Samantha looked so alone, standing in the middle of the concrete floor. The cold air made his skin prickle, but it wouldn’t last long. As soon as he started playing and singing he would heat up.
He dug into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out his monitor. He still hated it, but he had the routine of checking his blood-sugar level down to a fine art. The whole process could be completed in under twenty seconds. He’d done everything she’d suggested. Eaten a little more carbohydrate and reduced his insulin dose by a few units to see how much energy he used up during a performance. His big worry was not recognising signs of a hypo attack.
Tonight would be easier. This was his third rehearsal. He’d be looking for it every second. He wouldn’t be distracted by the rest of the band and thousands of screaming fans. He wouldn’t be carried away by the atmosphere and the electricity in the air.
Tonight was a solo performance for one.
On second thoughts, that might actually be worse.
He tucked the monitor back into his pocket and put his guitar strap over his shoulder, stepping up to the microphone. Rock music wasn’t normally used as a serenade to women, but that’s what it felt like right now.
He plucked the first notes on his guitar. It was time to get started.
* * *
Samantha was mesmerised. She couldn’t help it.
After the first few minutes she forgot she was the only person in the room. For at least ten minutes it felt as if she was in a time warp. The kind you dreamed about as a teenager where your idol was singing only to you.
But this was no dream. This was reality. And no one could put a price on this.
The lights changed automatically with the music, going up and down depending on the tempo, and at certain points in the music sending strobes across the stage.
Mitchell was lost in the music, his body swaying as his fingers strummed out every tune and he belted out the lyrics into the microphone. He was singing as if there was a whole crowd in this room—not just her. He moved across the stage, rocking it out, jumping on speakers at high points in the songs and only slowing down when he sang the band’s only rock ballad.
Every hair on her neck stood on edge, because at that point he was singing only to her.
Every time she closed her eyes she found herself swaying along to the music, murmuring the lyrics quietly.
After the first hour Mitchell stopped for a few seconds at the side of the stage. He picked up a container of milk and waved it at her, drinking most of it in under a minute. ‘It’s not the same as a beer,’ he muttered into his microphone.
‘Give it a few concerts,’ she shouted back. ‘When word gets out you’ll be offered a million-pound contract to advertise milk!’
He looked up from the microphone. ‘Will you drink it with me?’ His gaze was heavy, his voice low, and even though the words echoed around the hangar it seemed like the most intimate, most loaded question in the world.
He didn’t wait for an answer, just continued straight into his next set, strumming the guitar strings and moving on to the next song. ‘Maybe,’ she whispered under her breath. Could she really last another week around Mitch Brody?
‘Sam? Sam, come up here.’ His voice echoed around the hangar, yanking her out of her daydream. Her feet were frozen to the spot. Oh, no. This was the part that always made the headlines. The part where Mitch Brody pulled a fan from the crowd and serenaded her.
Except there wasn’t a crowd here. There was only her. It was obvious Mitch was taking this rehearsal seriously. She shook her head. ‘No, Mitch.’
‘Yes, Sam.’ She could see his smile reaching from ear to ear. He held out his hand towards her. It was so enticing. She could feel the pull—even from this far away. She could feel his warmth reaching out towards her across the frozen hangar.
Her feet started to move forward. She didn’t want to go up on stage. That just wasn’t her style and Mitch seemed to sense that, because as she neared the stage he started plucking at the strings of his guitar and singing one of the band’s most popular slow songs. A million brides and grooms across the world must have danced to this.
But right now there was only him. And her.
Her throat was dry. She knew this was a performance, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like something much more personal. Something entirely for her.
He was reaching out to her again. The rock star under the spotlight. Every word was sending shivers down her spine and the blood racing around her body. Every tiny little hair was standing on end. All for her. Right up until the last note, the last string had been plucked and the last echo had faded around the hangar. Mesmerising.
Sweat was dripping from Mitch’s hair, his face was flushed and skin glistening. She waited for a full minute before she walked over towards the front of the stage.
She was close enough to see his rapid breathing. Close enough to see his dilated pupils. Her brain switched into gear. Was this just the effects of the performance? Or was this the start of a hypo?
The selfish part of her wanted to think that she could have that effect on him. The professional part of her tried to be rational.
She bit her lip and stayed silent. It was important that Mitch recognise any symptoms himself. This had to form part of her assessment—whether she liked it or not.
What she really wanted to do was switch into nurse mode and go up and order him to test his blood sugar immediately. But that wasn’t right for him, and that wasn’t right for her.
So she waited.
After a few minutes he jumped down from the stage and walked over to her. His hair was tangled and damp, and she was sure she could practically smell the pheromones.
‘What did you think?’ His face was inches away from hers. All of a sudden he wasn’t the distant teenage crush on stage, he was a living, breathing six-foot-four-inch man of sculpted muscle, sinfully dark eyes and perfect teeth right in front of her.
This was it. The final scene in the movie, when the hero swept the heroine into an embrace. She was holding her breath. Waiting for him to do something.
His head tilted to the side and his gaze narrowed. ‘Didn’t you like it?’
Her brain sprang back into life. ‘I did. I-it was good. It was g-great,’ she stammered.
‘Great?’ The look on his face was anything but. She’d said the wrong thing. Of course she had. He was an artist—a performer. He revelled in his job and he wanted everyone to love it as much as he did.
There was a noise behind him as the door slammed open and a huge blast of icy wind swept around them.
‘Ready, folks?’ Dave shouted.
The disappointment in Mitch’s eyes shone brighter than any spotlight. ‘Yeah, we’re ready,’ he said, as he stalked back to the stage and picked up his leather jacket. ‘Let’s go.’
This time he walked straight past her towards the open door.
Her heart lurched in her chest. It was spectacular. I loved it echoed around her head. The words she’d been afraid to say out loud. Afraid she would reveal exactly how she felt around him. This was so much harder than she’d anticipated. So much harder than she’d expected. Being a fan and admiring someone from afar was so different from admitting to yourself that you felt so much more. And it was so much harder when you knew there was no point.
She sighed and turned around. Next year she’d think twice. If she couldn’t work with Daniel’s family—the little boy with CF—then she’d have to reassess her finances. Maybe it was time to change jobs again? She had to think of a way to stop being so financially dependent on this extra work.
Not when this was the price.
* * *
Mitchell felt as if a black fog was hanging around his head. Was his ego really that big? Just because Samantha hadn’t fawned over his performance?