Calling It an Ultimatum
A tall brunette woman opened the door and stepped out on the porch, smiling at him. That would be Royce Bristowe. She was as he expected from someone Rob had selected: professional, attractive, charming, and probably obsessive about details. “Hello,” she called out across the driveway.
Duff followed her into the house. He looked around, familiar with the small size and the style of these homes, but somewhat surprised at the sparse furnishings. When his attention fell back on Royce, she was watching him with an amused expression.
"I’ve been told it looks like a hotel. Honestly, I don't spend a great deal of time here. It suits my needs." She shrugged. "Would you like coffee? Something stronger?" Duff shook his head. He had lost track of the amount of coffee he had drunk this morning and certainly could not face any more.
Gesturing toward the small area off the foyer, Royce said, "I appreciate your flexibility in meeting me here. I have a landscaper coming and this was the only day I had. Please sit and let's get to know each other a little more."
Royce sat across from him. "I should tell you I've done my research on each of you. I must say I find your background fascinating."
He sat there, tired and uneasy and increasingly annoyed - where the hell was Rob - unwilling to engage in small talk about himself but here he was. And there she was. They had to speak of something. "I came to music late. If people find it fascinating and it helps the band, then that's good." It was completely lame. She worked for them. It did not matter.
She laughed. "We all have our differences, don’t we? At any rate, I don't care about the details but I do like to know who I’m managing. For example, I know how difficult it is for Rob to relinquish control of all things Flight. I know that Blade is the heart of this band and I know that Shooter comes in from the mountains only reluctantly."
Royce shut the door behind both of them and urged everyone to help themselves to food or coffee or beer, Shooter still remarking on the house, Rob nodding at something Royce was saying, dining chairs pulled back. Duff took one with his back to the kitchen and waited. Everybody sat.
He couldn’t simply continue to ignore it. “Shouldn’t we wait for Alex?”
Rob engaged with the world again and sat back in his chair and looked at him curiously. “What reason could you possibly have for wanting to postpone? We've already delayed several times for Alex."
He shoved the dining chair aside with his boot. "This is not settled. I've given a great deal to this band and asked for nothing in return!” Without planning or thinking or even considering what he was about to say, he threw out the ultimatum. “If you refuse, I won't be on that flight on Friday.”
"That is not your call to make Rob," Royce cautioned from across the room.
"The hell it isn't. Flight is rising in the ranks of rock bands and I refuse to compromise the momentum or the endorsements for a needy teenager he wants to tie up and fuck!"
He looked down the table at Royce. "I hear Shaun Holloway is available. I talked to him just a week ago." Rob swung his attention back to Duff. "And his wife doesn't require a babysitter."
Duff turned his gaze toward Shooter who just shook his head. Shooter wouldn’t defy Rob. With Alex as backup he might, but not alone.
If it came to choosing between his career and Rayne though, there was no question of his choice, no moment when he doubted it. Duff grabbed the file from the table, crumpled the documents, tossed them on the floor and walked out.