"These demos are shit."

Jeff sighed heavily for what must have been the tenth time that morning.

"Serious!" I exclaimed. "What the fuck is that noise in the background?"

"Listen to the song, Jonah. Ignore the noise. Have you heard their lyrics?"

I snorted, ejecting the CD from my laptop. "This is a load of shit. I can't believe you're making me do this."

"I can't believe you're still fucking whining about it," Jeff retorted.

I huffed, clicking on Word to finish the contract I'd spent two days putting together. I didn't know why I was bothering.

"You do know that stupid idiot won't understand half these words? Or do you want me to bring a thesaurus?"

"Hark at you. Just because you're in a mood doesn't mean you can take it out on Hayden. He's a nice guy. You've only spoken to him on the goddamn phone."

"And that told me all I need to know."

I pressed the printer icon on the screen and then handed the finished papers to Jeff.

"I'm going for a cigarette before they get here. What time are they coming?"

"Four," he replied absentmindedly, flicking through the contract. I made my way downstairs and out into the smoking area. As I lit up, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. Suspecting the very person I didn't want to speak to, I glanced at the name. Ten points to me.

"Hi, Amie."

"Jonah. I've figured out my dates and tonight is ideal. Come round to mine at eight. There's no way I'm doing it in your apartment."


Now, I hadn't exactly agreed to this baby thing. Once I'd recovered from my fainting spell (which I blamed on low blood sugar), she'd just sort of...assumed. The truth was, I figured I could avoid her for long enough to think of a reason to not have a child. I had plenty of reasons already, but I didn't think any of them would appease Amie. Zee had suggested I just tell her I didn't want a kid which was a ludicrous idea. Ineligible bachelor, remember?

"Oh babe, I'd love to but the thing is...well, Jeff's killing me at work and he says if I don't do overtime, he'll fire me."

Total bullshit but it was the first thing that popped into my head.

"What? He can't do that. You work more than you should anyway."

"I know, I know. He's a slave driver." I took a deep drag to calm my unsteady nerves. "We're working on a big band right now so I've got to put in the hours. You know how it is."

Actually, she didn't have a clue. She lived off her parent's earnings and occasionally did a bit of modelling for adverts. She hadn't done a decent days graft in her entire life.

"I'll let you know as soon as I've got some spare time. Oh shit, Jeff's having a go, I better shoot. Talk to you later." I hung up and instantly felt terrible. At this rate, I'd turn into a compulsive liar. I stamped my feet on the ground to warm myself up. The weather was alternating between being bitterly cold and strangely humid. I'd never liked winter. Right now, dressed in my cheap polyester shirt with the sharp wind whipping round my ankles, I hated it even more.

I finished my cig in record time, crushing it with my toes next to all the others that lay by the drain. I turned my nose up; most of them were mine. I remember when smoking was a social activity. I suppose most of them are dead by now.

I jogged back upstairs, noticing the way my lungs began to constrict about halfway. I slowed down to catch my breath. I should really stop smoking.

I burst into mine and Jeff's office, not bothering to knock.

"Jeff, I have to ask a favour..."

I looked towards Jeff's desk, momentarily confused.

"Either Jeff has had a midlife crisis...or you're not Jeff."

The guy perched on the end of it grinned and stood up.

"Hayden," he introduced himself. "We spoke on the phone?"

I held out my hand and took him in. This guy was huge, at least 6'4 and about half as wide. He was dressed in faded jeans and a navy blue tank top that showed off his muscled arms. Tattoos spiralled up and around his biceps and disappeared under the loose fitting fabric. I craned my neck to look at his face. He had a single lip piercing that glinted in the dim light and his bright blues eyes burned into mine. I temporarily lost the power of speech until he blinked.

"I know I wasn't supposed to be here until four, but I had an empty afternoon for once and thought I'd come scope you guys out." He kept smiling throughout and I felt my lips twitching at the sight.

I tried to keep my expression neutral as I offered him a drink.

"So, you're going to be our new manager? This is pretty exciting." His face didn't change. The constant smiling was starting to annoy me.

"How do you know who I am?" I questioned.

"Oh, Jeff described you. Short, chubby, scruffy looking..." He stopped and blushed. "Oh, shit, no, I didn't mean...that's not what he said. Fuck. I'm sorry."

"Right," I said trying to keep the anger out of my voice. Chubby? Just 'cause I didn't spend all my free time in the gym...fuck it. At least I wasn't a moron. We sat on opposite sides of my desk and I grabbed the file Jeff had left on the floor.

"I've pulled up a contract that you'll have to read through and sign. Basically it tells you that I'll be taking 20% of your income minus songwriting royalties and any merch you make. It says that you're expected to pay for all trips I make on your behalf, such as flying out to meet potential labels that are interested." If you get that far, I added under my breath.

"Also, it says the length of the contract initially is 12 months and if we decide to increase that time at the end of the year then we'll do that. Any cancellation of the contract requires notice which is explained in section five. I'd suggest you get a lawyer to read over it in case you don't understand something or to make sure we're on the same page."

He nodded as I explained it but obviously didn't listen to the last part. He grabbed a pen from Jeff's desk and scribbled his signature onto the contract.

"You should really get someone to read over that with you," I said in vain. He looked up at me in surprise then grinned.

"Nah, I trust you."


I coughed into my hand. My lungs felt like someone was running a cheese grater over them.

"Okay, well before we start, do you have any questions?"

He shifted in his seat, fumbling in his jeans for a second before pulling a piece of paper out and unfolding it. Jesus, he'd brought a list. Fabulous.

"First question." He had that inane smile on his face again like a little kid at Christmas. "What other bands have you worked with?"

I leant back into my chair making a steeple with my fingers. "I'm more of a music scout. I have managed bands before – three in fact – but generally I spot the music and hand them over to the other guys that work here. The first two bands I managed in the nineties were heavily influenced by punk rock but their lyrics were a bit less inflammatory than most punk rock at the time. The third...well, that was my band."

Hayden's eyes lit up. "You had a band?"

"Yes," I replied stiffly. "Anyway..."

"No, wait, what instrument did you play? Were you the lead singer? Was it really good?"

"Bass, no and yes."

"That's so cool! I can't imagine you in a band!" He trailed off again and pulled a face. "Not that you look like you couldn't be in a band. I'm sure you were great –"

"Next question."

He studied my face for a second before letting the matter drop. His eyes scanned the list slowly and I could feel my impatience rising. I made an over exaggerated gesture of holding my arm out to check the time. Hayden didn't seem to notice.

"Okay," he breathed finally. ""Where do you think we could be in say, 6 months' time?"

"Judging by your demos and the fact you haven't even got anything together – who knows."

Hayden winced and began to fidget. He chewed his bottom lip for a moment before lifting his gaze to meet my own.

"Jonah, I know we – I – haven't exactly got the greatest business sense, but I really love what we do. Did you like our music?"

He looked so hopeful with his wide eyes and willing to please expression that I almost lied. Almost.

"No," I admitted shortly. As expected, his face fell and he gave a curt nod. "But we can work on that another time. For now, let's just get the paperwork sorted and we can arrange another meeting. With your band mates this time as well."

We settled down to work for the next two hours, Hayden outlining his band's biography and me listening with disinterest at he relayed one anecdote after another. I noticed as he talked the way his hands twitched and how restless he seemed. His eyes were constantly moving and after about an hour he began picking at the skin on his hand. By the time we'd finished, he'd gauged a tiny hole in the flesh, though he didn't seem to notice.

"I'll phone you to arrange another meeting," I said as we both rose. He lent me a shaky smile and a wave, looking nervously over his shoulder as he headed out the door. I frowned watching him. His disposition from earlier had completely changed and I made a mental note to ask Jeff what his deal was. The last thing I needed was to be babysitting a bunch of washed out addicts.

Fuck. Who the hell had said this was going to be easy?

A/N: Thanks for the reviews and stuff :) I had/have loads of ideas for this but I got so stuck and frustrated trying to write that I eventually gave up. So hence this chapter. Again, I read through this several times so any mistakes are all mine (and the useless leprechauns that are supposed to proofread my stuff) :]