form-fitting business suit and small diamond studs in her ears, “is what you want to do next.  And, obviously, how we can help.”

I swallowed a bite of cupcake frosting and looked around the room nervously.  I was suddenly worried about giving the wrong answer. 

“Well,” I said slowly, looking at Justin for encouragement.  “Um, I wrote the lyrics for the song that Blake and I… um, the one on YouTube.”  Everyone obviously already knew that, but they smiled anyway.  “So, I figured I’d focus on writing some more?”

The room was quiet, like they were waiting for me to keep going.  I had a feeling there was something I was missing.

“That’s great, Casey,” Justin cut in when he seemed to realize I’d said everything I was going to.  “But one thing about the position you’re in now—which is an amazing one—is that you really have to strike while the iron is hot, you know?  We could give you six months or a year to write some more songs, but in six months, people may be moving on to other things.”

I nodded.  The idea that in six months, I
be in the tabloids anymore was actually incredibly appealing.  But, it was obviously not the answer that Justin was going for.

Well, I’m—” I sighed inwardly.  They weren’t going to like this any better.  “I’ve been trying to learn to play guitar?”

Justin took a deep breath, and I saw the redhead bite back a smile. 

“Casey,” she said, looking at me excitedly.  “Maybe we could just throw some ideas out there, see what you think?”

I was
sure they could see the relief in my eyes.  “Sure,” I said.

“Well,” she started, looking at Justin for encouragement.  “If I were you, like we’ve been saying, I’d try to do something
right away
.  Maybe not a full album, if you don’t feel ready for it, but I’d get another single out there.  And I love the YouTube thing, that’s amazing, and it’s been a huge success, but you want this one to be a real studio production.  Something polished, that you can really stand behind.”

I looked at her, confused. 
They seemed to know everything, but how had they over looked the biggest problem? 

“But, um
—” I hesitated.   “I don’t think…. um, I don’t think Blake would do it.”  I thought about the photos of me coming out of Tanner’s hotel room, of us kissing on New Year’s Eve.  Of Blake pushing me away, the last time I’d seen him.  “Actually,” I clarified.  “I’m a hundred percent sure he won’t.”

The girl looked at me sympathetically.  “We know, Casey.  Blake’s not here, is he?”

She meant it rhetorically, but I could barely resist glancing around the room.  If Blake wasn’t here, then why was I?

Justin took my momentary silence as an invitation to keep going.  “See, Casey, there are so many amazing songs out there
— literally, thousands of incredible songs at any given moment, and any one of them could be a huge hit with the right person behind it.”

The trick is to match the right person—you—with the right song, which is just out there waiting for you,” the redhead broke in, grinning.  “And then, to turn that into a hit.”  They were practically finishing each other’s sentences at this point, and I wondered how many times they’d gone through this pitch.

“So you want me to record someone else’s music?” 

“Exactly,” Justin looked pleased with himself, glancing over at the redhead like they’d just taught me how to do arithmetic, and suddenly one plus one finally equaled two.

“I just—” I faltered.  “Um, I just never thought about doing that.”  I’d signed up for guitar lessons to avoid it, in fact.  Even with
out Blake, I was going to try my best to do something he’d be proud of.

Wasn’t I?

“Of course not,” the redhead reassured me.  “Why would you?  Blake’s an amazing songwriter, and you guys did something really special together.  But, see, Casey, it’s not like you couldn’t
write songs, even if you’re not doing the heavy lifting yourself.  We’d just get you a co-writer.  Someone who’d give you a jumping off point, and then you could contribute.  Or they could take your ideas and try to give them some form.  Is that something you’d consider?”

I blinked.  That didn’t sound so bad.  Maybe it wasn’t one-hundred-percent perfect artistry, but
… maybe it was a compromise I could live with.

“So,” I said slowly.  “If I did, what would my next step be?”

Justin grinned.  “We’d like to move pretty fast from here out, Casey.  First, we’d sign you as a client — we can do that today, if you want to get it out of the way.  You’re eighteen, right?”  I nodded, and he looked relieved.  “Then we want to set up meetings with the record labels, see if we can get a deal together.  Does that sound okay?”

I looked around the room, feeling totally over my head.  And then I thought about wh
at Tanner had told me.  This was the way to figure out my next step.  Wasn’t it?

I have a few days to think about it?”

The redhead gave me a tight-lipped smile.  “Of course.  We all know this is a big decision for you.  How long are you in California till?”


“Ok, well,
we can always fly you back if you need more time.  But we’d like to get something moving in the next few weeks — does that sound okay?”

Yeah,” I said.  “I guess that works.”

“And in the meantime,” Justin broke in, exchanging a glance with the redhead.  “I definitely owe Tanner a
drink—maybe you can come too?  Are you doing anything tomorrow?”

I couldn’t think of any excuse.  “No,” I said, trying to smile.  “I think we’re free.”



Chapter Forty-Five


There was a driver waiting for me outside, and I gave him Tanner’s address in Venice Beach, not wanting to go back to the hotel just yet.  It was the middle of the day and we had to go halfway across Los Angeles, so traffic took forever.  For lack of anything better to do, I got out my cell phone and called Madison.

you the next Britney Spears?” she shrieked, picking up on the first ring.  “How’d it go?”

“Good,” I wondered if she could hear the hesitation in my voice.  “I think it went well.  It was kind of… weird.”

“Weird how?”

I summarized the meeting for her, everything up until I’d committed Tanner and me for
drinks tonight.

“So,” Madison said when I was through.  “What do you think?”

I sighed.  “I don’t know,” I said honestly.  “I mean, everything they said made sense, but I’m still… I don’t know, I guess I’m just still not sure.”

“What does Tanner say?”

“I’m on my way there now.”  I sighed. “They make it sound like it’s so easy to just pick a song and get it out there,” I sighed.  “But if Moving Neutral can’t find one, and they’ve been working on it for months, how am I going to be able to?”

Madison hesitated.  “I mean, that’s a fair concern,” she said carefully.  “But you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes,” she continued.  “It’s not like before, when you were sitting in on their conversations.  Maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds.”

I looked out the window.  “Or maybe it’s worse,” I said, watching as we passed gated mansions on either side of the street. 



We pulled up at Tanner’s condo and I rang the bell,
enjoying the California sunshine for another minute while I waited for him to come to the door.  Tanner lived right on the beach, and I walked to the edge of the sidewalk and felt sand between my toes.

I barely heard the door open, but suddenly there he was, standing in the doorway with wet hair, a towel
tied precariously around his waist.

“Hey,” he gave me a lazy smile. 

“Don’t dress up on my account,” I raised an eyebrow, sneaking a peak at his toned chest.

He grinned. 
“I was fully dressed thirty seconds ago.  I took everything off when I saw you on the security camera.”

“What a gentleman,” I smiled.  “Are you going to invite me in, or are you waiting for the tabloids to show up?”

“You know me too well, Snow.  Another sixty seconds please, they’re caught in traffic.”

I ducked undernea
th his arm to dart inside.  Sun was streaming through Tanner’s floor-to-ceiling windows, and I took a seat on the low couch in his living room.

“So,” he said, shutting the door behind me.  “
How did it go?”

“Well,” I said, hesitating a little.  “It was, um… informative.”

Tanner smiled.  “That’s the idea, right?  What did they pitch?”

I quickly filled him in on the meeting, leaving out the part where I’d assumed that any songs
that I was planning to work on involved Blake. 

“They want
to sign you this week?”  Tanner said, looking at me excitedly.  “That’s great.”

“I guess,” I said, trying to smile.  “It’s just… somehow this isn’t how I pictured it happening.”  I paused.  “I guess when I thought about making an album, I just… I just figured it’d be
music, you know?”

A shadow passed over Tanner’s face. 
“Right,” he said, turning to face the balcony, looking out onto the beach.  “But if that’s not an option…”

isn’t it?”  I snapped, frustrated.  “I guess that’s still what I don’t get.”

Tanner looked at me like I was asking him why we couldn’t teleport to Antarctica. 

“Snow, it’s not an option because you don’t
any music.”

“Now,” I emphasized the word.  “I don’t have any music right
, this week, right this second.”

Tanner raised an eyebrow.  “And is that going to change at some point in the immediate future?”

I thought about my guitar lessons, scheduled to start the first week of spring semester. 

My beginner lessons.
  It would probably take the whole semester to learn Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

I felt my shoulders slump. 
Tanner was right.  I wasn’t going to have my own music anytime soon.  I’d written some words to a great song, but that was it.  I was nowhere near ready to record my own music.

He looked at me
gently, as if he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.  “Snow, I know it’s hard to give up any part of the creative process — hell, trust me, Sophie and April and I know it better than you do.”  I winced, not meaning to rub salt in their wounds.  “But sometimes you’ve got to make the most of what you have.”

“You have a band,” I countered.  “What do I have?”

Tanner smiled at me.  “You have Casey Snow,” he grinned, sitting next to me on the couch.  I smelled his aftershave, vanilla and sandalwood. 

I sat still, not moving toward him or away.  “
Casey Snow, tabloid star?  Casey Snow, YouTube sensation?”  I looked down at the floor.  “It’s definitely not Casey Snow, budding respected musician.”

Tanner looked at me with a sympathetic smile, and then wrapped an arm around my shoulder. 

“Casey Snow, who managed to propel herself from complete-and-total nobody to a major player in the music industry, just by being herself.”

Being myself
.  Was that who this was?

“Tanner, I—”  I opened my mouth, but he cut me off with a finger to my lips. 
I shivered, but stopped talking.

“Listen, Snow,” he said, using his other hand to brush a stray hair out of my eye
s, until I was looking him straight in the face.  “I’m not going to talk you into it.  You’ll figure it out—the whole world knows you will.”

I looked deep into Tanner’s eyes, but didn’t see a hint of irony. 

Was that how he really felt?

’s body was pressed closer to me, and I felt myself melting, wanting nothing more than to have someone’s arms around me, telling me it was all going to be okay. 

As if reading my mind, Tanner leaned forward
and kissed me, expertly maneuvering my body back onto the couch.  His arm that had been resting around my shoulder made its way up my neck, brushing the little tangles of hair at the base of my collar. 

“Tanner—” I
breathed, not sure if I wanted to tell him to stop or keep going.

Smiling again, he pulled back, so he was laying over me, my body still trapped between him and the side of the couch.

“You, Casey Snow,” he said lightly, his eyes twinkling.  “You take everything too seriously.  Music is entertainment.  It’s about the guy driving to work who gets three minutes of escape when he listens to the radio.  It’s about Saturday nights and people having a good time.  It’s teenagers dancing in mosh pits and screaming about their favorite rock stars.” 

Tanner leaned down,
his lips lightly touching my jaw, heading down my neck.

“Sure, Snow, you could learn to play the guitar…”

I was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on what he was saying.

take a year, write a couple of songs,” he continued, his breath tickling the base of my neck.  “And they’d probably be pretty good…”

And?” I rasped out, barely able to take a breath.

Tanner’s lips closed over my collarbone, and I let a sigh escape my lips.

“You could take all that time, learn to play guitar, write some music that’s really
live up to Blake’s standards, and then...”

I stared at him, eyes wide. 
Then what?

“Then, Snow,” he undid a button on my blouse.
  I was torn between wanting to stop him and wanting him to keep going.  “Then, if you’re really as good as you seem to think you are…”

Another button.  I wasn’t stopping him.

“Then?” I whispered.

Tanner gave me a wry smile, and slid a hand onto my bare stomach.  “Then, if you’re really that good, then after years of
hard work, then maybe,
just maybe
, you’ll make it back to the same opportunities you’re facing today.”

I tried to think about what he was
saying, but Tanner kept going, burying his other hand in my hair.

“See, Snow?  You talk a big game, but I think deep down….”

I slid my body towards Tanner’s.  I could hardly catch my breath as his lips brushed over my face, neck, and then—

“Deep down?”

He smiled.  “Deep down, Casey Snow, I think you don’t hate Hollywood as much as you say you do.  Deep down, I see hints of having…. fun.”


I sat up immediately, fumbling to put back together the buttons that Tanner had undone. 

“Relax,” Tanner said, lifting his body off the couch and heading back
into the bedroom.  “It’s just the buzzer.  Let me get dressed and we’ll see who it is.”

I felt butterflies in my stomach, but I wasn’t sure if they were from what had just happened with Tanner or whoever was at the door.

An instant later, Tanner emerged, fully dressed in a tee-shirt and shorts. 

“It’s only me who gets the half-naked greetings?”

He winked at me, pressing a button to turn on a video monitor by the door.  The image tilted and then came into sharp focus, and I darted past him, scrambling for the door.


The door swung open in front of me, and I looked out, expecting to see Sophie’s familiar huge brown eyes. 

“Well, well,” an icy voice rang out.  “Déjà vu all around, isn’t it?”

As I looked out Tanner’s doorway, I realized that it wasn’t just Sophie at the door.

Sure, I was face to face with Sophie, who was looking at me like I’d just walked into a lion’s den.

behind her was the rest of Moving Neutral. 

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
2.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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