Sidney Harper smiled nervously at the security guard as he held the door open for her. Her heart skipped a beat at the words "Black Records" printed neatly on the glass. She tugged at the hem of her new, silk blouse, hoping it hadn't wrinkled in the cab ride over. She'd spent the previous afternoon bargain shopping in LA. She snorted to herself. Bargain shopping in LA was a whole different thing than bargain shopping back in Somersville, her small Indiana hometown.
She tried to appear cool and confident as she approached the massive reception desk but blew it when she stumbled over her own feet. She offered a weak smile to the haughty receptionist who tapped her perfectly manicured nails on the smooth surface. Sidney hid her own short, stubby nails behind her back and offered the other girl a weak smile.
"May I help you," the receptionist asked in a bored tone.
"Yes," Sidney answered nervously while digging in her ever present messenger bag. She produced a small slip of paper. "I'm supposed to meet a…Lexie Stewart. Could you tell her I'm here please?"
The receptionist rolled her eyes and picked up the phone and spoke softly. She hung up and ordered Sidney to have a seat. Sidney nodded and turned back to the handsome leather furniture in the waiting area, but instead of sitting, her eyes lingered on the album covers adorning the walls.
Black Records was founded a mere three years ago by Rob Black, lead singer of the enormously popular band, Rhetorical Outlook. After lending a hand in producing the bands last two albums, he hungered for more. He went to the top executives at Ocean View Records and propositioned them. He wanted to start a new label, a spin-off of Ocean View, but still independent. He wanted to tour clubs, bars and county fairs and find fresh, new acts and give them a shot at the big time. After many meetings and legal maneuverings, not to mention lots of upfront cash, Black Records was born. Rob had enlisted the help of his best friend and lead guitarist, Chad Michaels, and together they'd produced a fair share of energetic, new bands.
Although the label was on track to becoming as successful as some of the larger companies, they were still on a tight budget. Hence, the need for an intern, or in other words, cheap employee, and hence the reason Sidney Harper was nervously eyeing the album covers in the waiting room of the bands discovered by Rob and Chad.
Startled out of her thoughts, Sidney pivoted to face a vivacious, tan blonde with lively blue eyes.
"Hi," Sidney said, stepping forward to offer her hand. "You must be Lexie Stewart."
The blonde smiled, revealing brilliant, even white teeth. She shook Sidney's hand. "That I am! Please, come back and we'll talk."
Sidney followed her through the huge, oak door and down a long corridor, conscious of her own appearance. She'd noticed how the world had suddenly turned blonde and tan. She tucked her own light brown hair behind her ear and stretched her legs to keep up with the taller woman's stride. She peeked in the windows of the recording rooms, heart thumping wildly in her chest. Lexie led her to an office at the end of the hall and pushed open the door. A large Mahogany desk sat near the corner and was littered with file folders and stray papers. Filing cabinets lined another wall, more papers sticking out of the open drawers. Cardboard boxes dotted the floor and the leather sofa identical to the one in the waiting area.
"I swear that man is the biggest slob I've ever met," Lexie muttered as she cleared a chair and pulled it in front of the desk. She motioned for Sidney to sit as she walked around and sat behind the desk. She shuffled through the mess and produced a file and swept a heaping pile of paperwork to the side. She opened the file and scanned its contents before returning her gaze to Sidney. "We were all so impressed with you resume. I can't believe how many instruments you can play. Did you really graduate high school when you were 14?"
Sidney's cheeks pinked as she nodded.
"That is just so cool," Lexie exclaimed, putting Sidney at ease. "Though, I'm little embarrassed to admit this, but, well, we all kinda thought you were male. You know, because of your name."
Sidney smiled. "I get that a lot."
Lexie leaned over the desk, upsetting yet another pile of papers, her eyes dancing in amusement. "I hope you don't mind but after I spoke to you on the phone and figured out you were not male, I didn't tell the guys." She giggled. "They're always pulling pranks on me and I thought I'd return the favor."
Sidney laughed, immediately liking the other woman. "That's fine. I'm interested to see their reaction."
Lexie sat back in the chair clapping gleefully. "It's gonna be so much fun with you here! It'll be so nice to have another female around."
Sidney furrowed her brows and pointed over her shoulder. "What about the receptionist?"
Lexie snorted. "You mean Leslie? She'll have nothing to do with anyone unless they're rich, sexy and male."
Sidney smirked. "I know the type."
"Anyway," Lexie continued, tone turning businesslike. "You're talents will mostly be wasted for awhile. We'll need you to sort of do a little bit of everything. Eventually, you'll learn the ropes in the studios and the sound rooms, but I don't expect you'll do that right away. Right now, we'll introduce you to the music industry, have you file tapes and that sort of thing, help me with the travel arrangements, and research new bands, all that kind of stuff. Oh, and if you can organize Rob, I'd be forever in your debt."
Sidney's eyes widened as Lexie's arm swept around the room. "I've handled messes bigger than this before," she told her wryly.
Lexie bounded from her chair. "Come on! I'll show you around while we wait for the idiots to get here."
Sidney slowly rose to her feet. "Idiots?"
"Yeah," Lexie called over her shoulder as she headed out the door. "Chad and Rob."
Sidney's heart raced at the mention of the two men. She figured she'd meet them sooner or later but now, as that time loomed closer, nervousness invaded her body and she stumbled over a small box near the door. She grabbed the door frame and straightened her body before following the other woman down the hall once more.
Lexie showed her the three recording studios and sound rooms, the filing rooms, Chad's office, the conference rooms and finally ended the tour in a lounge complete with lockers, another sofa, and a round table. A refrigerator, microwave and sink lined the wall opposite the lockers.
Lexie opened one of the lockers. "This one is yours, see," she said, as she shut the door and pointed to a piece of masking tape stuck to the front with 'S. HARPER' scrawled neatly across in black marker.
Sidney threw her bag inside and slammed the door shut. She put her hands on her hips and looked expectantly at Lexie. "What do we do now?"
Lexie shrugged and plopped down on the sofa. "We wait for the idiots. Sit down and tell me more about yourself."
Sidney sat on the edge of the sofa and shrugged. "What do you want to know?"
"Do you have any family? A boyfriend?" Lexie smiled again, blue eyes sparkling.
"I don't have a boyfriend and the only family I have is an uncle who I believe is doing time somewhere in Texas," Sidney told her with a frown.
Lexie gasped. "That's terrible!"
"I only met him once and that was when I was a kid," Sidney informed her. "What about you? I couldn't help but notice the huge rock on your finger."
Lexie's smile was blinding. "I've been engaged to Chad for about a year. We've been together forever, I think, but he wanted to wait until this label took off." She sighed dramatically. "We don't have a wedding date set but I'll drag him to the altar some day." She got up and retrieved two bottles of water from the fridge. She sat down and handed one to Sidney, who smiled her thanks. "As far as family goes, I have a ton. Matter of fact, Rob is my cousin."
Sidney nearly spit the water she'd just sipped right out. "Really? I didn't know that."
Lexie nodded. "Yeah. His mom and my mom are sisters."
The door swung open and Sidney's heart stopped. Rob Black's presence filled the room as he frowned at Lexie. "What the hell are you doing? Sitting on your ass, gossiping?" He gave Sidney a wink and she had to clutch the arm of the sofa to prevent her body from slipping to the floor. "Don't you have an intern to meet with today?"
"Oh, bite me, Rob," Lexie ordered. "Where have you been, huh?"
Sidney eyed him inconspicuously, taking in his appearance. He definitely looked much different than his CD spreads. And much shorter than she imagined. He stood at about 5'10 or 11 and was dressed casually in faded jeans, an old Dodgers t-shirt and worn leather work boots. His dark brown hair reached the bottom of his neck and curled slightly at the ends while his dark blue eyes laughed at Lexie's words. The only indication one would have that he was the rock star many women dreamt about were the two gold hoops adorning his ears.
"I've been working, Lex. Nice concept. You should try it," he smirked.
Lexie rolled her eyes as she stood, pulling Sidney up by her arm. "You are such a jerk."
Rob smiled. "I know."
Lexie dragged Sidney forward, smirk appearing on her face. "Here's your intern, Rob. This is Sidney Harper."
Rob's eyes widened and his jaw dropped slightly as he was stunned into silence. He recovered quickly and extended his hand. He flashed Lexie a dark look before smiling at Sidney. "It's nice to meet you, Sidney. I apologize, I was under the impression you were male."
Sidney took his hand, praying her palms weren't sweaty. "It's ok. Like I told Lexie, I get that a lot. I hope you aren't disappointed that I'm not male."
He released her hand and shook his head. "Not at all. Your resume is extremely impressive that I could care less if you were a gorilla."
Lexie pulled the door open and smacked her cousin. "You have the tact of a wild moose."
"As opposed to a tame one," he asked, lifting a brow.
"Ohhhh," Lexie groaned as she walked out of the room in disgust.
Rob grinned as the door shut and clapped his hands together. "Well, then, Sidney. Let's get started."
She followed him to the sound room and listened closely as he explained the process. He introduced her to the crew members and allowed them to accentuate his short explanation. His more extensive tour ended in his office as he smiled sheepishly at her.
"Sorry about the mess," he said. "I've been so busy with everything else that I haven't taken to the time to get my own office organized."
"If you tell me how you want everything, I can get straightened out in no time," she offered.
He smiled in relief. "You are a brave, brave person." He stood in the middle of the office, hands on hips, and surveyed the mess. "Tell you what, if you want to get started now, I'll give you a hand."
They spent the next hour and a half organizing the filing cabinets. Sidney designated a cabinet for files on bands, one for office matters and one for his own personal files. Next, they worked together on the massive mounds of papers on his desk.
"So, Sidney," Rob started. "I know nothing about you except what was on your resume."
She shrugged, tucking her hair behind her ear, as she sorted papers into piles. "Not much to tell, really. I come from a tiny Indiana town. My parents surrounded me with music as I grew up because they were avid fans of nearly every kind. My dad even played in a few garage bands and my mother loved to write music."
Rob paused in his work to study her. "I bet their proud of you now, huh?"
She smiled sadly at him. "I'm sure they would be. They died in a car accident when I was nine."
Rob dropped to a chair. "I'm really sorry to hear that."
"Don't be," she told him, waving away his concern. "It happened a long time ago and I've come to terms with it." A wave of longing overcame her as she suddenly ached for her long dead parents.
"So, did you live with other family members," he asked. "I mean, if you don't mind if I ask."
She smiled. "I don't mind. And no, I only have an uncle and he's in prison. I grew up with foster parents. It's really not as bad as it sounds."
"Well, you did pretty well for yourself," he continued. "Lexie said you graduated high school early."
"Yeah," Sidney responded, pulling another pile of papers in front of her. "I even won a scholarship to college and I majored in music. I was lucky."
Rob beamed at her and gave her another wink. "I wouldn't call it luck. I'd call it skill and intelligence. And that, combined with the hard work you've done today, would make Black Records very lucky to have you."
She hid her blush at his compliments by bowing her head over the desk. "Thanks," she mumbled awkwardly.
Rob's cell phone chirped and he snatched it off the clip on his front pocket. "Yeah," he barked.
"Dude, where are you?"
"My office," he said, smiling at Sidney. "Clearing a path. Come down and meet the rookie."
Rob fastened his cell back to his pocket. "Chad," he explained.
Before he could say another word, the door opened to reveal Rhetorical Outlook's lead guitarist. He was taller than Rob with short, blond hair and friendly green eyes. He frowned when his eyes fell upon Sidney.
"Hi," he said, brows creased in confusion. "I'm Chad Michaels and you are…"
"Sidney Harper," she smirked, waiting for his reaction. "And yeah, I'm not male."
Chad smiled and shook her hand. "Figures Lex would leave that little detail out."
"She's a hard worker, man," Rob bragged to Chad.
Chad looked around the nearly organized office. "I see that. Hell, if anyone can get you organized, they deserve a medal."
Rob playfully slapped the back of his head. "Whatever, man." He turned to Sidney. "Why don't we knock off for the day, huh? We can finish tomorrow."
"Sure," Sidney nodded. "Thanks."
"It was nice meeting you, Sid," Chad said, shaking her hand again. "I look forward to working with you."
She left the two men in the office, found her locker and retrieved her bag. She left the building after Leslie; the haughty receptionist gave her an ID pass, and walked down the street to wait for the bus.
After the bus dropped her off, she walked up the steps to her apartment and let herself in. She groaned as she checked her voice mail and heard Grant's whiney voice chide her for not calling him. She deleted his messages and vowed to return his call later and once again stress that they were not seeing each other anymore.
She made her way down the hall and turned on the taps in the bathtub. As the water filled, she studied her reflection in the mirror. Back home, a few boys had considered her pretty enough to date, especially Grant. But here, it seemed like tall, blonde and tan was the requirement. Her light brown hair extended to the middle of her back and her deep brown eyes appeared doe like on her face. She had a smattering of freckles on her nose which she feared would become more visible as she spent more time in the California sun.
She sighed and slipped out of her clothes. Her short legs would never be long like Lexie's, as Sidney's frame only stood at a mere five feet one inch, and her curves would never become as pronounced either.
"It doesn't matter," she said aloud as she slipped into the warm water. "I came her to learn and secure a job, not find a husband."
A/N: YAY! I'm back! Sorry for the extended break but life got in the way. It also took me forever to get this finished. Anyway, here's the new version (Ch 1 anyway). Hope you like it.
I missed you guys so much!