"So, which one should it be? The white denim with the studs, or the shirt with the ruffles?"
Sophie considered the two outfits laid out across Alex's waterbed. "The pouffy shirt, babe. Definitely the pouffy shirt."
"You think so?" Alex eyed the shirt dubiously. "It does look rather effeminate, now that you mention it . . ."
"If you donate it to the Hall of Fame, you won't ever have to wear it again."
"Good point. Right--I'll just put it in plastic and have it ready the next time Chris stops by." He glanced back at the denim pantsuit, fingered the long length of black chiffon he'd once worn with it. "I'm tempted to throw the scarf in just for good measure. I caught the end of it in an automated door once, and nearly garroted myself."
"Shades of Isadora Duncan. I can imagine the headlines."
"So could I. 'PoP Star Strangled by Own Neckwear.'" Alex gave a theatrical shudder. "It doesn't bear thinking of. Here, help me find something to put this in."
Together, they wrapped up the ruffled shirt and its accompanying velvet suit in a dry cleaning bag, draping the outfit over a chair for ready access when their manager came over. It must feel strange, Sophie thought, to give away a piece of one's past like this. To think of it being put in some glass case for people to stare at for the next fifty years. She wondered if Alex felt the same, but his expression gave her no clue; the British stiff upper lip was very much in evidence as he hung the other outfit back in his closet behind the rest of his stage clothes.
"I still can't believe PoP's twenty-five years old," she remarked, as they left the bedroom and headed for the kitchen.
"Yes. Our first record actually came out in '81, when we were still at university." Alex opened the cupboard and took down two mugs. "A fairly modest effort. We didn't get our first big hit until a few years later, with 'Pop Goes My Heart.'"
"I remember that, just barely. Rhonda told me she played the single so many times she literally wore it out." Sophie smiled at the memory; more than twenty years later, her sister was still an ardent fan of PoP and Alex. "That's the one you'll be performing at the ceremony, right?"
"Probably." Alex turned off the coffee maker and reached for the pot. "At least that's the song the band will be performing--whether I'm there or not."
Sophie stared at him. "Wait--you're thinking about not going?"
Avoiding her gaze, he poured coffee for them both. "I haven't made up my mind exactly. Given enough notice, I'm sure they could find another keyboard player to fill in for me. And we've been quite busy ever since Cora's concert. There's the revised touring schedule, our new commissions--"
"Alex, this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!" Sophie broke in. "Chris will have a heart attack if you don't go. And how will it look if you're the only inductee who doesn't show up?"
"Ah, but I wouldn't be," he pointed out swiftly. "According to Chris, the Sex Pistols are also refusing to attend. In fact, they've publicly referred to the museum as a 'piss stain.'"
Sophie rolled her eyes. "Oh, that's classy. Do you really want to follow their example?"
"No, I suppose not," Alex admitted, after a moment. He turned to face her, a faint crease between his brows. "Maybe we should talk about this--do pros and cons?"
"Okay." Sophie took a deep breath and began, "Pros: it's the biggest honor a rock and roller can receive, it's great publicity for the new song, they're holding the ceremony right here in New York, and everyone else from PoP is flying in for it."
Alex's face went as blank as a wiped slate. "That--might qualify as a con, actually."
Of course. Sophie mentally kicked herself for being so slow on the uptake. This had nothing to do with being swamped with work or pressed for time, and everything to do with Colin Thompson, Alex's former partner. The lead singer who'd left his bandmates to pursue solo stardom--and never once looked back.
Sophie understood betrayal all too well. Her former love, Sloan, had deceived and exploited her, but then she'd never really known him. He'd taken pains to conceal major portions of his life from her during their brief affair. But Alex and Colin had a history--they'd practically grown up together. Colin deserting Alex and the band they'd formed--not to mention going off with the last three songs they'd written as a team . . . well, it would be like Rhonda betraying her.
All the more reason, she thought, not to let the past overshadow the present. "It doesn't have to be a con," she insisted. "Look at how well things are going now. 'Way Back into Love' is a big hit, and two more groups want us to write songs for them. Didn't you say that was the perfect time to meet your ex, when you're on top of the world?"
Alex grimaced. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard--or said, in my life. I don't know how you put up with me sometimes."
Sophie smiled, leaning in until their bodies were almost touching. "There are certain compensations."
"Oh?" Alex's brows winged up, his voice dropping to a seductive purr. "Do tell."
She reached around him and nipped up one of the mugs from the counter. "Well, for one thing, the coffee's always good."
Alex sighed, but humor warmed his eyes. "Quite a comedown. Loved only for my coffee-making skills."
"I didn't say that." She sipped from her mug, made a small approving noise. "Though it certainly helps. But seriously, Alex, you and PoP have been recognized as part of rock and roll history. That's such an honor--you should take pride in it, and not let anything or anyone," she emphasized the last word, "spoil it for you."
He was silent for a moment, then his mouth quirked up in a rueful smile. "You can see right through me, can't you?"
"Sometimes." She smiled back at him. "But, in this case, it's not hard to guess what's on your mind. Or who."
His expression grew pensive. "I used to wonder--dread actually--what would happen if I ran into Colin after PoP disbanded. Especially during the first few years."
The years when he'd hit bottom, she remembered, drinking, using drugs, and desperately working on a solo album that had crashed and burned. "Well, you don't have to dread meeting him now," she said consolingly. "In fact, you might even end up enjoying it."
Alex pulled a face. "Let's not get carried away. Honor or no honor, I don't imagine Colin's that thrilled at the prospect of a reunion, either."
"It's just for one night," she reminded him. "Probably less than that. There'll be other bands performing--you may only have to put up with Colin for a few hours, and then you can go your separate ways. You'll have closure. And just think how great it'll feel to have all that negative energy out of your life."
"A lot you know," Alex said darkly, turning away to pick up his own mug. "Lennon and McCartney took jabs at each other for years after the Beatles broke up."
"I heard Ringo Starr still got along with everyone," Sophie countered. She ran her hand along his back, which was looking as stiff as his upper lip; to her relief, she felt him relax a little under the caress. "Alex, there were three other guys in PoP. Weren't they your friends too?"
"I suppose they were, yes," he conceded, after a moment. "At least, we were a band. A unit. We played together for nearly ten years. It's just . . ." His voice trailed off.
"You and Colin were closer," Sophie finished for him. "I understand. But maybe you're approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe you need to stop thinking about Colin and start thinking about those three other guys."
"They have names, you know," he pointed out, with a glimmer of amusement.
"I'm sure they do, but unlike Rhonda, I never committed them to memory." She linked her free arm through his. "So, why don't you tell me something about them?"
"Why don't I show you instead?"
"Oh, my God, you look so young," Sophie marveled, staring at the TV. Onscreen, the long-haired keyboard player flashed a delighted, guileless grin at the camera, and she burst out laughing. "Baby rocker! You're actually kind of cute--even with that hair."
"Yes, well . . ." Alex cleared his throat and shifted beside her on the sofa. "As I've said before, that hair was very much in style then." He paused the DVD player. "Okay. That's me at the keyboard, and the blond chap on the left is our bass player, Nick Blakely. The quiet one."
"He looks just a bit . . ." Sophie hunted for the right term, trying not to cause offense.
"Androgynous?" Alex suggested, with a quirk of his brows.
"That's the word," Sophie admitted, flushing slightly.
Alex shrugged. "It's the hair, mostly. Nick was a big fan of Boy George, or was it Annie Lennox? But just in case you were wondering, he now lives in San Francisco--with his partner."
As Sophie digested this, Alex pressed "Play" on the remote and the video resumed. They watched in silence as Colin spun into view, taking center stage with the aplomb of a born performer.
He did have charisma, Sophie conceded grudgingly. While she disliked him on general principle for what he'd done to Alex all those years ago, she couldn't deny he had incredible presence onscreen--a harder, more dangerous edge that contrasted dramatically with Alex's wide-eyed romanticism. But framed in the same shot, the two faces looked startlingly young and untouched. At a guess, neither of them could have been more than twenty-three or twenty-four at the time. Younger than she was now.
She glanced at Alex, whose expression had gone impassive once more. He paused the video again on a group shot of the band. "That's our drummer, Dan Miller. Steady, very solid. He was a little older than the rest of us, and he actually got married a few years after we formed PoP. I think he may have been a bit relieved when we called it quits. His wife was expecting a baby and he didn't want to tour anymore. He does mostly session work these days.
"And the last one, the dark-haired guy in the leather jacket--that's Andrew Wymore, our guitarist. He's the only one of us from a musical family, so lots of connections there. He joined another band, based in London, after PoP broke up. He'd also started a serious relationship by then, but I don't know if it lasted."
He pressed "Stop" on the remote and the screen went to static. "So there we all are, then. The boys in the band."
"Did you ever hang out together--when you weren't performing, I mean?"
"Oh, now and then. Maggie--Dan's wife--had us over to dinner sometimes, especially before we made it as a band. Very nice of her--it can't have been easy having four more starving musicians underfoot. And some evenings, Colin, Andrew, and I would go pub-crawling or watch a sports match on television. Once in a while we even managed to drag Nick along with us." Alex leaned back against the sofa, his expression contemplative. "But when all's said and done, it was music, really, that kept us together so long. I'd had years of piano and keyboard lessons, of course, and then Andrew and Nick taught me some basic guitar and bass."
Sophie nodded, remembering how he'd laid down the various tracks for the demo. "So, you'd have these--what do you call them--jam sessions?"
"We did, yes. In fact, that's usually how an evening out ended up--back at someone's flat, playing, singing, and annoying the neighbors. Andrew or Nick might come up with a riff or a bit of fingering he liked and we'd try working it into whatever I was composing at the time. Now that I think of it, that's one of the things I miss about being in a band," he added thoughtfully. "Writing to someone else's strengths. Playing off someone in general, really. You don't get to do that as a solo act."
"You didn't consider staying together, after Colin left?" Sophie asked. "There were still four of you."
"We talked about finding another vocalist to replace Colin," Alex replied, after a moment. "Preferably one who could also write lyrics. But in the end," he took a breath, "we put it to the vote and decided that PoP had run its course. The rest, as they say, is history."
His tone was light, almost careless, but Sophie knew how hard the break-up had been for him, personally. And how deeply it had affected him for years afterwards. It was only now, she thought, that he'd truly begun to put the past behind him and find his voice again.
"Did you keep in touch with any of them, afterwards?"
From the way his gaze slid away from hers, she could already guess the answer.
"Oh, Dan and Maggie sent cards at Christmas for a few years. So did Nick. And I heard from Andrew once or twice. We talked about hooking up if I ever came to London or he ever came to New York." Alex fidgeted with the remote, still not looking at her. "The timing never seemed to be right, though, for either of us."
And he wouldn't have wanted any of his former bandmates to see him down and out, Sophie realized. "What about Colin? Has he ever contacted you since PoP broke up?"
"No--why would he?"
"To mend fences?" she suggested. "Or apologize?"
"That would mean admitting he'd done something wrong in the first place. I've known Colin since we were both eighteen--taking responsibility for his mistakes isn't one of his strengths."
"Maybe it'll be different now. Maybe he'll want to make amends, even congratulate you on the new song."
Alex shifted irritably on the sofa. "More likely he'll want to claim he wrote 'Way Back into Love' himself."
"I don't see why. If he's such a big star, he probably doesn't care one way or the other. Wait--let me rephrase that," she amended hastily at Alex's expression. "What I meant was, why should Colin grudge you your success? You earned it, fair and square."
"We earned it, you mean," Alex corrected her.
She smiled at him, still ridiculously touched and pleased by the "we." The reminder that they were partners now, in every sense of the word. "We wrote something good, really good--and nothing can take that away from us. So no matter who else is at that ceremony, you can walk in with your head held high. And I'll be there, and Chris will be there, and Rhonda and Gary. You don't think my sister is going to miss the chance to ogle her favorite boy band of all time, do you?" she teased.
Alex regarded her skeptically. "Even if the boys in question are now arthritic, middle-aged geezers?"
"Even then," she assured him.
His face relaxed into a smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes. "Then I suppose I'd better put in an appearance. Can't disappoint the fans, after all." He turned to her, sobering abruptly. "Thank you. For reminding me of what's really important."
Sophie kissed him lightly on the mouth. "Anytime, babe. Anytime."
She bought a new dress, just for the ceremony, and spent a little more than she'd intended. But the look on Alex's face when he saw her in it more than made up for the expense.
"Blue velvet." His gaze roved appreciatively over the low-cut bodice, the slightly flaring skirt. "Very nice."
"Do you like it?" Sophie turned in a slow circle. "I thought it was kind of like the dress I borrowed from Gloria, except it fits better--and the color's a little subtler. I wanted to do you proud tonight."
His eyes warmed, blue and brilliant. "You do--and not just tonight, but every night." He cupped her face in his hands, kissed her briefly but thoroughly. "Fantastic dress, love. Now, let's go, before I start thinking of ways to get you out of it!"
Outside, they hailed a cab and headed for the Waldorf-Astoria, Alex's portable keyboard stowed safely in the trunk.
"Are you sure you'll have enough time to rehearse?" Sophie asked as the cab cruised along. "It's only hours before the ceremony."
"We're cutting it close, yes," Alex admitted. "But with five different schedules to coordinate, this was the best Chris and the other managers could do. We're lucky to have got any rehearsal time booked at all, with so many people being inducted tonight."
"Two of your bandmates are coming from London, right?
"Andrew and Dan," he confirmed. "Chris told me they flew in yesterday, which would have given them time to sleep off the jet lag. Nick was expected this morning. The biggest problem seems to be Colin's schedule. He's shooting a film in Chicago and, according to his manager, he can't get away from the set until this afternoon."
"Is this the same manager who convinced him to go solo?" She almost said "leave PoP" but changed her words just in time.
"The very same. Terrifying man, small but vicious--we nicknamed him the Land-Shark." Alex shifted in his seat. "Personally, I think it's just as well the band's only meeting up now. No time to overthink things--we'll just go in, practice the song until it's perfect, and that will be that until the ceremony."
Sophie thought the situation might be more complicated than he described but tactfully refrained from saying so. Despite Alex's relaxed pose, she could feel the tension radiating from him in almost palpable waves. In a matter of minutes, he'd be facing four guys he hadn't seen in fifteen years, but who had been an integral part of his life for a decade. In his place, she'd have been a nervous wreck.
"What would you like to do after the ceremony?" she asked, trying to set him at ease.
"Oh, well, that depends on whether or not we have to talk to the press. But I thought perhaps--if we're not too tired--we might go for a late dinner somewhere, just the two of us."
"Sounds great." The cab came to a halt, and she peered out the window. "We're here."
"Right." Alex took a breath, visibly bracing himself. "Showtime."
At first glance, the rehearsal room seemed full of people running around and setting up microphones and equipment, but once Sophie did an actual head count, she came up with fewer than a dozen, including Alex and herself.
A tall man holding a guitar glanced up at their approach. "Ah, there you are," he said, apparently to Alex. "Set it up over there."
A roadie immediately hurried forward to relieve Alex of his keyboard. And Sophie took a closer look at the three men at the center of the chaos.
With the PoP video fresh in her memory, she had half-expected to find a group of long-haired youngsters in leather pants. The reality was startling--if some degrees short of Alex's pessimistic description of "arthritic, middle-aged geezers." But, without question, the trio gathered in the rehearsal room looked noticeably older. The stocky drummer had cropped his sandy hair short and grown a neat little beard. The bass player's fair hair was closer to grey than blond now; he still looked a touch androgynous but not nearly as much as he had in the video. And the lanky guitarist, now coming forward to greet them, had more than a scattering of grey in his dark hair.
"Alex, mate--good to see you." He clapped Alex on the shoulder with what seemed to be genuine, unstrained affection. After a moment's hesitation, Alex returned the gesture.
"Andrew--it's good to see you too."
The guitarist turned keen dark eyes in Sophie's direction. "And who's this, then?"
"Sophie Fisher--my partner and lyricist," Alex replied. "Sophie, this is Andrew Wymore, our guitarist from PoP."
Smiling, Andrew held out his hand. "Glad to meet you, Sophie. Dead chuffed, in fact."
"Chuffed?" Sophie echoed, confused.
"He means very pleased," Alex told her.
"Too right I do. Heard the new song, by the way--it sounds fantastic." He gave them a sly, sideways grin. "Nice to find out the blonde pop tart can sing, after all."
Sophie choked back a giggle at this irreverent description of Cora, as the other members of PoP approached. Alex quickly introduced Sophie to them; it was on the tip of her tongue to ask where Colin was, but sensing her partner's reserve, she swallowed the question and exchanged pleasantries with the band's former drummer and bassist.
"About time you showed up," Dan Miller remarked to Alex. "And my missus wants to say hello as well," he added, nodding towards a petite, dark-haired woman standing slightly off to one side.
Alex's face brightened visibly, warming into the first unreserved smile Sophie had seen since their arrival. "Maggie May!" He embraced her as she came up to him. "Lovely to see you again."
"And you." She kissed him on both cheeks, then framed his face with her hands for a moment. "Still ridiculously good-looking," she declared, then turned, smiling, to Sophie. "I'm Maggie Miller. And you're Alex's new collaborator?"
Sophie nodded, smiling back. "Sophie Fisher." She found she rather liked this woman, whom she could easily imagine feeding hungry musicians trying to make the big time.
"Dan brought Maggie, so I had to bring my old lady too," Andrew added, motioning another woman forward.
Alex's eyes widened. "Good Lord, you got married?"
"Twice," Andrew confessed with a crooked smile. "The first didn't take, but the second--nearly five years now. Sarah, this is my old bandmate, Alex Fletcher."
Sarah Wymore was an attractive redhead perhaps in her mid-thirties. "So, you're the keyboardist?" she asked brightly.
"Keyboard and vocals," Alex said pleasantly.
She gave him an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid I'm still learning who everyone is. PoP was a bit before my time."
"That's quite all right," he assured her. "We were a bit before Sophie's time too. In fact, I believe she was playing with her Cabbage Patch dolls during our first world tour."
"I never owned a Cabbage Patch Kid in my life," Sophie objected, swatting him on the arm. She smiled at Sarah. "But my older sister was the PoP fan in the family, so this is new to me too."
"Oh, good. We can both be confused together, and let Maggie show us the ropes."
"Any kids?" Alex asked Andrew.
"One sprog--name of Sam," Andrew reported with pride. "Coming up on three years old and staying with Sarah's mum and dad, while we make this trip to the States. I'm thinking of picking up a toy guitar as a prezzie for him."
"You can never start too early," Alex agreed. He turned to the bassist. "So, Nick--how's life in Baghdad by the Bay?"
"Can't complain. Fairly fantastic, actually," he added, beckoning to a thin, bespectacled man with a pleasant face and an unexpectedly charming smile. "This is Paul Stokes, my partner."
Alex cordially shook his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Paul. Are you a musician yourself, by any chance?"
Stokes shook his head. "Only on weekends. I play some sax, but I'm nowhere near in Nicky's league. The rest of the time I'm an accountant."
"One of the best in the city," Nick said staunchly.
Andrew glanced at his watch. "Time's ticking by, mates. Let's get a move on."
"Do you want us all to clear off, then?" Sarah inquired.
"Well, you could stay and be supportive," her husband suggested.
Sarah raised her brows. "Does being supportive involve screaming, fainting, and flinging our knickers at the stage?"
Andrew grinned down at her. "The knicker-flinging would be a nice touch. Might get us in the right mood for tonight."
She rolled her eyes and gave him a quick kiss. "Dream on, love. But we'll stay and watch at any rate."
"Don't get any ideas about me flinging my knickers either," Sophie warned Alex.
"It never crossed my mind, I assure you." The glint in his eyes gave the lie to his words.
"This how you want it, Mr. Fletcher?" The roadie who'd taken charge of Alex's keyboard called to him from across the room.
"Yes, thanks--I'll come and have a look." He kissed Sophie briefly and loped over to the stage.
Sophie watched him as he bent over his instrument, sounding keys and adjusting switches. So serious and intent, she thought with an inner smile. This was the Alex Fletcher she'd fallen for. Not the famous pop star, not even the "happy has-been"--the persona he'd worn like armor for more than a decade, but the man underneath it all: a little insecure, a little vulnerable, and more passionate about music than he was comfortable admitting.
Speaking of comfortable, his reunion with the band seemed to have gone pretty well. Of course the acid test would be Colin's arrival. It was odd, she realized suddenly, that none of the other PoP members had so much as mentioned their famous ex-bandmate . . .
Strange and familiar all at once, to be practicing with the band again. To be engaging in the same sort of give and take that had characterized their rehearsals in the past.
"I'm thinking we should at least be able to do better than the Police in '03," Andrew remarked, picking up his guitar again.
"I didn't catch the ceremony on telly that year. What happened?" Nick asked.
"They hadn't played together in about a decade before their induction," the guitarist replied. "It showed."
"Any idea where we fall in the schedule?" Dan inquired, settling in behind his drum kit. "I've heard Black Sabbath's leading it off."
"I think we're playing one of the earlier sets," Alex told him. "After Blondie and before Lynyrd Skynyrd, I believe. We can double-check before the ceremony, see if there's been any change in the queue."
"Are the Sex Pistols really not coming?" This, from Nick.
"Apparently not. They've been quite rude about it on their website, I understand." Alex paused, not wanting to ask the question that had been hovering on his tongue since his arrival. But if they were about to rehearse in earnest, there was no avoiding it. "Anyone heard from Colin yet?"
"I think he's still in the air right about now. Knowing him, he'll probably breeze in with ten minutes to spare, claiming he rehearsed on the plane." Andrew slipped the guitar strap over his head, settled his instrument into place. "He's got a bit lazy about warming up, if you ask me."
"Too much on his plate," Dan theorized. "He's trying to start a new line of clothing, as well as record a new CD and shoot this film."
"You've stayed in touch with him?" Alex tried to sound casual.
Dan and Andrew exchanged a glance. "We're both still in London, so we cross paths with him now and then," the drummer replied. "Not that he has much to say to us when we do."
"Does he ever talk about the break-up?" Nick asked, much to Alex's secret gratitude; he'd have bitten his own tongue in half before asking.
Dan shook his head. "Doesn't mention it. Dodges off. He probably wants to pretend it never happened."
That sounded about par for the course, Alex reflected morosely.
"Anyone know what sort of picture he's making?" Andrew asked.
"It's an action flick," Nick reported. "Called 'Deadly Force' or 'Lethal Danger'--something like that. I read about it in Rolling Stone. Colin's playing a rock star."
"Must be quite a stretch for him," Alex said dryly, adjusting the controls on his Roland.
"The plot's pretty basic. He's traveling with his entourage when his jet gets hijacked by international terrorists."
"Sounds like two hours' worth of shite," Andrew remarked, tuning up his guitar.
Alex cleared his throat pointedly. "Look, chaps, if we don't want our performance tonight to sound like two minutes' worth of shite, I suggest we get down to business."
The edge in his voice surprised him almost as much as it did the others; Andrew recovered first. "Too right. Sorry, mate," he added with what sounded like genuine contrition.
Alex received the apology with a nod, then turned back to his keyboard. "Okay. 'Pop Goes My Heart.' Andrew, would you cover Colin's part of the vocals? Leading in on four--one, two, three . . ."
They paused after three complete run-throughs, cracking open bottles of room-temperature spring water to clear dry throats.
"Well, what do you think--better than the Police?" Alex inquired, before taking a swig from his bottle.
Andrew nodded. "Hard not to be."
"There's one problem, though," Nick demurred; the others turned to look at him. "If we only do 'Pop Goes My Heart,' we'll have the shortest set of the evening. Every other band is doing at least two numbers."
"So you think we should add another song?" Alex asked. "Before or after 'Pop Goes My Heart'?"
"I'd say before," Andrew replied. "Save our signature hit for last. We could start off with a ballad--'Meaningless Kiss' or 'Dance With Me Tonight.'"
"Ah." Alex paused; traditionally, he had sung the lead vocal on both numbers. "You know, Colin might prefer something else," he pointed out. "Something of his."
Andrew shrugged. "You're here. He's not. So, which would you rather do?"
Alex weighed his options, then smiled as a recent memory rose in his mind: of a crowded amusement park and Sophie waving her cell phone aloft as he sang. "'Dance With Me Tonight,' I think. It provides more of a contrast with 'Pop Goes My Heart.'"
"Roger that." Andrew took a last swallow of water. "Let's give it a go, mates."
No doubt his years on the nostalgia circuit had something to do with it, Alex mused, but performing "Dance With Me Tonight" felt as comfortable as slipping into a pair of well-worn trainers. Sophie--deep in conversation with the other rock and roll "wives"--looked up and smiled at him when he played the opening chords. His spirits lifted, and he sang the song for her, doing his best to convey its wistful appeal. To his relief, the other three backed him smoothly, without any serious mistakes. A second run-through would improve the performance, of course, but this was a commendable first try after fifteen years.
He was about to suggest they rehearse one more time, when he heard a commotion in the hall--and a familiar voice rising over the excited babble of fans and paparazzi alike.
The missing member of PoP had finally arrived.