Page 67 of The Keeper

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My hackles raise at the “these guys.” Sexism is another part of Hollywood that I hate, along with Kit picking my battles.

“Let me get the team together and we can all meet tomorrow with the contracts, but let’s start you thinking about three full-length songs and a few filler cutaways. We’ve got a live band scene in the film, so we’ll get you scene overviews and a casting contract as well. You’ll need representation and we’ll call in a music studio to manage the sound and mixing for us.”

I hear very little as we pack up our gear and head out, Kit announcing that he’s taking us all to dinner. He’s all smiles as we pile into the back of a huge, black SUV, like the benevolent benefactor who’s just made some significant philanthropic commitment.

I shove myself into the third row of seats and slump against the seat, pouting.

Nikki and Sven are bouncing in their seats with wide smiles that match my brother’s. They love this. They’re excited because this is what they’ve always wanted. They want fame and fortune. They wanted me to use my family to help us get noticed all along.

Well, here we are. And I should be happy because this is huge. But I’m just…not.

At the restaurant, I sit next to Kit, and he drapes his arm across the back of the booth, inclining his head toward mine. In a low voice, he asks, “Why are you being so weird about this?”

I shrug and mutter, “I didn’t want it to happen this way.”

“What way did you want it to happen?”

Nikki and Sven sit across from us, looking pointedly at their menus. They know why. They’ve heard it a million times.

“You know why,” I answer through gritted teeth.

“Because you like to scrape and fight for every bit of everything you attain? You want to get it through good old-fashioned hard work and elbow grease? You don’t like handouts?” Kit chuckles and shakes his head. “Ninety-eight percent of success in this business comes from having the right connections at the right time.”

“This is an awesome opportunity, Billie,” Sven says. “Three full songs? An agent? A record deal?”

“We’re going to blow up after this,” Nikki says.

I take a sip from my water glass. “What if we’re not ready?”

Sven scoffs at this. “We’ve been ready. Sound wise, we’re ready. It’s you who’s not ready.”

Nikki softens this by adding, “Emotionally, he means. We know you’ve got…baggage.”

“Look,” Kit says. “You’ve got talent. The band is good. Why rage against the start of your own success?”

“It just…I didn’t want all the parading around. The guys like Dan. The games. I just wanted to make good music that people would want to hear.”

“We can,” Nikki answers. She reaches across the table and grabs my hand, her expression fierce.

Kit adds, “Look, make a name for yourself. Write three kick-ass songs and show the studios what you can do. Get a good agent to work a good deal for you, one that gives you as much control as possible.”

Control. He used that word on purpose. I know he’s felt like he wasn’t in control at many times during his career. He was a late bloomer though, didn’t come into his looks or his talent until he was late in his teens. When his career went full tilt, he was at least old enough to understand what was happening.

“It just isn’t for me, you know?” I start. “Getting dragged around like I’m on display. Having to dress up and walk the red carpet. Having to look pretty and put up with leering old men and just keep smiling and taking whatever crumbs people hand out.”

Sven rolls his eyes, but Nikki gets it, squeezing my hand. “We can do this on our terms.”

“You can,” Kit says. “You can play the game better. It doesn’t have to feel the way it did when you were younger.”

“You say that because you have power. And you didn’t get dragged around like I did. You got to go to school and have a normal childhood.”

“Let it go, sis. I begged Mom to take me out with you. I would have done anything to get to act when I was young. I loved it, but Mom thought I was a talentless, fat oaf.”

“Well, you were kind of fat…” I tease him, grinning.

“And you were more talented. I think she got it right, quite frankly, but she settled for supporting me once you said you were out of the game. Redoubled her efforts and helped me make the most of what small amount of talent I had.”

“And look at you now.”