Tempt Me Like This
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“Your shows have been great,” she said, “but I know how much you’ve been wanting to write again.”
“I couldn’t write anything worth a damn last night, but I did think a lot about what you said, and what Smith and Valentina said, too. You’re right that my influences have changed a ton from when I was a teenager making demos. And I think I’m okay with that. Even if people don’t end up liking whatever I finally write as much as they like my old stuff.”
He smiled at her, her hand warm against his, her fingers long and pretty as they wrapped over his. “You’re so sure, aren’t you, Ash?”
“Only about you.” Her cheeks flushed as she amended her sentence to, “I mean your music.”
But he liked thinking that she’d meant it the first way. His mom had always been sure of him, and it had made it easy for him to be certain about things, too. In his pocket, his cell phone continued buzzing with incoming text messages, but he didn’t want anything to come between him and Ashley. Not when they were finally talking again. Whoever was trying to reach him could wait.
“What about you?” he asked. “You were so deep in concentration just now. Are you working on your grad school application?”
“I started out trying to put together my thoughts about how major labels could work better with artists and the emerging digital industry for my application, but I keep veering.”
She looked a little uncertain for a moment, before seeming to come to a decision. “Toward this.” She slid her hand from his so that she could open up her computer.
At the same time that he was glad she trusted him enough to show him what she was working on, he hated that they weren’t touching anymore. But when he looked at her screen, his eyebrows went up. “You’re putting together a business plan for an indie, artist-run label?”
“I’ve learned so much this week with you, Drew—learned things I never could have from a book or case study or documentary. And the biggest thing of all that I’ve learned is that you not only know your music and what makes it special better than anyone else ever will, but you also understand your fans better than anyone else does. All I could think of as I sat in those meetings earlier this week at your label, and then during every interview and planning session you have with your crew, is how incredible it would be if you were running your own label. And when you said to Smith and Valentina that you were worried about not having a hit for them on the soundtrack and they said they didn’t care about hits, only that your heart is behind the music, everything fell into place. What you’re doing—it doesn’t have to be about hits that radio stations have to approve before playing. You can put out whatever you want on the Internet in whatever format you want. Or you can just play songs live at shows and never play them the same way twice. Your fans love what you do so much that I know they’re going to follow you wherever you are and love whatever songs you write. At least, they will as long as you love the songs you’re writing.”
Her eyes were shining with excitement and all of that incredible passion that made him fall even harder for her. He had quickly scanned the charts and documents on her computer, but even though it looked great on paper, he liked listening to her talk about it even more. God, how he loved hearing that melody in her voice that he’d missed so much during the past few days.
Because she was the most beautiful melody he’d ever heard.
“Tell me more, Ash.”
“I know you wouldn’t be able to do it all, not if you wanted to focus on creating and playing great music. You’d need a great staff, but if it were your label, you would be in charge of hiring the staff to run it. Just like you brought in all these great players for your tour, and Max and James. You’re a great judge of character, and they’d be answering to you, rather than you feeling as though you have to answer to them the way you do with Robert and Ansel.”
When she halted suddenly, he could fairly easily guess that she felt she’d just overstepped her bounds. But she hadn’t. On the contrary, she had everything exactly right.
“That’s just how I feel, Ash. Like I’m locked in a cage, one I’ve given Chief Records the key to. It’s funny, actually—when I was signing with them, they wanted to do a multi-album deal, but even back then I couldn’t do it. Not just because my brother Grant advised me that I’d be able to negotiate an even better deal for the second album if the first did well, but mostly because I couldn’t stand the thought of wearing handcuffs that tight.”