Robby Black whistled under his breath as he entered the conference room. Three sets of bright, expectant eyes greeted him, their faces full of anxiety and anticipation. This was his favorite part of the job.
"Good morning, ladies," he said, flashing a dimpled smile. The girls mumbled a response as he pulled out a chair at the head of the table. The thick file he'd been carrying dropped to the surface with a thud as he sank to his seat. He flipped open his file and extracted four contracts. He slid them to the girls and their manager. "Let's go over this and then we can discuss it."
He spent the next two hours going over every point and answering their questions. He negotiated some of the finer points with their agent and when they finally all stood, he promised to make the changes and have the contract ready to be signed the next day.
He stopped in the administrative office and instructed a secretary on the changes he wanted made. He winked at her before disappearing down the hall in his quest to escape to the peace of his office. He sat behind his desk and closed his eyes, resting his head on the high back of his soft leather chair.
He did enjoy his job – he loved finding new, raw talent and unleashing them on the music world. He'd adapted to Chicago quicker than he'd thought possible. And he'd forged a great personal and professional relationship with Jake Johnson and Nick Collins. Just one thing was missing from his life.
He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose, chastising his brain for following that particular train of thought. He'd had a good day and didn't need to end it with thoughts of things that would never, ever happen.
A soft knock on his door shook him out of his short meditation. He opened his eyes, straightened and called out a quick order to come in. A head of dark hair peeked around the corner and its owner smiled largely at him.
"Nope," he said as his heart sank to his feet. He stood and walked around the front of his desk as Ally Johnson bounced into the room. Ally Collins, he corrected. She was a married woman now. He took her hands and kissed her cheek. "How are you? Back from the honeymoon already?"
Her brilliant blue eyes sparkled as she shook her hands free and threw her arms over his shoulders to hug him enthusiastically. "It was wonderful!"
His eyes slipped closed as he inhaled the sweet scent of her hair. Although his brief dating stint with her was a few years in the past, he hadn't been able to find anyone who could compare. The strain was solely on his side and he did the best he could to hide it from her and the rest of the world. Her new husband was a friend of his, as was his father and hers.
He pointed at a chair and she sat while he stumbled around his desk and returned to his chair. He folded his hands on the smooth, tidy surface of his desk and offered a strangled smile. "So what brings you here today? How come you're not out grocery shopping or doing laundry?"
She rolled her eyes and tried to smirk but happiness forced her lips to remain in a permanent smile. "I'm not all domestic just yet, Robby Black. I'm still a free spirit."
He laughed, his dimples indenting his cheeks. "Imagine that. So, where's the blushing groom?"
She deflated and her smile slipped just a fraction. She bent at the waist and slid her arms on his desk. "He's working with RJ right now. And I'm bored. I didn't feel like sitting in the basement while they argue and bang on the drums. And Jamie's already on his way to Wichita so I'm really bored."
"Ah, so you came to bother the old standby," he joked, his heart twittering with each banter exchange.
"No!" she exclaimed, her eyes wide in horror and her lips a perfect circle. "Of course not. You're not a standby…"
He held up a hand, teasing glimmer in his eyes. "I know that, Ally. I'm just joking."
She bit her lip and ducked her head and his heart went out to her. He knew she suffered from bouts of guilt over their failed romance but her heart always had and always would belong to Cole Collins. He'd accepted that – embraced it even – when he watched her wilt in front of his eyes. She'd turned to him when her relationship with Cole fell apart and although she threw everything she had into their relationship, he always felt as though a part of her was still with Cole.
"So, do you want to go grab some dinner?" he asked, tilting his head and cracking an irresistible smile. "I'm starved."
"Yes," she said as animation returned to her face. Her lovely cheeks flushed with color and her eyes sparkled like a newlywed again. She jumped from her chair and bounced a little as she waited for him to call his secretary and tell her he was stepping out. It was close to six anyway and the office would technically be closing down for the evening.
He offered his arm and led her down the hall.
"So, what are you working on?" she asked as she speared a clump of lettuce with her fork. "Anything interesting?"
"We're signing an all girl group," he told her as he watched her eat. She crammed the lettuce in her mouth and wiped her face with a napkin, waiting for him to elaborate. "Your dad spotted them first and asked me to check them out. They're really good."
"Would I like them?" she asked as she dropped her napkin next to her plate.
"I think so."
"Hmm," she said as she studied him in the dim light of the pub. "Are they real young?"
A smirk toyed with his lips. "Like, do they still watch Barney or Blues Clues?"
She threw her napkin at him and it bounced off his chin and landed on his plate. "No, I mean are they teens or over the legal age?"
"Oh," he chuckled as he tossed her napkin in front of her. "Yes, they are old enough to vote and old enough to buy alcohol."
She hovered over her plate, her eyes glistening with mischief. "Are they pretty?"
He allowed his smirk full possession of his lips as he fell back. He folded his arms across his chest, suspicion in his own eyes. "I suppose but I'm not interested in dating any of them."
She, too, fell back in her chair and mimicked his posture, her eyes filled with surprise. "Why not?"
"Ally," he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I wish you'd stop with this need to find the perfect woman for me. I'm fine, really. I'm too busy with my work to date anyone seriously."
"You found time when we…" she trailed off, averting her eyes from his.
"Ally, stop. Just listen, okay?" He waited for her bowed head to nod. "I'm perfectly happy right now and if the right girl does stumble my way, I'll make time for her. But for now, I'm content doing my job and hanging out with my friends."
"You hardly hang out with us much," she pouted, her bottom lip jutting out as she lifted her head. "You haven't been over in awhile."
He jabbed his index finger in her direction. "You've been on your honeymoon, remember? I'm sure you didn't want me tagging along."
She rolled her eyes as an exasperated sigh escaped her lips. "I mean before the wedding and stuff."
She had him and he knew it. Ally had been lifelong friends with Cole, James Wenslow and RJ Stone, especially since their fathers were members of the band Controlled Environment. James, or Jamie, and Ally were cousins and extremely close. But Cole had been her best friend growing up and that friendship eventually turned to romance.
Although they all counted him as a friend and included him in their little circle, he often felt out of place – more so after his thing with Ally. Cole never treated him any way other than friendly, though it took him a couple months to warm up again. Their friendship was still slightly strained, but it was getting better. And he knew that if he hung out with them more often, it would get stronger. Problem was, he couldn't banish the few, lingering feelings he still harbored in the darkest recesses of his heart. They weren't strong enough for him to declare himself in love with her, but they were there just the same.
"We were both busy, Ally, you know that," he explained feebly. He took a deep breath. "I'll hang out with you guys soon."
"How about tonight?" she suggested, her eyes raking his face. "We're supposed to get together. Well, me, Cole, RJ, Ryan and Parker. Jamie left already."
Her eyes flashed a hint of sadness and he knew she was missing her favorite cousin terribly. He hated to disappoint her so he reluctantly agreed to drop by later.
"So, when's the first little one due?" he teased.
She sucked in a breath, her hand over her mouth. "Robby! We're not ready for a baby yet."
He chuckled. "I figured you two would start popping them out like rabbits."
She narrowed her eyes and leaned over the table, ready to spit daggers at him. "We are not Carly and Ronnie and have no intention of producing miniature Coles like there's a shortage somewhere."
He laughed, his eyes dancing at her irritation. She relaxed and allowed a tiny smile. "No babies, huh? What a shame." He sighed overdramatically. "Ah, well, Jamie's going to be a big football star so I'm sure he'll supply the older generation with a grandbaby soon enough."
She snorted and sat up. "He is a manwhore. I'm surprised there's not one yet."
Robby couldn't argue.
He paid their bill over her objections and walked her to her car. After he saw her safely away, he returned to his and headed back to the love of his life – his job.
He bent over his desk, studying the latest demographic charts his secretary had printed for him and hoped his new girl band would fit in properly. Their sound was amazing and the music industry needed a group like theirs.
He pushed the chart aside and found the studio schedule. He penciled the girls in a couple days next week, hoping the new contract would be amiable to them and they could get right to work. He hated to waste time. They already had a local following and he wanted to strike while the iron was hot. Get them to work on their debut CD and set them up with a few promo appearances.
He worked until his eyes blurred and his lids drooped. He shut down his computer, set his phone to voice mail and shut off the lights. He locked his office door and every door on his way out. He stepped into the elevator and leaned against the walls as it took him to the parking garage.
He shuffled to his car, eager to get home and climb in bed, when his cell rang. He glanced at the ID and groaned. "Hey, Ally."
"Robby it's nearly eleven and you said you'd stop by," she whined. "What are you doing?"
"I just left the office."
"And you were going to go straight home, right?" she challenged.
He laughed. "I thought about it. But, I'll stop by for a little bit. How's that?"
"Great," she cheered. "See you soon." She hung up and he tucked his phone in his pocket.
He dug out his keys and approached his car when he heard the scuffle behind him.
"You can't be in here!" a stern voice shouted. Robby turned, ready to show his ID to the security guard when a large man dressed entirely in black skidded to a halt a few feet from him. Ernie, head security guard, and a few of his men stopped behind the man. "What are you doing in here?"
"Um…looking for my dog," the man in black responded, his eyes darting all around the garage.
Robby, not wanting to involve himself in a dog search, turned to his car. A slight movement near the hood caught his eye and he spotted a figure hiding in the shadows, curled in a ball and trembling fiercely. He positioned his body in front of it and turned to watch the man in black argue with Ernie.
"I didn't see a dog," Ernie stated. The guards behind him murmured in agreement.
"I'm sure I saw him run in here," the man protested. "You weren't even in the guard booth."
"I turned my back for two seconds," Ernie said. "Not long enough for a dog to run in here." Ernie took the stranger by the arm and dragged him toward the gate. "If you want to leave a number, we'll call you if we see a dog."
The man shot a glance in Robby's direction and he shrugged. He held the man's eyes until he was forced to focus on the direction in which Ernie was leading him. Once he was safely out of sight, Robby sighed and turned to the figure huddled in front of his car.
"You can come out now."
The figure peeked an eye at Robby and blinked several times. It stood, slowly unfurling its body, still tense and ready to curl up again at a second's notice. "Is he gone?" the hoarse voice asked.
Robby peered over his shoulder. The garage was empty. He turned back. "Yeah."
The figure straightened and lifted a shaky hand to its head. It yanked a rubber band out of its hair and shook out a wild, dark mane. "Thanks," she said.
A/N: Just a warning - I'm not sure how this will turn out so please be gentle (LOL). And I'm not sure how often I'll be able to update. But, I wanted to do a story with this storyline and Robby Black wouldn't get out of my head. So, here we go. This will be different from the other Phone Calls stories.
Thanks and I hope you like.