Since I’d been promoted to Vice President of Financial Affairs with Sonant Records, I didn’t have too much contact with the artists, yet it was one of my favorite parts of the job. Creative people amazed me. As my family never ceased to remind me, I had always been the logical, serious one who didn’t have a creative bone in my body, but I admired those who did. My work centered on the absolute, and there was no room for nebulous concepts. During the infrequent opportunities I got to sit in on recording sessions, I fought pangs of jealousy. If you wanted to know how to make your money grow, save on your income taxes or take advantage of a tax shelter, I’m your man, but if you want to bring music out of the air from a thought, you have the wrong brother.
The young woman we signed this morning turned out to be a surprise, to me anyway. Dave had given me the contract file to review last week, and that’s when I’d seen her picture. At first glance, I assumed she was in her early twenties, possibly even late teens, but as I went through her personal information, I discovered her birth date. She was thirty-one. Normally I wasn’t attracted to redbones, but her unique looks immediately caught my eye. Breelyn Jarrett was a real beauty. Her large, almond-shaped brown eyes and full lips coated with a glossy purple lipstick gave her an exotic look. Besides her incredible mouth, the most striking thing about her appearance was the enormous crown of natural hair she’d dyed a deep purple. The color offset her creamy complexion perfectly. Yes, this was definitely one meeting on which I had to sit in.
In person she was even more beautiful. When I’d asked about her relationship status, she shot me down right out of the gate; I believe I saw a spark of interest in those intense eyes though. She lives in Alabama and wouldn’t be back for a couple of week to begin studio sessions, so I needed to think of ways to run into her while she was here.
Now that Bree Jarrett’s enticing aura had left the building, it was time for me to focus on more important issues. Like a handful of other former entertainers, my boss started out in the business as a performer. Darryl Samuels, the President and CEO of Sonant, had personally promoted me from Director of the Accounting Department to VP. Although he’d had an enviable career, his gift wasn’t rapping or singing, but a razor-sharp mind and a knack for the art of the deal. In the short twelve years he’d been at the helm of Sonant, he’d bought out two labels and incorporated them under the Sonant umbrella. That was how I’d come to be vice-president of a hip-hop/R&B record company. He’d wanted someone on the inside to investigate the financial feasibility of these deals. I had been with the company for five years at that point, and the promotion was a major boost to my personal bottom line. D was a brilliant dude who consulted with me before he made any business moves. His problem was a volatile temper, which was known to veer into the stratosphere with little or no provocation. He cussed like a dock worker on steroids, and it made for tenuous relationships with the talent whose sensitive egos couldn’t take too much battering. Lately he’d been working on trying to tame his temperamental side by learning to meditate and do yoga. From what I could tell, it wasn’t doing squat. The thing about him, though, was his gigantic heart. He was also known for bending over backward to help anyone with a legitimate need. I had personally seen his income tax return for last year, and the amount of charitable contributions was staggering. Yes, he was demanding and expected nothing less than excellence from his employees and artists, but I’d learned how to deal with D, and we got along well.
Recently I’d been putting in long days and some late nights at work recently. The future purchase of another building to be used to house strictly performance space was in the offing. Darryl and his wife were also starting a new foundation. He preferred me advising him rather than using an outside accountant, since I was already familiar with his personality and goals. The hours involved in research and writing reports were ridiculous, but advising him was an honor. I often got home at midnight or later and was so beat all I did was strip off my clothes and fall into bed.
On Friday morning, I called Dave’ assistant to find out what time his meeting with Breelyn Jarrett would most likely end. She didn’t need to know why. My timing turned out to be perfect. She said they were just wrapping up. Our offices were on opposite ends of what was erroneously called the executive wing by Sonant employees. The moment I hung up, I casually made my way down the hall just as Zel, and Breelyn were exiting Dave’ office. I spoke to his assistant and busied myself with making a cup of coffee in the corner of the reception area outside his door.
“Morning, Zel, Ms. Jarrett.” My gaze rested on her face.
“Hey, Pierce. You next in line?” he asked, nodding toward Dave’ office door.
“No, man, I come in here to get the good coffee.” I raised my cup in the air. “Either of you care for a cup?”
“Ooh, I could use some,” Breelyn said with that slight that made you wonder what she was really thinking.
I filled one of the Styrofoam cups. “How do you take it?”
“Light and sweet.”
While I added sugar and cream to the steaming brew, I swallowed the comment that automatically came to mind and handed her the cup.
“Thank you, Mr. Devereaux.”
“Well, I’m gonna head back to the studio,” Zel said as though he sensed my desire to talk to her alone. “See you next week, Bree. Take it easy on your voice between now .”
“I promise I will. Thanks for the translation in there.” He nodded to Dave’ assistant and left.
“Your meeting went well?”
She gave a small sigh. “It did, but there’s so much I don’t know about this business. I feel like an alien on a strange planet.”
“Well, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about the business end of things. Dave is your point man for creative input and direction on your material, and since Zel is producing, he can also advise you on the musical details. Generally, I counsel and coach music creators in how to make, save, and invest money from their music career. This also involves keeping them on top of the requirements for taxes. If you have a few minutes, why don’t you come to my office? We can talk there.”
Breelyn hesitated for a moment. “I have time, if you do.”
Just what I wanted to hear. “Follow me.”
We carried our coffees down the hall to where my office was located near Darryl’s. Breelyn didn’t comment, but her eyes widened slightly at how the décor changed when we turned the corner. The carpet was plusher. The furniture in this corner of the building was more high-end, and the artwork changed from blown-up album covers to original works by local artists. I satisfied my desire to touch her when I put a hand on her back and steered her into my office.
“Have a seat.” I indicated one of the chairs facing my desk. “Can we agree on one thing before we talk?”
The purple coils around her jailbait face bounced as she nodded.
“Will you drop the Mr. Devereaux from here out? Call me Pierce.”
She . “Okay, Pierce. Everyone calls me Bree.”
“Good. So what questions can I answer for you? Honestly, I was a little concerned when you came to sign the contract with your girlfriend in tow instead of a lawyer or manager.”
A line formed between her brows marring her smooth complexion. “I thought that was his job as the A&R Manager.”
“He works for the company. You want someone who strictly represents your interests. He or she will negotiate on your behalf with the company.”
“She’s my best friend, and I didn’t want to come alone. “Mr. Higgins asked if I had a manager. I felt dumb saying I didn’t have one. How important is that?”
“Very important. You need someone to oversee your business affairs and free your mind up to concentrate on the music.”
“Picking a stranger off the Internet is probably a huge mistake, huh?” Her musical laugh tickled my senses, and I laughed with her.
“Yes! I can give you the names of a couple that I know to be legit. Zel and Dave come in contact with more managers than I do. There’s an abundance of artist managers here in Atlanta. Would you rather have a male or a female manager?”
Her expression went blank for a second and she twisted a coil of her hair around her index finger. “I hadn’t given it any thought. Is there any reason to pick one over the other?”
Her naiveté was adorable but dangerous. She had so much to learn about this business, and I wanted to be the one to teach her. “You have to consider that your manager will often travel with you to gigs. Some women feel more comfortable being in…intimate situations-like in a dressing room, with another woman.”
Her lips formed an O, and I couldn’t rip my gaze from them.
“Thanks for the tip.”
“The first thing you have to learn about this business and this city, for that matter is that it’s a breeding ground for con artists. Many give themselves a title when they have no more experience in artist management than your average Uber driver. All they want is that twenty percent of your contract.”
She made a face as though the mention of a manager’s percentage was painful. “Thank you. I appreciate that.”
When my assistant buzzed to remind me of the meeting I had scheduled in five minutes, I regretted having to cut the conversation with Bree short. “Sorry, I have a meeting, but I’d like to continue our discussion. Will you be here tomorrow? We could talk about it over lunch.”
Her gaze flitted around the room for a moment before she looked at me straight on. “Okay. I’ll be here most of the morning.”
“Great. Meet me in the downstairs lobby at one o’clock.”
COMING IN FEBRUARY 2018