AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: RAYNETTA MANEES (SUPERSTAR SERIES)

Today we have the pleasure of a new interview with Author Raynetta Manees. In honor of Raynetta’s twentieth year career anniversary, Characters Behaving Badly is also showcasting a character crush featuring her hero, Darryl Bridges and a chapter preview of her latest work,  All For Love.


Enjoy!



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     1. How did you celebrate publishing your first book?  
It was a dream come true.  I had a small quiet celebration at home with a few family and friends.
2. How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
  
I think there is at least a part of me in all of my female characters.  I’m known among family and friends for my sense of humor, and that part of me is in many of my secondary female characters.  My heroines also reflect me but I think more so in being the woman I want to become rather than the woman I am.
In my second book, Wishing on a Star, the heroine is a romance novelist, so I have to cop to that one probably being most like me.  In the book the heroine, Natasha (AKA Shay) is caught in a love triangle between two men. She meets in real life the man who was her model for her previous book’s hero.  In her mind she has confused what this man really is with the image of her hero.  I know with my imagination, my personal penchant for men who are entertainers (especially singers), and my tendency to fall in love with all of the heroes my books, I would probably do the same.
My new release, All For Love: The SuperStar, was a huge challenge—this was the first time I had ever written an entire book in the persona of a man!  The entire book is told in first person by the hero, Darryl Bridges, the superstar.  I was nervous about it at first because sometimes (often) the things men do  are so hard to understand.  I think every woman has wondered at one point or another “What the hell was he thinking?”  I had set myself up for the task of not only being inside a man’s mind but in the mind of a man in the process of falling in love!
But once I got into the book I found that to be no problem.  After all, I created this man: I knew him inside out.  I did find, however, that it felt natural to put more emphasis on sex in this book than I did on its companion book, All For Love: The SuperStar’s Lady, Angela’s story.
3. Do you eat comfort food/listen to music when writing?  
No to both.  I’m a pianist and singer, and I can’t listen to music while I write because I get all wrapped up in the music and it distracts me from my writing.  I don’t eat while writing unless I’m under a deadline and/or in a creative surge and I don’t want to stop writing while I get something to eat.  Actually, for me stopping to eat dinner, etc. seems to help my writing.  I find that taking periodic short breaks from writing (15 minutes or so) every few hours seems to refresh me and get the ideas flowing again.
4. How do you choose names for your characters?  
Some names I pick are from people in my life.  In my novel Fantasy, the heroine is named “Sameerah” after a friend’s name.  When I first met this friend I thought the name was so pretty and told her I’d like to use it in a book.  When I started Fantasy a couple of years later I thought the name would be perfect for my heroine.  My friend was thrilled and gave it her full blessing.  We’re still friends, BTW, almost 20 years later!
In Follow Your Heart I named one of the villains “Danny” after an obnoxious man I had to deal with at the radio station when I was a disc jockey.
In the SuperStar Series books, All For Love: The SuperStar (2016) and All For Love:  The SuperStar’s Lady (1996/2013) there was a scene in which I needed the heroine’s last name to start with the same initial as the hero’s first name.  So he became Darryl Bridges and she became Angela Delaney.  Also, I had just met a friend named Angela whose nickname was Angel.  This worked so well with my storyline that I used it, too.
In Wishing On A Star the heroine’s name is Natasha, but she hates it and prefers to be called Shay.  Shay is the nickname of one of my favorite cousins.
I have several books of popular baby names, but I rarely use them anymore because now I can just reference lists of names online.  I needed a name for a beautiful young black woman and online I found the name “Melantha” which means “dark flower.”  She goes by her nickname “Milo,” which was the nickname of one of my favorite nieces.
5. Covers. Ever get one you wish you could change
Actually, I wished I could change the covers of almost all of my traditionally published books.  We writers used to joke that our publishers would ask us to give them detailed physical descriptions of the main couple so they could then go out and hire models that didn’t look anything like them!  I do, however, love the original print cover of Fantasy.  I told them the heroine was a beautiful plus sized woman, and for once that was exactly what they got for me!
6. If you could give a younger version of yourself advice, what would it be?
Have confidence in yourself.  As I look back I find I had so many great things going for me that I didn’t take best advantage of.  I was often so unsure of myself I didn’t even realize I had them!
7. What genre would you like to try writing that you haven’t yet tried?  
My dream is to turn one of my books into a screenplay for a movie, and then to, of course, have someone make it into a movie.  That’s the premise of Wishing On A Star.  The heroine is a romance author whose latest book is being made into a movie, and she goes to Hollywood to help write the screenplay.
8. Have you ever used an incident from your real life into one of your books?
The idea for my first book, an “everyday” woman dating a superstar, came from a real life experience.  Right after a major romantic break-up, I developed a crush on a major league baseball player.  I wrote letters to him (this was before email)—nothing nasty, just saying how much I enjoyed watching him on TV.  It helped with the loneliness of breaking up with my boyfriend. I  put my telephone number in the letters, but certainly never expected to hear from him.  One Friday when his team came to town to play the Detroit Tigers he called me!  He called me at work and invited me to the game.  We continued to see each other for a short while, and are still on friendly terms to this day.
All of my books use some incident or another that has really happened to me.  Sometimes it’s something that’s a major part of the book, sometimes it’s something very small, like a line or a gesture.
In Fantasy the heroine is pulled onstage to sing when the bandleader on the cruise ship overhears her singing quietly to herself.  This really happened to me!
One weird thing about my books is that in all of them there are things that I had never experienced when I wrote the book that later came true in real life!  After I wrote All The Way Home I met a man who was the spitting image of my description of my hero, Ron, and he and I dated for a while.  He was even my escort at my daughter’s wedding.
But, also in All The Way Home, my heroine, a young grandmother, is raising a young grandchild alone.  The grandchild was totally modeled and named after my real-life granddaughter, Zayna, who was four-years-old at the time I wrote the book.  The easiest way to have the Zayna in the book with her grandma was to kill off the parents.  But since so many things I had written had later come true, I didn’t dare.  So I had the parents be in Germany in the Army instead.
9. Any part of a book that drives you crazy as you write: beginning, middle, or end?
For me, the hardest part of any book is the beginning.  Once I get into chapter two I’m on a roll, and although I get stuck at times the problems usually resolve themselves pretty quickly.  But it’s that start, actually putting “butt in chair” as my friend Beverly Jenkins says, and starting that is the hardest for me.  I think it’s because the beginning of a book is so critically important.  It can capture a potential reader or turn them off.  But once I get started I’m almost possessed, and the book almost writes itself—almost
10. How many stories are swirling around in your head? Do you keep a mental list, a computer file, or a spiral notebook filled with the ideas?
At present, I have three book storylines in my head: the next book in the SuperStar Series, a Christmas book, and a book in which the heroine is an opera star.
I have a blog “My Head Raps” (“A Journal Of The Raps In My Head”) (https://myheadrap.wordpress.com/) that is a social commentary blog, geared to the concerns of the mature black woman.  I always have several ideas on hand for my next blog post.  I started this blog because a lot of the things I want to say about social issues just don’t fit on my author website “Raynetta’s World Of Romance.”  (https://rmanees.com/)
I use my computer to keep track of my ideas.  For each of the three book ideas above I have a folder in my “Writer” directory.  For instance, I have a folder named “SS-3” for my next book in the SuperStar Series.  The first thing I put in these folders is a very short write up of the basics of the idea.  Every time I have a thought or idea on one of the projects I type up the basic idea and put that in the folder.
For my blog, I have an Outlook Task named “Blog Ideas” that I keep and store my ideas for future blog posts.  Usually for the blogs a sentence or to is all I need to remind me of what I want to say in the post.
I use Dragon Naturally Speaking speech to text software that really helps me get my thoughts “down on paper” quickly.
11. What is your favorite holiday and why?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I think it has now become more so than Christmas the holiday in which families and friends get together and just concentrate on enjoying each other’s company.  Also, I love to cook but I don’t cook as much as I used to now that my child and grandchild are adults.  So I enjoy the opportunity to cook for a lot of people.  Unfortunately, Christmas is no longer the holiday that was when I was a child because of all the over-the-top emphasis on gifts, etc.

12. What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
For the past thirteen years, I have owned and operated an online antique and collectible shop, “Raynetta Romantiques” (https://www.rubylane.com/shop/rayroman ).  I am now in the process of closing down that shop because I no longer have the time to run it properly due to the increased amount of time I have to spend on my writing.  I have a lifetime FCC (Federal Communications Commission) license and for two years I was an on-air radio personality (a disc jockey) on AM 1180 WXLA out of Lansing MI.
13. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer and a singer.  I’m so grateful that those two came true.  As a child, I also wanted to be an attorney and to run for political office.
14. Favorite food.   
Shrimp
15. Favorite sweet. 
Black Forrest cake
16. Favorite drink. 
Champagne
17. Hot summer days or chilly winter nights? 
I’ll take hot over cold every time.  I absolutely HATE driving in snow and ice!
18. What is the top thing on your bucket list? 
Writing a movie screenplay from one of my books and having someone make a movie of it!
19. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Reading peoples’ minds.  I think if you could do this you wouldn’t need anything else to get everything else.
Tell us where to find you: website(s), publisher’s page(s), blog(s), Facebook page(s), etc. List them all!
My website: “Raynetta’s World of Romance”  www.RManees.com
My email: RManees@aol.com 
Facebook: Raynetta Manees, Author  https://www.facebook.com/raynetta.author/
Twitter;  @raynettaman,
Pinterest: Raynetta Manees Author on Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/raynettamanees/
Instagram: ms.manees
LinkedIn: Raynetta Manees
Quora: Raynetta Manees
Mail:  P.O. Box 3203, Southfield, MI  48037
Also, I have an online antique and collectibles shop “Raynetta’s Romantiques” at https://www.rubylane.com/shop/rayroman
Anything else you’d like to add?
I actually composed music for the song “Whenever We’re Apart,” which the book’s hero, Darryl Bridges, has written, for his lady, Angela Delaney.  The song’s lyrics appear in both “All For Love: The SuperStar,” and its “alter ego” book, “All For Love: The SuperStar’s Lady.”  There is a video of the song on my Youtube Channel.  The link to the video is:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVTlwB0h-tU.  I thought readers might like to hear what the song sounds like when they read the lyrics in the book.  The video is also on my Amazon Author Page, on my website, “Raynetta’s World of Romance,” and on Goodreads.
My “SuperStar” books do something rarely found in fiction.  I’ve asked around and researched it and thus far cannot find any other example of this with any other two books.
The two books take the romance of Darryl Bridges and Angela Delaney, but each book looks at the romance from a different point of view.  “SuperStar’s Lady” is Angela’s story told in first person in her voice, and “SuperStar” is Darryl’s story, also told in first person in his voice.  This is why one slogan for the two books is: Yes, it’s “their” romance, but the story is NOT the same when he sees it HIS way and she sees it HER way!  The SuperStar Series—Book 1 is her story; Book 2 is his!”
I knew I was taking a risk to do this, but it’s an idea that’s been swirling around in my head for over twenty years.  Before making the decision to write the second book, the one that just came out in 2016, I discussed the concept with a lot of people; with my friends and family, with other romance authors, and most importantly with readers.
I got such a positive response to my informal survey, so many people saying they would be interested in seeing two books that “mirrored” each other that I decided to go ahead with the project.
I am so happy I did.  Even though the “SuperStar” book is only been out a month at this point I am already getting very enthusiastic responses from readers.  One reader put on my Instagram account, “I love stories from different points of view.”  Another reader commented in an Amazon.com review:” I LOVED reading this book from *Dare’s (yeah I’m one of his friends so I can call him that) side/view of things.” (*Dare is Darryl’s nickname.)
 ________________________________________________________________________

Short Blurb: Yes, it’s “their” romance, but the story is NOT the same when he sees it HIS way and she sees it HER way!  The SuperStar Series—Book 1 is her story; Book 2 is his.



Latest Book:  All For Love: The SuperStar released Sept.23, 2016.  It is the “mirror image” to my book,  All For Love: The SuperStar’s Lady, originally released as a paperback in 1996 and updated in a Kindle edition in 2013.  The book covers are mirror images, too.  I’m attaching them both.
Buy Links:  Amazon US 
Barnes and Noble (BN.com)


Chapter One – All For Love: The SuperStar

by Raynetta Manees © 2016


ONE

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND

“You better step on it, man,” Sam said, somewhat peevishly.  “If you hadn’t been yakking with Jeff so long about that so-called entertainment “news” show, we would have been there by now.”
“Yeah, Sam, I know,” I told him.  “But you know how Jeff is.  If I hadn’t cooled him out he would’ve stirred up more crap denying that rumor than the rumor itself.  You know how Jeff loves to face-off with the media.”
“Be that as it may…”  Sam looked at his watch, “you’re supposed to be there in exactly twenty-one minutes.”
“Okay, I’m coming!”  I gave him a mischievous glance, “Chill out, bro, I mean, it’s not like they can start without me.”
“Very funny,” Sam replied, giving me the stank eye in return.
“Hey, Alex,” I called out, suddenly remembering.  “You didn’t forget that extra tip for the old dude at the door, did you?  That was some mighty fine soul food he got us the other night, the best I’ve had in many a moon.  I gotta leave him something extra for that!”
“You got that right, Darryl,” Alex agreed.  “That food was damn near as good as my Mom’s!  Yeah, I went down and hit him up with it about an hour ago.”
“The food was good,” Sam agreed, “but a thousand dollar tip is a tad extravagant – even for you.”
“Well, yeah, maybe so,” I conceded.  “But there’s got to be a reason a guy that old is still working and not retired.  Especially working as a doorman, on his feet all day.  Whatever his deal is,” I shrugged, “maybe that will help him out a little.”
“Maybe it will, Mr. Generosity,” Sam teased me, with a smile.  “Well, before you dole out your entire fortune,” he continued, “let’s get the hell out of here.”
“I’m ready,” I told him.  “Alex, call down and let the front desk know that we’re leaving.”
“Already did, about five minutes ago, Dare.”
“Okay, then, let’s bounce.”
Cortez, Jeff, and some of my other guys were waiting for us out in the hallway, along with the hotel’s head security man.
“This way, Mr. Bridges,” the hotel guy said, pointing to a door a ways down the hall.
The door was marked “Staff Only.”  We entered, and in that swanky hotel, it was immediately obvious this location was not meant for the public.  The walls needed painting and the floor was dusty.
A short walk took us to a huge elevator that had a sliding scissor gate instead of a door.  As we entered it the hotel guy said, “I think this is the best way for you to dodge that mob out front, Mr. Bridges.  This freight elevator will take us to the basement.  There’s hardly ever anyone in the basement but hotel staff.  From there we can cut over to the staff only underground level of the parking structure.  Your car is already there waiting.”
When the elevator stopped Sam looked at his watch and prompted, “We better haul ass, Dare,” so we started to run.
Just as we rounded a corner, Alex, who was slightly ahead of me on the other side of the corridor cried out, “Look out, man!” a second before I ran smack into something soft and shapely.
Instinctively, my arm shot out to encircle her waist so she wouldn’t fall.  I looked down into the most captivating chocolate brown eyes I’d ever seen.
“Hey…Wow…I’m really sorry!” I told her.  I was concerned; I had run into her really hard.  “Are you all right?  Did I hurt you?”
“No…no, I’m fine,” she gasped.
“Man!” I said, looking down at the things that had flown out of her purse when she’d dropped it.  “Look, let us pick these up.  That’s the least I can do after almost sacking…”  I turned and really looked at her face for the first time, “you…”  My voice trailed off as I discovered those mesmerizing eyes adorned a beautiful heart shaped face.  Her flawless skin seemed to glow.
She seemed disoriented.  “What’s your hurry?  Where’s the fire?” she panted as she looked up at me.
The lovely eyes widened, telling me she realized then who I was.  And that’s also when I realized I still had my arm around her.  We abruptly stepped apart.
“I’ve got a press conference across town in twenty minutes,” I said somewhat shakily, “although that’s no excuse for knocking a lady down, Miss…?”
“Mrs….Delaney, Angela Delaney.”
Mrs.?  I quickly glanced at her left hand.  No ring.
“I’m Darryl Bridges,” I told her and braced myself for the eruption that usually followed whenever I said that.  But it didn’t come.
Angela just said, “Yes.  I know.”
Her quiet, calm reply surprised me.  And then I became a little embarrassed.  Well, of course, she knows, you jerk, I scolded myself.
By this time Alex had picked up her things, and returned her purse.
For some reason, I was mentally fumbling for what to say next.  What finally came out was, “Well, I…uh…were you on your way out?  Could I drop you somewhere?”  We’re already late!  What did I say that for?
“No, I’m staying here, at the hotel,” Angela told me.  “In fact, I just checked in.”  She gave me a playful smile.  “Besides, if you get in any bigger rush, the reporters at that press conference will be interviewing a ball of flame.”
Well!  So the lady is not only beautiful, she has a sense of humor, too!  I started laughing just as Sam said, “Yeah, we’d better light a fire under it, man.  You’re due there in fifteen minutes.”  He gestured down the hallway.  “The limo’s waiting.”
“Yeah, Sam, okay,” I answered him, but not taking my eyes off Angela.  “Are you sure you’re all right?” I asked her once again.
“Positive.  But you’d better hurry.”  She gave me that cute, whimsical smile once more.  “After all, it’s not like they can start without you.”
I laughed again as I turned to go.  “Guess you’re right.  Well…uh…goodbye.”
“Bye.”
We started off again.  Just before we disappeared around a corner, something made me turn to wave goodbye to Angela.  Then I stumbled and would’ve fallen flat on my face if Sam hadn’t stuck out an arm to catch me.
“What’s the deal, boss?” he asked.  “You trying out a new dance step, or what?”
I gave him a look.  “Yeah, right.  No, I just hit an uneven spot in the floor.”
The floor wasn’t uneven, but my heart rate sure was.  I’d had ample opportunity to check out Angela’s face and upper hemisphere while we were talking—and did so with great appreciation, I might add.
But once there was some distance between us I was able to check out her lower half.  Damn!  That woman had the finest big legs I had ever seen in my life.  I’m not a “you can never be too thin” devotee.  Current fashionistas be damned, I like my women with a little meat on them.
We got to the limo and started out for the press conference.
“That was sure one fine looking lady,” Alex said with deep appreciation.
“Sure was,” Sam agreed.  “Hey, Darryl,” he said, jabbing me with an elbow.  “I bet you’re really regretting the fast pace of your existence right about now, huh?”
The guys started laughing, and I joined them, although I didn’t find the situation amusing.  I did regret that the fast pace of my existence didn’t allow me to hang around a while.  I would have loved to talk with Angela a bit longer.  And I also would have really liked to get the digits.  But how do you try to rap to a woman with an entire entourage breathing down your neck?
Cortez drove like a speed demon, as usual, and we made it to the press conference only five minutes late.  Thankfully, the reporters only asked questions I’d answered so many times I could probably do it in my sleep.  I wasn’t thinking very clearly.  I kept thinking back to Angela: our brief talk; the sound of her voice; the scent of her perfume; the way she made me laugh; the way she felt in my arms.
After the press conference, we went directly to the airport. The plane was fueled and ready and we left on schedule.
After the plane was in flight and I sat looking out the window, almost against my will, I found myself once again thinking about Angela.
Calm down, cowboy, I told myself.  She’s “Mrs.” Delaney; she’s already taken.  But the second she said “Mrs.” I had glanced down at her hands.  She wasn’t wearing a ring.  I’d never known a married woman to not wear her wedding ring.  So what was up with Angela?  Was she divorced?  Separated?
I realized then why I had so illogically asked if she needed a lift.  My subconscious was searching for some way to spend more time with her.
 Damn it, I sure wish I had been able to get her number.  There’s something really different about her.  And I would love to check out what it is.
Sure, she was foxy as hell.  And like any other man I had my personal preferences, certain physical characteristics in a woman that strongly aroused my…er…curiosity.  Angela’s pretty face, tasty figure, and killer legs had sure done that.  But I was surrounded by beautiful women all the time.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew it wasn’t just her looks that had me intrigued.
I’m a man with a lifetime of experience with people and places.  Yet in five minutes this woman has fascinated me to the point where I can’t get her out of my head.  There’s something really special there.
All I know is her name but thank goodness I do know her whole name.  “Angela” and “Delaney” are not unusual, but I think if I put the action squad on it they could track her down even from just that.
Then it dawned on me: what the hell am I thinking?  She told me she had just checked into the hotel.  She’s a guest at the hotel!  And I know her full name.  All I have to do is just call the hotel and ask for her!
I pretended to yawn and stood up.  “Think I’ll step into the bedroom and grab a few winks,” I told the guys.
Sam looked up in surprise.  “You must have slept 10 hours straight last night.  You’ve been hitting it so hard with the concerts and all that I left you alone so you could catch up on some Zs.  And you’re still sleepy?  That’s not like you.”
“Well…ah…we all slow down after a while, partner.  I’m not getting any younger, you know.”
“Slow down?  Look here, my man, the last time I looked I was fifteen years older than you and I’m not slowing down yet.  When I start getting old, I’ll let you know.  That way you can start prepping for it.”
The rest of the guys thought this was hilarious, and started cracking up.
“Yeah, well, suppose you just let me worry about my own “sell by” date, okay?” I told Sam as I went into the bedroom and closed the door.
Should I call herBut maybe she’ll think I’m just a stuck-up, horny celebrity who thinks every woman he meets wants to jump his bones.
I sighed.  Well, I answered myself, don’t look now, fella, but just about every woman you meet does want to jump your bones.
Which was true, but I didn’t fool myself into thinking I was Hercules.  Yes, I did have a lot to offer a woman, but most women who approached me in a physical way didn’t really want me, anyway.  How could they truly want me when they didn’t even know me?  What they wanted was what they thought was me—my performance persona.  And there was a huge difference.
 Okay, stop it.  If you don’t stop this interior dialogue with yourself, you’re going to wind up schizophrenic.  Stop making a big production out of the whole thing, and just call the woman.
I pulled out my cell.  The hotel’s telephone number was already in my contact list.  I punched it up.  When the operator answered, I tentatively asked for Angela, raising the pitch of my voice a bit to prevent the operator from recognizing it.  That wasn’t very likely, but given the fact that I had just been there and had personally spoken to a number of the staff, there was the outside chance that she would.
Nope, no problem.  She just said, “Certainly.  Just a moment, sir.”
The connection started to ring, and after a few seconds, a woman’s voice said, “Hello?”
It was her!  Okay, slick, you’ve gotten this far. How do I start this conversation?  I decided to just “keep it simple, stupid”: “Hello?  May I speak to Angela?”
“This is she,” Angela acknowledged off hand.
Go for it, dude.  “Hi…uh…this is Darryl Bridges.”
Silence.
After a few beats, I asked, “Are you still there?”
“Yes…uh…I’m still here.  I’m…I’m just so surprised…”
Maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea after all.  Maybe she was talking to someone on her cell.  Maybe she wasn’t alone.
I cleared my throat, “I probably shouldn’t have called out of the blue like this…If it’s a bad time…”
“No…oh, no, Darryl,” she said promptly.  “It’s not a bad time at all.  Excuse me, I was so startled you were calling I forgot my manners.  How are you?”
Whew, now that’s better.  “Just fine, thanks.  Listen, I had to see if you were all right after having me tackle you this afternoon.”  Despite my best efforts, there was a small quiver in my voice.
“Right as rain.  It’s really thoughtful of you to call.”  Her voice was a warm, mellow alto, very feminine and—I gotta own it—very sexy.
“No problem.  Sorry to just run off like that.  Sometimes my schedule is tighter than a new shoe.”
“I can imagine.  I heard you have a concert tomorrow in Miami?”
“Right.  We’re on the way there now.”
“You’re driving down?”
“No, flying.”  I glanced out the window; it was twilight.  “Can’t see much, but I think we’re close to Orlando right now.”
“It must be exciting…traveling all over the world.”
“It can be, but it can get old, especially when I’m near the end of a long tour, like now.”
I wanted to learn more about her, not rattle on about myself, so then I asked, “Do you travel much?”
“I travel a fair amount for my job, although most of my business trips are a lot closer to home than Atlanta.”
Now we were getting somewhere.  “Where’s home?”
“Lansing, Michigan.”
“Lansing…Lansing…”  I had to think a moment, then remembered.  “That’s the state capital, right?”
“Yes.  You know your geography,” she said, and I could hear that tempting smile in her voice.  “But then, I guess you would.”
I chuckled at that.  “Yeah, I do roam around a bit.”
Now for what I wanted to know most.  “You live in Lansing with your…uh…family?”
“Most of my family lives in Detroit.  I moved to Lansing two years ago for a promotion.  But my daughter Tiffani lives with me.”
Just your daughter?  No Mr. Delaney?  You’re divorced?”
“No, widowed.”
Oh, no.  That had never occurred to me.  God only knew what painful memories I had dredged up with my question.
“Oh…” I managed to get out.  “I’d noticed you weren’t wearing a wedding ring.  I’m sorry.  Was…was it recent?”
“No, it’s been sixteen years now,” she hurriedly replied, then changed the subject.  “But enough about me.  Where are you going after Miami?”
She didn’t seem upset by my question, I assumed at least partially because time had softened the blow.  But I also picked up that for some reason she didn’t want to talk about it.
So I left it alone and we started talking about my tour.  From there the conversation went on to travel in general, and California, where I live, when she told me she had never been there.
Angela was so easy to talk to.  Most people react to me in one of two ways.  They either get way too chummy and start asking me personal questions, or they practically bow at my feet like I was the King of Siam.  Angela did neither.  She simply treated me like a guy she’d just met and happened to like.
Angela was a charming, intelligent woman with a great sense of humor.  She asked insightful questions and really listened to my replies.  She seemed fascinated when we talked about the places I’d visited.  Some of them, like Mexico, she had visited, too, and we laughed together over the joys and agonies of travel.
I hadn’t had such a natural, normal conversation with a woman in a real long time.  I enjoyed talking to her so much I totally lost track of time.  We wound up talking almost an hour.
There was a rap at the door and Alex stuck his head inside.  I quickly hit the mute button.
“Hey, Dare, we’ll be landing in a half hour or so,” he said, “and…  Oh, I thought you were asleep.  I didn’t know you were on the phone.  Sorry.”  He quickly left and closed the door behind him.
Turning back to the phone, I said, “We’re about to land, guess I’d better get ready.  It’s been really great talking to you.”
Here we go, I thought.  This one is for all the marbles: “Would…would you mind if I call you again sometime?”
“No, of course not, Darryl,” Angela answered.  She gave me her telephone numbers.  “I’ll look forward to hearing from you,” she added.
Not half as much as I’m looking forward to talking to you, pretty lady!  “Fantastic!” I said aloud.  “Well, gotta run.  Talk to you soon.”
I wanted to call Angela again and soon, but I knew from past experience it was best to follow my established protocol.  Angela seemed like a stable and well-grounded person, but I’d been mistaken about people in the past.  Much as I wanted to talk to her, I knew I had to have the squad check her out before I dared.
I decided to get that ball rolling right there and then and called Mary.
“Hey, Mary, it’s me.”
“Hi, Darryl.  How’s it going?”
“Fine.  Everything is pretty much running according to schedule.  Mary, I’ve got a job for the squad.  Someone I need them to check out for me.”
“Okay, Darryl, what’s his name?”
“Uh, it’s not a ‘he,’ Mary.”
“Oh, really?”  Mary seemed extremely interested by that news.  “Okay, then, what’s her name?”
“Her name is Angela Delaney, and she’s a black woman in, ah, I’d say her late twenties.  She’s currently a guest at the hotel we just left in Atlanta; her company is having a conference there.  She lives in Lansing, Michigan.  She’s widowed and she has a daughter named Tiffani.  That’s about all I know.”
“And is she pretty?”
“Excuse me?”  I tried to act annoyed by the question, but I knew Mary wouldn’t buy it.
“I said, Darryl,” she patiently and pointedly repeated, ” ‘And is she pretty?’  She is pretty, isn’t she, Dare?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at Mary’s barely veiled and completely accurate deduction.  “Yes, Ms. McCoy, she’s pretty.”
“Good.  About time.”
“And, as I said,” I ignored Mary’s comment, “that’s about all I know about her.”
“Well, that’s quite a bit.  They shouldn’t have any trouble finding her with that much information.”
“I’d like a report as soon as possible, Mary.  Tell them to rush it; this is a top priority.  And Mary, let’s keep this just between us, huh?”
“You got it, boss.  I’ll get them on it right away.  Anything else?”
“No, that’s it for now.  Any new haps on your end I should know about?”
“Well, the Homes, USA people called, and they’ve finished the video you requested for Carnegie Hall.”
Homes, USA was an organization founded a few years before by celebrities to help the homeless nationwide.  I had been named that year’s chairman.
My upcoming Carnegie Hall concert would be televised worldwide, and the expected viewership was over a billion.  I couldn’t miss this opportunity to give the organization some much-needed publicity.  The video would be shown during the sign-off of the concert.
“Great.  Make sure it gets to the station’s production staff with my instructions as soon as possible.”
“Will do.  Okay, Dare, take care.  Talk to you tomorrow.  Hey, try to get some rest.”
“That’s definitely on my agenda, Mary.  After the concert here in Miami tomorrow, and Carnegie Hall in a few days, we’ll be taking off for the overseas leg of the tour.  Won’t be much time for resting once that gets started.”
After hanging up with Mary, I picked up the remote and clicked on the tube, thinking I would check out the news.
“And now,” the television blared, “back to our movie, “Cycle of Pain,” starring the late, great Tonya Carol, who…”
I snapped the TV off as quickly as I could, but it was too late.  I’d already heard.  I sat there in the gloom of the now dim room, fighting off memories.

<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>> 

“He’s right in here, Mrs. Bridges,” I heard Alex say as the door opened.
“Hi, Mama,” I said, standing to guide her to one of the plush chairs that were all about the dressing room.
“Hello, honey,” she said, kissing me on the cheek.  “Well, darling, this is certainly a red letter day for the Bridges family!”  She settled into the chair.  “The Bridges Family Singers performed here about fifteen or so years ago, and tonight my baby is making his debut in Carnegie Hall all on his own!
“The family is getting settled in our box, and they’ll all be back to see you after the program, but you know your mama couldn’t wait to say hello.”
“How is everybody, Mama?”
“Oh, just fine, dear.  We’ve received an offer for the family to do a Christmas television special.  Your father is all for it, and so are some of your brothers and sisters, but I’m still on the fence.  I mean, it’s been over ten years since we sang as a family group.”
“Well, Mama, the group’s record sales are still thriving, and you, Madame, are quote, ‘one of the greatest gospel singers of all time,’ unquote—to tell the truth, you are the greatest, in my humble opinion.”  I gave her a deep bow.
“The world would love to hear The Bridges Family one more time,” I went on.  “And for a gospel group, there couldn’t be a better time than Christmas for a reunion show.”
“Well, honey, if we decide to do it, would you sing with us?  You never have, you know.  Since you’re the baby, you were too young to sing with us at first.  And then when you got old enough, you didn’t want to.  You said you were too shy.”  She paused to look around the opulent dressing room.  “You seem to have gotten over that shyness quite thoroughly,” she added with a good-humored grin.
When I didn’t answer right away she added, “If you do it,” she gave me a tongue-in-cheek glance, “I just might finally forgive you for going into popular music, instead of gospel, like us.”
I tried to look stern.  “You’re not fooling anybody, Sylvia Bridges,”  I grinned at her then.  “I know you got over that a long time ago.”
Just then the television, which had been playing more or less in the background, suddenly increased in volume as an entertainment news show came on.
“Entertainment history is being made this evening,” the show’s host said.  “International pop superstar Darryl Bridges will be performing tonight at Carnegie Hall!”
I started toward the television.  “Just a sec.  Let me turn this junk off, Mom.”
“No, baby, leave it on.  I’m curious what they say about you.”  So I took the seat next to hers.
“It’s been sixteen years since Darryl Bridges began his pop music career,” the host was continuing.  “Rumor has it his family, the world famous Bridges Family gospel singers, were not too crazy about his choice at the time.  But sources tell me the entire family is in attendance at Carnegie Hall to watch the youngest Bridges’ first performance on the prestigious stage.  So it seems they’ve now come to accept his decision.”
“Ya think?”  I sarcastically asked him.
Mama had to laugh in spite of herself.  “Now that’s not nice, son.”
“Darryl Bridges,” the guy went on, “is considered by many to be the most famous person on earth.  He earned his nickname, ‘The Wizard,’ with his quadruple talents: singing, dancing, playing God knows how many instruments, and composing most of his own material.
“Well,” the program’s female co-host put in, “that man could have a show in Timbuktu, and I’d want a front row seat.  Darryl Bridges has talent by the carload, but those dynamite looks sure don’t hurt.  Tall, slender, nicely muscled, broad shoulders, black curly hair, and a face like a male angel.  And don’t forget those spellbinding coal black eyes.  Darryl Bridges is the most popular entertainer in the world, and he’s got my vote for also being the most handsome as well!”
“You darn skippy!” co-signed my non-cursing Mom.
Now it was my turn to laugh.  “Mama, I think your opinion on that may be a tiny bit biased.”
“Well, of course, it is, son.”  She stood, and kissed me on the forehead.  “And it’s supposed to be,” she gave me a wink, “I’m your mother.  We’ll meet you back here after the show, honey.  We’re praying for you.  Break a leg!” she said and was gone.

<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>> 

Carnegie Hall had been a huge success, getting rave reviews, thank God.  I didn’t tell anyone, not even Mama, but I had been really nervous about it, and I hadn’t been nervous about a concert in a long time.  After all, it was Carnegie Hall; that’s the sho nuff big time.  But I did well.  I was glad to have it behind me.
I looked out the window.  Flying over the ocean was so boring.  Nothing but water, water, and more water as far as the eye could see.  The book I had been reading was interesting, but I’d been doing so much reading lately I was beginning to feel like a thesaurus.  My cell rang and I picked it up, not really caring who it was, grateful for something to break the monotony.
“Hey, Darryl, how goes it?”
“Boring as hell, Mary.”
“Well, I have something that just might perk you up.”
“I doubt it.”
“Aren’t you curious as to why I called on your cell, rather than through the plane’s phone system?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.  But since you bring it up, why are you calling me on my cell rather than through the plane’s phone system, Ms. McCoy?”
“Well, Dare, you told me this was just between us, so I thought calling you directly might be a bit more discreet.”
That did make me sit up straight.  “You got it?  The report, I mean.”
“Sure do.  The squad gave it to me not ten minutes ago.  I called to let you know I’m about to email it to you.”
“Mary, you are an angel.”
“I know.  Talk to you soon.”
I was alone because I had come up toward the front of the plane to read.  The guys were in the back, raising a ruckus playing bid whist.  I went into the bedroom, closed the door, and locked it.  Just as I did my cell buzzed, letting me know I had an email waiting.
I pulled it up and eagerly read the information.
Okay, she has a daughter, Tiffani.  I knew that.  What?  Tiffani is how old?  Eighteen?  Well then, how old is Angela?  She’s thirty-seven?  Man, she looks four years younger than me, not four years older!  Husband Robert killed in a car accident.  Finished college nights while working.  Yes, she told me about the promotion.  Wow, she got a big time award from her company while she was in Atlanta; impressive.  No criminal record, well, that’s no surprise.  Good credit rating.
As I continued reading the report, I could see that Angela was exactly who she seemed to be—and more.
That was all I needed to know.  I had already programmed Angela’s numbers into my phone.  I punched up her home number.
“Hello…Angela?”
“Hi…Darryl?”
“Yeah, it’s me.  How are you?  Hey, did I wake you up?”
In my eagerness to talk to her, I had forgotten all about the time difference.  It was almost midnight, her time.
“I’m sorry.  I ought to have better sense about making calls to other time zones by now.”
“No, Dare, I wasn’t asleep.  Oh, I’m sorry.  I’ve read some people call you ‘Dare’—or do you prefer Darryl?”
Um-Hum!…I wasn’t the only curious one.  She’s been doing a little checking up on me, too.
“Either one’s okay,” I said aloud.  “They both beat ‘Dare-All’, or ‘Burning Bridges’—although I kinda like ‘The Wizard.’ “
“I’ve seen those handles in print, but does anyone ever really call you that?”
“Yep—when I’m not around.  The press treat me like Mr. Wonderful during an interview, but sometimes afterward even I don’t recognize the ‘quotes,’ or the crazy names they call me.”
“That couldn’t be easy to take.”
“No, it isn’t, but I’ve learned the best thing to do is just ignore it.”
I didn’t want to monopolize the conversation, especially talking about that stuff.
“But I won’t bore you with my problems,” I said then.  “What have you been up to lately?”
We talked for over two hours.  At last, she said, “Dare, I love talking to you, but if I don’t get a little shut-eye, I’ll fall asleep at my desk.”
“Sure, Angie.  Listen, I’m sorry about calling so late.  Next time it’ll be earlier.”
“It’s great to hear from you anytime.”
“You’d better watch what you say, lady.  I’m known to be a dangerous man with a phone in my hand.”
She had such a wonderful laugh.  “Well, Mr. Bridges, I’m no slouch with a phone myself.  I think I can handle it.”
Now she had me laughing again.  “Well, I’d better let you get some rest.  Talk to you soon.  Write me!”
“I will.  Goodnight.”
I began to call her regularly.  At first, it was every week or so, but then the frequency of the calls increased.  Touring is always rough, and I really looked forward to my talks with Angela.  It was like taking a bit of home along with me.  I’d call her from all over—Athens, Berlin, Paris—wherever I happened to be.
I gave her my cell phone number and my 800 number answering service, so she could reach me wherever I was.  I was a little disappointed when Angela never called me, and at first wondered why.  Maybe she didn’t like me as much as I liked her?  I almost asked her why she didn’t call, but since she always seemed happy to hear from me when I called her, I didn’t worry about it.
She didn’t call, but she did write.  I’d given her my private email address.  No one else had access to it, not even Mary.  It got to the point she’d write me once or twice a week; sometimes just a note, but often it was a long letter.  And she sent me some funny e-cards that really brightened my day.
The calls and emails went on for three months.  Sometimes we’d talk for hours.  We talked so often about so many things, it felt as though I knew her, although we’d only met just the one time.
We talked about almost every subject: world politics; people; music extensively—and our families, our childhoods.
Angela was the middle child, with an older brother and a younger sister.  They were both married and had children.  No, that’s not quite right; her brother had children, but her sister had only one child, like Angela.
As she had already told me, her mother and siblings lived in Detroit.  Her dad had passed away some dozen years before.
She never talked about her late husband, Robert.  From the report, I’d picked up that they had married only seven months before Tiffani was born, so I knew what the deal was there.  Was that the problem?  Had she not been really in love with him, and just felt she had to marry him because she was pregnant?
It didn’t take me long to discover what a warm and caring person Angela was.  If their marriage had been a happy one I knew she would have talked about it.  So something had gone wrong.  I was curious about it, but didn’t feel I was close enough to her—yet—to ask about him.
And there was one additional topic we didn’t talk about—the romantic sides of our lives.
Angela didn’t say anything about dating or a boyfriend.  With Angela’s looks and personality, there could be no shortage of interested men.  But I felt if Angela wanted to talk about her love-life—if she had one—or had questions about mine, she’d say so.  She never did.
Which was just as well, because other than the odd brief contact here and there, I didn’t have anything on that score to talk about…not  since Tonya.
Tonya Carol: the beautiful, talented actress admired by movie audiences all around the world.  We had met at an awards program.  Being in the business, she had access to a lot of inside resources, but I was still flabbergasted when she somehow got her hands on my private cell number and called, asking me over for dinner.
Things progressed pretty quickly from there.  A few people knew something was going on between us, but even they didn’t know the degree of our involvement.
Tonya was wonderful.  She was so full of life, a bit wild, actually, although I reluctantly realized her wildness was one of the things that attracted me to her.  Right after we started seeing each other she was on location in Paris for a movie, and on a dare she walked down the Champs-Élysées topless.  She was so charming she even sweet-talked the gendarmes out of arresting her.
But despite her beauty and talent, she was so insecure, so afraid of failure.  At times I felt more like her father than her lover because she was so dependent on my reassurances and support.
I knew Tonya loved me, and I loved her, too, but as she grew more and more unpredictable I wondered about our future.  Her erratic behavior, instead of getting better with time, only got worse.  I finally I found out why.  She was using cocaine.  But she had hidden it from me until it was…too late.
I found out she turned to drugs only once in a while at first, for the false courage it gave her.  But it quickly reached the point where she couldn’t even step in front of the camera unless she was high.
Her agent got her hooked and supplied her with the stuff.  They had to pull me off him when I found out, otherwise, God forgive me, I might have killed him.  Jeff, my PR man, saw that the fight got hushed up.
Because I loved her so much I couldn’t just give up on her.  Although I didn’t mean it, I told her we were through unless she went into rehab.  She promised me she would.
And she almost made it.  She had to finish her current movie before she could report to rehab.  She promised me she’d go cold turkey until the movie was finished.
But just as she was down to only a handful of scenes left to complete, she was found dead in her dressing room minutes before she was due on the set—dead of a cocaine overdose.
I felt so guilty, so responsible.  I should have realized she was using sooner.  I should have demanded she go into rehab immediately.  Of course, I couldn’t tell Angela any of this.
Talking to Angela helped to make the constant travel and the unfamiliar surroundings of touring bearable.  But this tour seemed endless.  I finally understood why.  I wanted to get home.  I wanted to see Angela.  I wanted to spend some time with her, to see if the connection we’d forged long distance would hold up in person.

<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>> 

We were finally en route home, headed for Los Angeles.  LA was also the final stop of the tour.  Originally I had planned a short vacation in Rio, our last overseas stop, before heading home, but I had decided to make the LA concert a charity event for Homes, USA.  With the changes in the program needed for this, some problems came up with the stage set-up.  I decided to check them out in person.  Besides, although I certainly could have used a vacation, it was more important to me to get back to the States—to see Angela.
We landed in LA in the middle the night on a Sunday.  I hadn’t told Angela that I was on my way home.  And I also hadn’t told her about my brilliant idea.
When I got to my house it was heavenly to sleep in my own bed after such a long time away.  But I was up and out early the next morning, eager to put my plan into motion.
“Hi, Angie.  It’s Dare.”
“Dare, where in the world are you?  That sounds like the ocean in the background.”
“No such luck—just a lousy connection.  I’m in LA, at the Coliseum.”
“LA?  I thought you weren’t going there for the concert until later in the week.”
“I wasn’t, but there were some problems with the stage set-up, and I thought I’d better check them out personally.”  I took a deep breath.  “Listen, I just had a brilliant idea.”
“Wiz, all your ideas are brilliant.”
“Flattery, my dear, will get you anything,” I paused, “including a trip to LA.”
“Huh?”
“Didn’t you tell me you’d never been to one of my concerts?”
“That’s right.  I haven’t—to my lasting regret.”
Here goes.  “Well…would…would you like to come out for this one?”
“Out?  Where?  To Los Angeles?
“Yeah.  Can you get away for a few days?”
“Well, sure, but…”
“Look, my staff will take care of everything—the travel and hotel arrangements—everything.  And, of course, you’ll be my guest.”
I had considered and frankly would have preferred, inviting her to stay at my house.  But then decided despite our long distance connection, she might be reluctant to be the houseguest of a man she’d only met once.  I reasoned she’d probably feel more in control of the situation at a hotel—and therefore more likely to come.
She was silent for a moment, then asked, “Darryl, are you serious?”
“I’ve never been more serious.”  I was almost whispering now.  “We’ve become such good friends through emails and over the phone.  It would mean a lot to me if you’d come…Will you?”
“I…don’t know what to say…” she stammered.
I was relieved; she was obviously considering it!  A lot of other women would have jumped at the chance.  But Angela wasn’t like “a lot of other women.” 
“Now, I can help you out there,” I prompted.  “Just say, ‘Yes, Darryl, I’d love to come.  Thank you for inviting me.’ ”  I held my breath.
She rewarded me with that delightful laugh.  “All right, then.  ‘Yes, Darryl, I’d love to come.  Thank you for inviting me.’ “
I released my breath with a grateful sigh.  “Great!  Look, they’re waiting for me, but I’ll call you tomorrow with the details, okay?”
“Okay,” she said, sounding a little strange.
My voice became soft once more, “I’m really glad you’re coming.  Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she repeated, sounding even stranger.
I was overjoyed Angela had agreed to come.  Yet there was something in her tone as we were hanging up…  We’d talked so many hours I was sensitive to little nuances in her voice.
“Hey, Darryl,” Alex came to the dressing room door just as I was saying goodbye to Angela.  “What up?  The crew has…  Oh…sorry, I didn’t realize you were on the phone,” he said, turning to leave.
“No, it’s okay, Alex.  I was just ending the call.”
“Did you know the crew was all together, ready for rehearsal?”
“Yes…ah, yes I did, Alex.  But there was an important call I had to make right quick.  Tell them I’ll be right there.”
“Okay, Dare,” Alex said, looking at me curiously.
Telling myself my misgivings about Angela were just my imagination, I hurried to rehearsal.
When I stepped on stage both Sam and Alex were looking at me strangely.  Alex had apparently told Sam I had been on the phone.  I knew their curiosity was aroused.
I was always on time for rehearsals, as I expected my crew to be.  And normally I wouldn’t keep the crew waiting due to a phone call unless it was of the utmost importance.  On top of that, I’m sure they had both noticed I’d been spending a lot of time on the phone lately.
Alex Winston had been with me only two years, but Sam Steele had been my chief of security for over ten.  He knew me like a brother.  I could tell from the look in his eyes he knew something was up with all these mysterious private calls.
But neither of them said a word.  They were my staff, my employees, but they were also my friends; in fact, they were among the best of the few friends I had.
And one of the reasons they were both staff and friends was that they respected my privacy.  They appreciated the goldfish bowl aspects of my life, and they knew how difficult that was for me at times.  So when it came to something I obviously didn’t want them to know, they knew when to back off and not pry.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” I told my band and performance group.  “We’re going to basically stick with the same set list from the last show, except that I want to substitute ‘Basic Needs’ for ‘Never Before.’ “
They looked at each other strangely.
“But, boss, you haven’t done ‘Basic Needs’ this whole tour,” said Jesse, my bass guitarist.
“I know, Jesse, so that’s why I want to include it in this, the last show of the tour,” I said.
Which wasn’t the real reason I was including it.  The real reason was that Angela had told me it was one of her favorites.
“What’s the problem?” I continued.  “I mean you guys haven’t forgotten it, have you?” I teased them with a grin.
Siggy, my drummer, grinned back at me.  “No, of course not, Dare.  We were just surprised is all.”
Since we hadn’t done the song in a while we went through it twice.  I saw Jasmine sitting in the wings pouting, probably because I didn’t use dancers when performing this number.
After a long day of sound checks and rehearsals, I was glad to get home.  I had a quick dinner and hit the sack, still recovering for the rigors of the tour.
I slept until noon, and had a leisurely brunch, just killing time until I knew Angela would be home from work.  I couldn’t wait to talk to her.
“Hi!” I said once I got her on the line.
“Hi.”  This didn’t sound like the vivacious woman I had been talking to the last several months.
“It’s me.”
“Yes, I know,” she said in the same lackluster tone.  Maybe my misgivings the day before had not been just my imagination, after all.
“Why so glum?  Is something wrong?  Are you and Tiffani all right?”
“Yes, Dare, we’re fine.”
“You haven’t changed your mind about coming out for the concert, have you?” I persisted.  God, I hoped not.  Yet I knew something about coming to LA was bothering her.
“No…I haven’t.”
Thank goodness for that!  “Okay….so…what up?  I can tell something about this is bothering you.  Talk to me.”
“Well, it’s just that…”
“Yes?  It’s just that…what?”
“It’s nothing, Darryl.  It’s just that…well…I’m kinda…nervous about it.”
“Why?  I’m not nervous about it.”  No, that wasn’t quite accurate.  “Well, maybe just a little bit,” I amended.  “I guess under the circumstances, any two people would be a little nervous.  But why are you this upset?”
“Because…because…well, Darryl…I’m a thirty-seven-year-old woman with a grown daughter—and I’m certainly no starlet.”
That gave me a big clue.  “Why is that a problem?”  I thought maybe I could kid her out of it.  “You think you’re ugly or something?”
“Darryl, please don’t tease me.  I’m serious.”
“Okay, okay; I know you are.  I’m sorry.”  I backed off the humor.  “But, Angie, believe me, you’re getting yourself worked up over nothing.”
“It’s not ‘nothing’ to me, Dare.”
“So I see.”  I hesitated a moment.  “Angela,” I said very slowly, “believe me, your looks are the kind many a starlet would kill for: long black hair; a truly beautiful face; a lovely figure and great legs.  What’s not to like?
“Besides, you’ve got a lot more going for you than just good looks.  After all, how many people can be “Innovator of the Year” with only two years on a new job?”
There was a dead silence on the other end of the line.
After a beat or two, I said, “Angela?  Are you okay?”
“Darryl,” she said slowly and deliberately, “I never told you about that award.  How did you know?”
Uh-oh.  I had blown my cover.  Time to ‘fess up.  “Oh…right.  Well, I…uh…now don’t get mad.  Let me explain…”
Then she put two and two together.  “You’ve had me investigated!”
“Angela, I…”
“I don’t believe it!  You had me investigated!  How could you!  How dare you!”
“Now, Angie, give me a chance to explain!”
But she wasn’t having it.  “Darryl, why didn’t you just ask me anything you wanted to know?  Did you think I’d have lied to you?  After all the hours we’ve talked, all the thoughts we’ve shared, didn’t you trust me at all?”
At that point, it was clear to me that Angela had some James Brown in her.  James famously once said, “Papa don’t take no mess!”  Well, Angela didn’t either.
“It’s not like that, Angela!  Listen to me…”
She didn’t answer me.  There had been many times I had started to tell her about the investigation.  Now I definitely wished I had.
She was still giving me the silent treatment.  “Please; just listen to me,” I pleaded with her.  “Be fair.  Don’t condemn me without knowing all the facts.”
“Fine, Darryl superstar ‘Mr. Wizard’ Bridges,” she shot back.  “Go ahead; I’m listening.”
Now that was uncalled for.  I started to get a little hot under the collar myself.
“Okay, Angela,” I said quietly.  “We’re even now.  I insulted you; now you’ve insulted me.  Feel better?”
“What do you mean—I’ve insulted you?” she sharply came back.
“Calling me Darryl Bridges ‘superstar.’  You know we’ve never related to each other that way.  We’re friends.  Good friends, I thought.  I have a hundred million fans, Angela, but I have very few friends.  I’ve never come on to you like you were ‘just a fan,’ and you know it.  I didn’t deserve that.”
I knew should have come clean before.  Yes, I was wrong, but now she was wrong to accuse me of going VIP on her.  And I did have a valid reason for doing what I did if Angela would ever let me get it in edgewise.
“Friends?” she heatedly repeated.  “How can you say that when you had me investigated.  You did, didn’t you?”
She was clearly still ticked off, but by that point, I was rather ticked off myself.
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, is that the way one friend treats another?”
“No, it isn’t.  And I never would have after I got to know you.”
That slowed her down a little.  “I don’t understand.”
“I know you don’t.  Now will you listen?”
“All right,” she said grudgingly, “go ahead.”
“After I called you in Atlanta,” I hurriedly began, “I wanted to talk to you again—but I had to make sure.  You have no idea the kinds of hassles I’ve had dealing with people.  I’ve been receiving death threats for years.  I’ve had nine paternity suits filed against me, seven of them by women I never even met.”  I anticipated the question.  “And before you ask, no, the other two weren’t valid either.
“Maybe I’ve gotten paranoid, but I’ve had so much turmoil come from the most innocent contact—especially with women—that I’ve had to be cautious about the simplest things, like picking up a phone and calling someone.”
My irritation was subsiding.  She had every right to be upset; how could I be mad at her?  I took a deep breath and slowed it down.
“So I had my staff check you out after I called that first time.  That’s how I found out about the award.  I was just trying to find out if it was safe to call you, or if you’d go screaming to the press with some wild story about you and me.
“No, a friend wouldn’t do that to a friend.  That’s why I would never do that now—now that I know the kind of person you are.  But then I didn’t.  Now do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand…now,” a contrite Angela said.  “Darryl…I’m sorry I flew off the handle like that.”
“Hey, it’s all right.”  All my exasperation had dissipated, as well.  “I can dig why you did.  In your shoes, I guess I’d feel the same.  “I’m glad it’s finally out in the open.  I’ve been feeling bad about not telling you before.  I should have, but I didn’t want you to be angry with me or, worse, to not trust me.”
“I’m sorry about what I said.  I didn’t mean it.  Forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive.  At least what you said was honest.  What I did was dishonest…at least not telling you before now was.  Do you forgive me?
“Of course…I guess we’d both better ‘Step Lively’ and apologize, huh?”  “Step Lively” is one of my biggest hits.
I laughed, happy to see that my sweet, funny Angela had returned.  “Yeah, now that we’re friends, I want us to ‘Stay That Way.’ ”  That was another hit.
“Okay, Mr. B., enough with the record plugs.  I already have all your CDs.”
She could always make me laugh.  But then I had to get very serious.  “Angie, I value your friendship, and I’d never do anything to hurt you, please believe that.”
“I do, Dare.”
“Well, one purpose was served.  Now you don’t have to feel nervous about coming.  I already know quite a lot about you, Angela, and I like all I see.
“And as for the ‘starlet’ angle….”  I was whispering again, “I don’t know why you’d ever be concerned.  You’re a very beautiful woman.
“Anyway,” I had to force myself to get back on track, “we’re really friends now.  We’ve had our first argument!”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Angela agreed with a laugh.
“Angela, you’re an extremely sweet person, and it takes a lot to get you there, but, man!  Do you have a temper when you get mad!  Remind me not to ever make you mad again!”
We started to talk about her trip to the coast.  We decided she’d arrive on Friday morning and stay until Sunday.  I told her I’d keep Saturday open, and show her around the city.  I also told her someone would call her after all the arrangements had been made.
“I won’t be able to meet you at the airport personally,” I said.  “I’ll probably already be at the Coliseum, and anyway, if somebody at the airport were to recognize me, it could get pretty hairy.  But I’ll make sure you’re met by a car and driver.”
“There’s no need, Darryl.  I could take a taxi and…”
“No, ma’am.  I’m not about to let you loose on poor defenseless Los Angeles.  I’ll have somebody meet you.”
“Darryl,” she said, sounding shy, “I’m really looking forward to this.”
“Me, too.  And I’m looking forward to having one of our marathon discussions in person, being able to see you.  I like to watch a person’s eyes when we’re talking.”
“Is that why you wear dark glasses all the time, so you can watch, and people can’t see you watching?”
She caught me off guard with that one.  “Well, yeah, you got me there.  I’ll call before you leave to make sure everything’s arranged.”
As soon as I hung up with Angela I set about making plans for her trip.  For anyone else, I would have handed this off to Mary, but for this trip, I wanted to do it myself.  I called my travel coordinator, Anita Giles, directly.
“Hello, may I speak to Ms. Giles, please?”
“May I tell her who’s calling?”
“Yes.  This is Darryl Bridges.”
“Who?”
“Darryl Bridges.”
Click.  I found myself listening to the dial tone.
I sighed heavily and dialed the number again.  When the same woman answered, I quickly said, “Look, before you hang up on me again, maybe you should go ask Ms. Giles if Darryl Bridges is one of her clients.”
In a matter of seconds, another voice came on the line.  “Mr. Bridges?”
“Yes?”
“Hi, this is Anita Giles.  I apologize for my assistant.  She’s new and didn’t know your group was one of our clients.”
“No problem, Ms. Giles, or may I call you Anita?”
“Certainly, Mr. Bridges.”
“Then you have to call me Darryl.  Listen, I know you normally coordinate our travel plans with Mary, but there’s a very special trip I need you to book, for a special friend, so I thought I would call you personally.”
“My pleasure to be of service, Mr.…ah, Darryl. Actually, to tell you the truth, I’m thrilled both professionally and personally to speak directly to you.”
I chuckled at that.  “Thanks, Anita.”
“Now, how may I be of help?”
“I have a friend who will be visiting me here in LA from the Metro Detroit area this coming weekend.”
“Very good.  And his name?”
Here we go again.  “Her name is Angela Delaney.”
“Oh.  I see,” Anita replied, and I had a feeling she really did see.
I proceeded to give her Angela’s contact information.
“Anita, I’d certainly appreciate it if you called my guest personally.”
“Absolutely, Darryl.”
 “The flight should be first class, of course,” I said.  “In fact, Anita, I’d like everything about this trip to be first class.  Which is the best of the local hotels?”
“Well, there are several top-drawer hotels, but I’d say the Regal is the best.”
“Fine.  I’d like her to have their largest suite.  Of course, you’ll have the hotel bill settled before her arrival, and I’d like a credit on the account, say five thousand dollars, in case she wants to charge some stuff to her suite.”
Five thousand dollars?” she weakly echoed.
“Yes.  Or maybe that’s not enough?  What do you think?  Should I make it more?”
“Uh, no, Darryl.  I think that should be quite adequate.”
“Okay.  I need you to arrange a limo for transportation to and from the airport in Detroit.  I’ll take care of her being picked up at LAX and other transportation while she’s here.  I guess that’s about it.  Oh, I almost forgot.  Please order an additional American Express card on my account, and have her issued a Black Card.”
Anita audibly gulped.  “Uh…a Black Card, Darryl?  Are you sure that’s the one you want her to have?  I mean, of course, you know the Black Card has no limit.”  She gave me a somewhat nervous laugh.  “A man once charged 170 million dollars to one for a painting!”
“Yes, I’m sure.  I want to rule out any possibility of her running into any hold-ups with credit limits and stuff in case she wants to buy something.”
I sensed apprehension in Anita’s silence.
“Anita, I know you’re concerned for me, and I appreciate it.  But I have total confidence in Mrs. Delaney using the card properly.”
Mrs. Delaney?”  I’m sure surprise caused her to blurt that out involuntarily.
“Yes.”  It was so awkward that I felt obliged to add, “Ah, she’s a widow.”
“Oh.  I see,” Anita repeated,
I called Angela the next day to make sure she’d been contacted.
“Yes, Dare,” she said, “a courier delivered my plane ticket and boarding pass for the eleven a.m. flight non-stop to LA.  And I’m pre-registered for Suite 1801 at the Los Angles Regal.  Darryl, I’m just bowled over!  Thank…”
“No,” I interrupted her, “thank you…for coming.”
Angie asked what types of clothing she should bring.
I told her, “Just casual stuff—jeans and whatnot.  The weather’s predicted to be in the low eighties and sunny while you’re here.”
The following day was the day before the concert.  We had a full dress rehearsal with light and sound checks along the way.  A couple of numbers had to be re-staged to incorporate the references to Homes, USA.
I didn’t get home until after 11 o’clock.  I wanted to call Angela, but it was after two a.m. her time and I didn’t want to wake her, especially since I knew she had to get an early start.
I was planning to stay up, to call her early, but I fell asleep.  I woke with a start, glad to find it wasn’t too late to catch Angela before she left.
When I called she said, “Dare!  It must be the middle of the night there.”
“Yeah,” I had to smother a yawn.  “I was going to call you when I got home after rehearsal yesterday, but it was two in the morning, your time, and I didn’t want to wake you.  Then I fell asleep.  I just woke up.  Glad I caught you before you left.  Everything set?”
“Yep.  I’m all packed.  I was just about to hop into the shower.”
“Well, go ahead and get dressed.  Somebody will call you at the hotel about the concert arrangements.  I will myself if I can get away.”
“All right.”  She paused, “Uh…will I see you tonight, after the concert?”
“What?  Of course!  I’ll have someone bring you to my dressing room, okay?”
“Okay, Dare.  Well…see you soon.”
” ‘Bye…have a good flight.”
Angela was on her way!




ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Raynetta Manees is the best-selling author of seven digital novels and six print novels. Her landmark first-person novel, All For Love: The Superstar’s Lady, first released in 1996, is now considered a Black romance classic. An updated e-book edition of the novel was released in 2013. This book is now Book One of The SuperStar Series.
September, 2016 marks Raynetta’s 20th anniversary as an author. She celebrates this milestone with the release of Book Two of The SuperStar Series, All For Love: The Superstar in Sept, 2016.
The author’s 2014 release was the five-star rated romance novel, Fantasy. Her 2013 re-release, All For Love: The Superstar’s Lady, also rated five stars, made three Amazon.com Top 100 best-sellers lists in its first week and remained there for six weeks. Raynetta is the very first recipient of the Award of Excellence from RomanceInColor.com for her novel Follow Your Heart.
She is currently working on Book Three of The SuperStar Series, All For Love: The Superstar’s Daughter, which will be released in 2017.
Raynetta’s author page on Amazon.com is www.amazon.com/author/raynettamanees
All of Raynetta’s books are rated four/five stars by readers on Amazon.com and BN.com (Barnes and Noble).
Raynetta Manees is a graduate of Wayne State University, with a degree in Mass Communications. She retired as a Federal government executive administrator after a 28-year career. Raynetta now writes full-time.  Her love of the media arts is reflected in her novels,  whose characters are involved in some aspect of  entertainment/media.
Raynetta has been a solo vocalist since childhood, performing in numerous venues in the Northwest and in the Caribbean. Her stage name is “Rayne,” and her first CD, “Singing in the Rayne,” a collection of smooth jazz vocals, was released in December 2012.
The author is an accomplished actress who has appeared in numerous stage productions and in TV and radio commercials. As an on-air radio personality, she was known as “Shalimar Brown, the baddest girl in town” on AM 1180 WXLA.
Raynetta stepped away from her career as a notable romance novelist in June 2015 to pen her first non-fiction work, My Alzheimer’s Diary. “Alzheimer’s has claimed so many in my family, including my mother,” said the award-winning writer. “I just plain got mad and decided to fight back.” The book explores Alzheimer’s effect on her family and her own journey of diagnosis.
Raynetta welcomes your comments at her website www.RManees.com.  She can also be reached via email at RManees@aol.com  (Please show “Reader” and your name in the subject line.) 



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