Copyright© 2016 by Jay Cantrell
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 70 - Travis Blakely had a comfortable existence. He had a decent job and good friends. He was comfortable with what the future held for him. Then he ran into a girl he remembered from high school. His life got a lot more interesting - and infinitely more complicated
The trip to Jacksonville went smoothly. Stephanie had called a little after six (while Liz and I were still in varying stages of undress) and acted as though nothing was amiss. She asked if the travel plans were still the same and said she’d meet us at the airport.
She gave no indication that I’d spoken to her or that she had considered walking away. I decided it wasn’t worth the battle so I let it go. She was on board like the rest of us and she’d sink or swim with everybody else.
Liz was in a good mood but still a bit worried as the plane took off. I sat along the aisle for the short flight from Nashville to Jacksonville. All the tickets had sold out for the show in a little more than 12 hours. It wasn’t a record but it was still a pretty solid showing.
Liz had put a butt in (or at least sold a ticket for) every seat available. The smallest crowd had been 36,275 at a baseball stadium in Miami; the largest had been 71,750 at a soccer field in Germany. She had sold more than 1.1 million tickets in 23 dates with the largest show, the stadium in Dallas, yet to go. Geoff Granger had told us the label planned to put 104,225 tickets on sale at 8 a.m. Central Time three days after Jacksonville. A legendary artist had performed his final show at the stadium and Liz would sell about 500 fewer tickets so he could still hold the record.
The concert would be 14 days after the ticket sale. We all knew that if Liz didn’t hit 50,000 by four p.m. Central Time she wouldn’t sell out even with the help my people would provide.
Putting close to 90,000 people into a place would be a coup for any other artist in the world – but it would be seen as a disappointment if Liz couldn’t sell out in less than 24 hours. We would fly to Dallas directly from Jacksonville and start our media campaign Tuesday afternoon.
We would do radio shows and tape a segment for the next day’s early morning television market. The label, at Geoff’s behest, had made some calls to local celebrities – players from the city’s professional sports franchises and a popular late-night comedienne with ties to the city to do a few commercials that could be dropped into drive-time radio airplay but mostly we were counting on Liz’s reputation and word-of-mouth to seal the deal.
I promised myself that I would never go into a situation so unprepared again. I was listening to the comic’s minute-long commercial (which cost almost $20,000) and wondered if it would do any good when Skye tapped me on the shoulder.
I removed my headphones and looked up at her.
“Could I speak to Liz for a few minutes?” she asked.
Liz had her eyes closed and her earbuds engaged so I tapped her arm. I gestured to Skye when she opened her eyes and then got up to move.
“You don’t have to go far,” Skye said. “I just want to visit for a minute or two.”
“Take all the time you want,” I said. “I’m probably already on her last nerve.”
“Always,” Liz said, pinching my cheek. I got up and moved across the aisle and Skye took my seat.
“I understand there is a spot on your staff that you are still considering,” she said.
Liz looked past Skye to me but I only shrugged.
“There are several spots we still need to fill,” Liz said. “Do you have something specific in mind?”
Skye produced a piece of paper and handed it to Liz.
“I’d like to apply to become your personal assistant when Jill changes jobs,” Skye said. “I have very good organizational skills; I’m fluent in German and speak a bit of Spanish and French; and I believe that you and I have developed a rapport that would serve you well if you were to hire me.”
“What about your doctorate?” Liz asked. “If it’s money, we can help.”
“It’s not money,” Skye said. “It’s ... it’s desire. The research for my master’s thesis took a lot of time and effort. I’m drained and I’d like to take a bit of time to consider my options while I write it. I’m also not certain I want to continue my educational path just yet. A doctorate in sociology is not going to enhance my employment options. I thought I wanted to be a professor or a researcher ... until I actually taught courses and had to delve into the research field. Now I’m not sure I want to do either thing. I’d like to take some time away from my studies to live a little bit. I know you’re going to be in Nashville for most of your hiatus.”
“I’m probably not,” Liz corrected with a sorrowful look. “I’m going to be splitting my time between San Diego and Nashville. If I had to bet, most of it will be spent in California.”
“Even better!” Skye said, smiling. “I would assume that at least part of your security team would follow you out there. And, of course, you’d want your assistant with you.”
“Have you spoken to Ryan about this?” Liz asked.
“Yes,” Skye said. “Dom explained the problems it might create. Ryan has made an offer to Brian’s friends and they have accepted – pending a thorough background check. They’ll start in July. Ryan and Roberta would be responsible for your safety. Dayton would be assigned to Travis. He doesn’t think it will pose any more of a problem than already exists since I wouldn’t start until Bobbi and Dayton are hired. I’ve talked it over with Jill and Stephanie, too. Neither of them sees a problem but they said the most important qualification is the ability to work with you. I think we’ve established that we work well together.”
“Not to interrupt,” I began.
“Which you are,” Liz said. The look she offered told me this was a business discussion and one that I wasn’t invited to join.
“I know,” I said. “I just wanted to offer one little tidbit and then I’ll sit silently like a good boy.”
“Sorry,” Liz said abashedly. “What do you want to say?”
“I was going to mention that I was going to approach Skye to work with the public relations department,” I said.
“You were?” Skye asked.
“You were?” Liz wondered at the same time.
“I’ve used some of the things we’ve talked about in the past few weeks,” I admitted. “You have valid insights on the public we’re trying to relate to. I’ve found myself considering some of the points you’ve made as we navigate through rough waters. I’ve not really spoken to Liz about my budget yet so I’m not sure it would be full-time. I was thinking of a consulting position to help you out financially.”
Liz eyed me speculatively.
“Would having her as my assistant preclude you from picking her brain about things?” she asked.
I considered the question.
“No,” I said. “I usually run a lot of my concepts past Jill or Stephanie right now because I’m not super familiar with your target audience. I would still discuss things with them as your managers so I’ll still have their perspectives. Adding Skye’s input could be done in her capacity as your assistant or as a consultant. I think she gives us a different view of things, not just in terms of geographic upbringing but in terms of empirical and statistical data.”
“OK,” Liz said. I sat back in my seat and put my headphones back on. I waited for Skye to get up and leave (after shaking hands with her prospective employer) before I returned to my seat.
“I’m sorry about that,” Liz said. “I got a lot of unwelcomed input from the label when I wanted to hire Jill. I know you like Skye and I didn’t want you chiming in with your ideas of what I need in an assistant.”
“No, I understand,” I said. “I should have stayed out of it until we were alone if I had anything to say. It’s your decision to make. If she’s not right to work directly for you then I have some things for her to do. I can probably justify hiring her onto my staff full-time if it comes to it.”
“Did you know she was going to drop out of school?” Liz asked.
“She’s not dropping out,” I countered. “She’s completed her master’s degree except for the writing requirement. She’ll finish it. But, as she said, it’s not a viable career path unless you want to work for pollsters or in some marketing firms. She said her specialization is sociometry. I had to look it up to even understand what she was talking about.”
“Then explain it to me,” Liz said. “I looked it up and still didn’t understand.”
“A statistical analysis of relationships,” I explained. “Not just ... you and me ... relationships. It’s deeper than that. It’s like finding statistics to link enhanced travel options to higher divorce rates. That’s pretty interesting. I planned to see if she could find correlations between your buying public and your tour dates. I wanted to see if you make more money in merchandising sales by touring in the winter as opposed to summer and that sort of thing.”
Liz offered her half smile and took my hand again.
“That’s an interesting question,” she said. “I’ve never had anyone break down my sales by season. I know I tend to do the warm-weather cities in the summer and the cold-weather cities in the winter. I’ll play Minneapolis in January and Tampa in July.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because that’s when they scheduled me to play those places,” Liz answered.
“See, I’d like to see statistics to support your decisions,” I told her. “‘We’ve always done it that way’ is never going to be a sufficient answer for me. If you are going to increase your visibility or your popularity by appearing in Pittsburgh in mid-June then I think you should appear in Pittsburgh in mid-June. I think Skye has the ability to find those numbers for you.”
“I agree,” Liz said. “Add this to the list of things we need to discuss with everybody else when we’re out from under RFN.”
“That list is getting pretty damned long,” I said.
“I know, Hon,” Liz said. “That’s one of the reasons I need a good personal assistant. I can’t stay on top of everything ... except you. You, I will gladly stay on top of whenever I can.”
She squeezed my hand.
“What do you think of the idea of hiring Skye for the job?” she asked.
“My opinion doesn’t really matter,” I said.
“Yes, it does,” Liz cut in. “You’re going to be seeing her as much as I am. It’s important that you, Jill, Stephanie, Ryan, Susan and Darryl can work with her. A lot of time, when I’m in the study or writing, I’ll leave it to her to deal with things.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem for me,” I said. “I can’t speak for anyone else, though.”
“Susan?” Liz asked.
“She’ll be fine with it,” I said. “She’s really good at what she does.”
“I know,” Liz said. “I’m very happy with the things they’ve put together. OK, I’ll think it over. How is your staff coming along?”
“I have no idea,” I said, laughing slightly. “I’ve been a little busy putting out fires to really focus much on that. I’ve asked Susan to cull through the resumes. She’s going to send the ones she thinks would do better on this end to me. I told her I couldn’t even think about things until we get through Dallas.”
Liz frowned slightly.
“You’ll want to interview them yourself,” she opined.
“I will,” I said. “I figure we’ll find a time to bring the best candidates to wherever we are at the moment and we’ll sit down and meet with them. I had hoped to see who I might be able to poach from other Nashville houses but that’s out the window. I’m under contract to you.”
“And I am a harsh mistress,” Liz said. “If you want to do the interview thing, it’s OK. I’m not going to get worried about you running off for a better job. You’re not going to find the same fringe benefits anywhere else.”
“True,” I said. “I still think it would be a bad idea. Susan is looking at the job boards for people that might have experience. We’re going to try to split them up so nobody gets stuck with a bunch of rookies that we need to constantly watch over. We’ll get things figured out.”
“I know you will,” Liz said. “Now, one more question for you.”
“Sure,” I said.
“What’s up with you and Stephanie?” she asked.
“Don’t give me that,” she said. “You forget, I’ve known her for years. She’s pissed at you for something.”
“Probably the picture from the other day,” I said.
“Probably not,” Liz retorted.
“I’d rather not tell you,” I finally admitted.
Liz nodded slowly.
“I think it might affect your working relationship with her and I don’t want to be in the middle of that,” I said.
“You called her out,” Liz said.
I shrugged again.
“Travis, I told you, I know her,” Liz told me. “Do you think I was surprised that she wanted to see where the chips fell before she committed? I’m not. If anything, I’m surprised that she is here at all. Hon, she’s naturally cautious ... and she’s naturally self-centered. If she had a better voice, she’d be a perfect entertainer. But her range is too limited to really front a band. I made her my tour manager because she’s overly cautious sometimes. She’s kept me from a few mistakes here and there. But she also understands that she works for me.”
“It was more a matter of the friendship you’ve developed,” I said. “You know I’m still learning how true friendships work. But I know that the people I am closest to have my back ... good or bad. I gave her time to think things over. I gave her time to talk things over with her husband. We heard from everybody else within hours. She got a day and a half and that was all I was going to give her. If she wants to be simply an employee, fine. But she doesn’t get to call you a friend unless she is with you all the way. It’s like I told her: Friends don’t run.”
“Do you honestly think I’m going to be standing when this is all over?” she asked. It was the first time she had wanted my true impression of her future.
“Yes,” I said.
Liz turned in her seat to face me.
“And I’m just hearing about this?” she asked. “I’ve been worried to death that this is my final concert.”
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up,” I said. “You asked me if I thought you’d be OK. I do. I know, generally, who has purchased the information. I have ... a friend ... trying to peg it down completely. Then I’m going to...”
“You don’t need to know what’s going to happen to him,” I said.
“No!” Liz said. “I do not want anybody else harmed. Do you hear me?”
“I’m not going to have his legs broken,” I said. “I’m just going to make sure he’s very, very uncomfortable. From what I understand, McHenry shopped an audio file several places but couldn’t find a buyer.”
“Shit!” Liz muttered.
“It’s hearsay at worst,” I countered. “It’s hearsay from an unstable sociopath at best. I spent the past couple of days thinking of our response. First off, from you, I don’t want a word. I mean, not a syllable about it. Well, you might say that you’ve grown used to ridiculous rumors. Roll your eyes, flip your hand, whatever mannerisms you want to use to dismiss this. This is not going to have legs unless we give it legs. It’s unsubstantiated gossip and nothing more. At least to the rest of the world, that’s all it is. I’ve got someone close to Caley. She’s going to play along or else. I’ve written out her retirement speech for her. She’s staying in Miami until Thursday. You’ll need to fly over and take her to the rehab in California. Are you still good with that?”
“Yeah,” Liz said, frowning.