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Say You're Mine
Author: Layla Hagen

Chapter One


Brayden

 


Sasha had asked us to the meeting room in the label’s offices in Manhattan, which was a clear sign that she meant business. We only ever came here for three reasons: if a record underperformed, they were bringing a new person on the team... or to be scolded. Our team was complete, but the new album had barely come out, and Sasha had confided in me that the execs at the label weren’t happy with sales. The guys were also aware. Thomas, Lars, Harvey, and I were very tight. We’d formed GreenFire twelve years ago, when we were nothing but a bunch of college freshmen at NYU sharing a passion for music. We exploded on the international scene four years later. Ever since, we’ve topped charts in the US and abroad.

It’s been a roller coaster. We usually went along with whatever Sasha had to say, because she was our manager and had our back. We’d been backstabbed often enough to appreciate when we finally had someone who had our best interests in mind.

We hadn’t been to the meeting room in quite a while. We spent most of our time at the cottage, where we did everything from rehearsing to training to hosting parties. Now being in this building again, near Central Park, had me and the guys a little unnerved.

Sasha led us through the back door, as usual, and straight inside an elevator that brought us directly to the eleventh floor. The label only had offices on three floors; the rest of the building was full of offices of various kinds. I didn’t know how she pulled it off, but we never ran into a single person when we came here. Of course, we always had a security detail with us, just in case. Today’s bodyguard, Damien, remained at the door of the meeting room.

“As I told Brayden, the execs think the record sales should be better,” Sasha started.

We were now seated around a large walnut conference table in the meeting room with a view of Central Park. With her blonde hair pulled into a strict ponytail and the black-rimmed glasses, Sasha always appeared older than she was. She was the same age as me, thirty.

We were not an easy bunch to handle. Lars was the most hotheaded of the group, though Harvey balanced him out. Thomas used to be as hotheaded as Lars, but he’s calmer since he got married five years ago.

“Let’s release another single, then. Give people more of a taste,” I suggested. We’d only released three so far.

“No, they don’t think that’s going to help. They think your image as a band needs to change a little. You need to be more approachable.”

Lars cocked a brow. “Why?”

Sasha straightened the collar of her shirt. “Well, the research they conducted among your fans says they feel disconnected from you as a band. We live in the communication era, where everyone posts constantly about their life. Your fans expect that.”

“We like our privacy,” I said in a measured tone. We’d always been different from other rock bands: no drugs or scandals. At the height of our fame, everyone had wanted a piece of us. We didn’t like that, so we chose to keep a low profile when it came to our personal life. We owed our fans good music, nothing else.

“You don’t have to give that up,” she assured us.

“Then how exactly are we supposed to be more approachable?”

Sasha drummed her fingers on the table. “We don’t have clear answers. But I’ve asked a very skilled counselor to join us here today. We won’t be employing her counseling services, but she has a lot of experience with behavioral perception. I thought it might be more useful than a simple PR plan. It’s no pressure, just a first meeting.”

The guys started protesting all at once. I stared at Sasha, who stared right back with her “You’re in charge” look.

“We thought you’d want us to make more appearances,” Thomas said, voicing my thoughts.

“This will be more helpful. I’m going to bring her in.” She rose from her chair and left the room. She’d told me she wanted to try something out of the box, but I hadn’t paid attention. I needed time to process this and then sell it to the guys. She always called me the voice of reason in the group, but right now I was just as pissed as the others. We needed a heads-up before she threw this kind of stuff at us. They were going to eviscerate whoever came through that door.

Knowing Sasha, I probably had about thirty seconds to maintain order. I faced the guys.

“Let’s all calm down and listen to whatever they have to say.”

“Sasha hired a babysitter. I’m feeling the opposite of calm,” Harvey said.

“No, she’s bringing on a professional,” I said as coolly as possible. “Sasha’s never steered us wrong. Let’s give this, whatever it is, a shot.”

No one was buying my speech. I wasn’t buying it either. Yes, she’d never steered us wrong, but this was the first time she decided something like that without extensively discussing it with us first. I didn’t like it.

I turned toward the door when I heard voices on the other side. Sasha came in first, followed by a woman with waist-long hair that was so vibrantly red, it was all I could see for a few seconds. Then the rest of her came into focus. I fixated on her lips—full and pouty, like she was permanently ready to dish out sass. Her eyes were huge and brown and so expressive that I was sure she’d be an open book if we made eye contact long enough, but she averted her gaze quickly. She was tiny enough that I could lift her over my shoulder with one arm—I guess she’d be what you’d call petite. Her black dress touched her knees and had long sleeves that covered her arms, but her shoulders were on display. It made me want to step closer and drum my fingers from one to the other slowly, watching her reaction.

“Boys, this is Isabelle Gallagher. Isabelle, meet GreenFire. Thomas, Lars, Harvey... and Brayden. Forgive me. It’s my fault they’re all throwing daggers with their eyes at you. They were expecting a different kind of meeting.”

“Oh good, then I’m not the only one blindsided by the job description,” Isabelle said with a cheeky smile. I’d been right about her being sassy.

“Isabelle. Welcome!” I walked up to her, extending my hand. I wasn’t usually a hand shaker, but I wanted an excuse to see her up close. She was a beautiful woman in the most surprising ways. The round shape of her eyes was mesmerizing. She only briefly shook my hand.

“Nice to meet you, Brayden. All of you, in fact. I only found out yesterday that I’ll be working with you.”

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