The sound of the smartphone vibrating on the night table near the king-size bed was especially annoying this morning. Surely, whoever dared to call this early will give up and allow her some well deserved rest.
Sighing, Clarke peeled one eye open to reach for the device; whoever it was clearly wasn’t going to quit calling. The blonde woman extended her arm, and once she grasped the phone, she checked the caller ID. She blinked trying to adjust her eyesight to the screen’s sudden brightness and read the name in big letters.
“Shit!” She mumbled, and moving as slowly as possible she slid out of the bed pushing the covers away from her very naked body, trying to avoid disturbing her friend. Well, mostly friend with benefits, Niylah, whom she spent the previous night simply fucking her brains out to release some stress due to the upcoming charity concert. She was thankful Niylah was pretty much available whenever she was in the big apple.
Clarke took the first piece of clothing thrown haphazardly around the luxurious hotel room and put it on, walking into the restroom to answer the call.
“Hey.” Clarke’s voice came out groggy, still filled with sleep. With her backhand she wiped her eyes trying to remove the drowsiness. “Good morning to you too, Kane. Jesus, can you like wait to call me until I’m up? It’s 7am. I don’t have to be in the concert hall until 1.” Clarke leaned into the mirror to check herself out. Her long-disheveled blonde hair was messy, looking more like a bird's nest than actual hair. Her sky blue eyes were clear yet she had some bags under her eyes. Her late-night activities prevented proper hours of rest that she needed for today’s gig, but she was horny and in need of release.
Her pale skin stood in stark contrast to the black tiles in the bathroom. She licked her thin lips, moistening them a bit as she checked to make sure there were no marks on her skin. It was better to avoid explaining to the make-up team why she had hickeys when she was supposed to lay low during work time. Clarke put the phone on speaker and turned on the faucet to wash her face.
“Clarke, I told you to return to your hotel but I was told by the concierge that you never came back! You need to focus!” Marcus’ voice broke with frustration.
The cold water helped Clarke awaken her senses. She closed the tap and grabbed a clean towel to dry her face. “Seriously? Marcus, no matter what I do the press won’t leave me the hell alone. Relax, okay? I uhm, I just needed some time away.”
“Clarke, we’re trying to clean up your wild rock star and party girl image. Since you started this stupid feud with Ontari, your sales are lower than expected. I cannot help you if you don’t help yourself first!” Marcus insisted with logic. The man was definitely the kind of manager who could be strict or flexible at times and has a lot of experience. That’s why Clarke decided to work with him.
She started her career years ago when she was just a hopeful high school kid with big dreams. She began by singing in school events and small coffee shops in her hometown of DC. Clarke really wanted to make her living as a musician. That was her dream. A dream that she hoped to accomplish in memory of her father who passed away when she was 16 from a deadly disease. Jake Griffin always encouraged her to play with her acoustic guitar he gave her and even joined her to play some old songs, so when she graduated high school she was determined to become a musician. Her mother, Abby, wasn’t a big fan of this idea since she would rather see her daughter in a more steady career. But still, she allowed Clarke to head to LA for 3 months and try her luck, maybe with the hopes that her daughter was going to get disillusioned and come back home.
That didn’t happen.
In LA her path crossed with Octavia Blake who worked in a music shop she frequented, and they became friends. Octavia, upon hearing Clarke’s dream, introduced the hopeful blonde to her big brother Bellamy who managed a bar and had some contacts that might help Clarke. The small gigs that he was able to book were enough to gather a very loyal but small audience.
Bellamy began managing Clarke. After several months of sacrifice and hard work, he secured her a gig in a very fancy restaurant where Marcus Kane heard her for the first time.
And the rest as they say, is history.
“Look, I’ll get back okay? No need to get all crazy on me. Just get me some breakfast ready ‘cos I’m hungry.”
“Just come back already, we need to review the concert one more time.” With that, Marcus ended the call.
Clarke quickly brushed her teeth, and fixed her hair in a high bun, walking back into the bedroom she could see that more light was beginning to filter through the peach curtains which made easier for her to find her clothes. Clarke dressed up and she grabbed her purse and dark glasses from the small center table before leaving the room.
Niylah was still in bed deeply asleep as Clarke turned around in the hall. She smiled smugly, knowing how she exhausted the hazel-eyed blonde who was nothing but the perfect warm body for her lonely nights. The musician wrote a quick note on a notepad thanking Niylah for the fun night and left it in a visible place before disappearing completely from the room. She took a deep breath and headed back to her hotel to meet her already pissed manager and get ready for her concert tonight.
The rush of adrenaline hit her right before the concert, how her heart beat strongly against her ribcage, pumping blood through her veins, oxygenating her cells in order to keep her alive. The chants grew as the time to start the opening number approached. She felt ready, excited and pumped to rock the stage as she did every time she had a live show. This time the purpose of her show was to gather funds to offer aid to orphan kids in need through a non-profit organization of her choice.
Clarke Griffin, known as Wanheda in the musical world, was in her dressing room re-touching her eye makeup. The smoky shadows around her eyes gave her a very rocker vibe, combined with pink to soften her look. Her blonde hair with pink streaks was braided partially, combining her soft wavy hair and the braids to keep her hair away from her face while she played her guitar.
Clarke applied a rosy lipstick and checked herself in the mirror once more. Her blue eyes stared at her reflection intently.
A knock on the door brought Clarke back to the present. She turned around and met one of her best friends and sound engineer, Raven Reyes, who lived nearby in her hometown of DC and went to elementary school together.
“Aright Clarke, you’re ready to go. The band members are already in position.”
“Thanks Rae, I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” Clarke fixed her grey top and adjusted her leather pants.
“Good luck, Clarke. Rock the house!” Raven winked and left Clarke to her own devices.
She breathed deeply, closing her eyes and trying to focus on the big show tonight. Usually Clarke requested to be left alone after her makeup team finished with her. This time allowed her to gather herself and concentrate on the upcoming show. Ready to give her heart and soul in her performance. It was one of the few times that she could be with herself.
Since she was discovered by Marcus her life has been in the spotlight, and it had taken some time to get used to it. She was still getting used to being talked about as if she didn’t have any feelings, as if she only existed for the consumption of the fans and media.
It was a very hectic life.
After a couple of breathing exercises and warming up her vocal cords, she walked out of her dressing room. Raven was waiting for her with her guitar in the narrow hall of the backstage. The crowd was getting anxious as they began screaming and cheering, chanting Wanheda, Wanheda, Wanheda!
“Here you go.” Raven helped Clarke strap her guitar. A Gibson SG Standard in Pelham Blue which was her signature guitar.
Marcus Kane, approached Clarke to give her some encouraging words as usual. The bearded man smiled and rested his hand on her shoulder. “Make sure to keep them pumped. After the show don’t forget the meet and greet and then we’re taking you back home. We need to discuss your Infinity Tour, Clarke.”
“Yeah yeah, I know Kane.” Clarke rolled her eyes, already fed up with her manager’s plan to revamp her image.
She knew that this new-relaunch of her image was something Marcus had been working for the past few months. She understood that her feud with Ontari Snow had brought nothing but bad press and exaggerated rumors that went from drug use to bashing hotel rooms along with a long list of people she was apparently dating. It had become madness and it was out of control.
Clarke sometimes was bit wild with her extravagant parties she threw to feel less alone. Add to that the last time she encountered Ontari in a nightclub a couple of months ago where they both insulted and even threw a couple of punches at each other. Beyond that, everything was all mad gossip. However, her label company wasn’t very happy. Of course, the fall-out of all of the negative publicity lead to Ontari’s album crushing her latest album, and they were understandably concerned and pressured Marcus to make some changes.
Marcus wanted to start on the right foot the upcoming tour, renewing not just her image but to launch a new Clarke. A more mature singer attuned to her audience. This was the reason why she shed the red hair of Wanheda last month to combine a soft pink with her natural blonde hair, making it more chic and less intimidating, as Marcus said.
“Stick to schedule, and try to keep your language PG-13, shall we?” With a quick tap on her shoulder Marcus left to continue supervising the show.
“Whatever.” Clarke huffed. She strained her neck and eased her shoulders letting the tension fade away.
“Okay, everyone. Let’s have some fun.” Clarke smiled to her crew and once the announcer called her name the crowd went wild welcoming her to stage with a thunderous applause.
After almost 2 hours of singing her latest hits and favorite songs, Clarke said goodbye to her fans and thanked them for joining her in this special show to help the orphaned kids before she began preparations for her new nationwide tour. Her label and Marcus were gambling on this upcoming tour to be a huge success, and Clarke had to work her ass off to write new material too for her 4th album set to be released next year.
Exhausted but content, Clarke showered briefly and changed into looser clothes - ripped off jeans and a blue long-sleeve shirt. She brushed her hair quickly after losing the braids and applied light-make up to meet her fans.
“Make sure to be polite and avoid cursing. There are younger kids in the M&G, don’t forget it.” Marcus walked with Clarke to the meeting room where a small group of lucky fans had the chance to meet their idol in the post-concert meet and greet.
“I got this, Kane. This ain’t my first rodeo you know?” Clarke smiled confidently and entered the room.
Clarke took the time to have small conversations with the group of fans that won this opportunity to spend some time with her, trying to remember their names and addressing them by it. Clarke tried to make the whole experience worth it for them. It was tiring but this is what she swore she was going to do if she was ever blessed to be a big name in the music industry. To thank her fans by spending some time with them was the least she could do for all the love and support they gave her since she began singing in tiny bars when she was 19. Clarke chuckled at the memories of her very humble beginnings sharing a bit of it with her fans.
After Marcus Kane heard her demo he signed her to Arkadia Music Group where she gained notoriety by becoming the opening act of one of their pop bands, The Dropship. Her huge success and popularity finally gave Clarke the opportunity to go solo and launch her first album which earned her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist the following year. With this, Clarke appeared on the music industry map.
With her no-nonsense fiery red hair, Clarke began conquering the world of music as Wanheda, a name that Marcus thought would be more edgy than simply Clarke Griffin. Many thought the name was actually of a boy so to avoid such confusion Marcus decided to launch a fierce persona who conquered the stage with her attitude and style.
Her second album became a success with the single You’re The One and Abducted. Earning her nominations and some victories in several categories at the AMA’s and Billboard Music Awards two years later.
Clarke launched her third album last year, but the competing label Azgeda Records and Ontari Snow as their top artist, clearly put a brake on Clarke’s career as the sales flopped, worrying her label company. The songwriter/singer even got mocked because some of her songs were a reflection of her personal experiences, particularly during her emo phase after she ended things with her ex-boyfriend.
It had been a rough period for Clarke back then. The infamous parties and gossip about her love life was what fed the paparazzi and not her music. Finn Collins, a young freelance writer, was her boyfriend at the time. Things were really going as well as they could be with someone as young and famous as Clarke. He was sweet and a good guy. But after their relationship was outed to the media, the constant stalking of the press was too much for the bohemian man who simply got tired and asked Clarke to quit her ravaging lifestyle and focus on a more slow-paced life with him, away from the eyes of the press and her fans.
Clarke couldn’t accept his proposal, not because of lack of love, she did care for him, but Finn didn’t believe that she was capable of lasting in the competitive music industry. He simply dismissed her, saying it was not her talent that took her far but her looks, even implying that Clarke used sexual favors to climb up the success ladder.
That hurt Clarke deeply, and even when Finn was remorseful for his attitude and lack of trust, Clarke called it quits. Since then Clarke has shut down any serious candidate and instead enjoys casual relationships whenever she has the time. There was no space for love in a fast life like the one she had. Not even her one night stands were enough to fill the loneliness Clarke felt, but she had to deal with it. That was her sacrifice to make her dream come true.
In summary, Clarke’s life was complicated.
“Thank you Charlotte, I appreciate that you came all the way to see me sing live.” Clarke signed the poster that the young girl handed her. “Did you have fun?”
“Yeah, it was so cool. I really love your songs, though sometimes they make me cry.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Charlotte. I uh, yeah, some of my latest songs aren’t the best in terms of happiness, but I assure you I’ll work to bring back more excitement into my new songs.” She took a couple of pictures with the girl before moving on to the rest of people waiting to greet her.
She smiled for the photos with each and every fan, taking her time to get to know them and signed memorabilia. She also got some gifts and letters from the fans and once they were all happy, she bid them farewell so she could go home.
However, the exit of the stadium got a bit tricky. There were fans waiting at the exit shouting her name, the blast of flashes blinded the blonde who was surrounded by Marcus and some low level security team from the venue.
Clarke wanted to say hello but Marcus kept pushing her forward. Her rabid fanbase tended to get extremely excited, and sometimes people got hurt.
“Thank you for coming!” Clarke waved from inside the van to the girls desperate to catch a glimpse of their idol.
The car departed as fast as possible right to the airport to go back to DC.
“Oh boy, that was insane!” Marcus raked his fingers through his brown medium mane, pretty shocked by the intensity of the fans. “We will need to up your security. That was really dangerous, Clarke.”
“Marcus, I don’t want it. I’d love to interact with as many fans as possible and having a gorilla behind my back might stop them from reaching me.” Clarke leaned back on the headrest and stared through the tinted window. She had no strength to deal with Marcus’s antics tonight.
“You’re extremely popular Clarke. This is not the same as when you had just a couple thousands of fans when you began your career in LA. Now you have millions and your security is vital. Now that you’re going on a nationwide tour, we need professionals, not the basic security detail we have been using so far. The press will be breathing behind your neck because Ontari will be in some cities near you.”
“I don’t care about the press.” Clarke glared at Marcus.
“But the label does, Clarke. If you keep acting recklessly, they will rescind the contract. This new album and upcoming tour has to exceed their expectations. Otherwise your career might be in jeopardy.”
“Do you expect me to be a saint now?” Clarke reclined her back on the leather seat of the van closing her eyes.
“No, but you know that those drinking parties and random hook-ups need to stop. You have fans of all ages, Clarke. You’re a role model to them, and it’s like you don’t even care anymore. Nia Quinn is using Ontari as a tool to undermine your talent and amazing positive work you have been doing. You gotta help me here. I have a plan, but without your cooperation it will fail.”
“Ugh, fine. Tomorrow we can meet to discuss what we are going to do, I’m tired.”
Clarke was so happy to be back in her own apartment in DC. Nothing could beat the softness of her own bed and the privacy of it all. This place was one of the first things she bought when she had her first big check. A place that felt comfortable, that was a safe haven for her to return whenever she was done with touring or press promotions, a place she could call home.
This penthouse was her lair and only her inner circle of friends were allowed to visit. This was as private as she could get too. Outside it was always intense because of the fans following or paparazzi on the hunt of something new to criticize about her.
That is main reason why not even her lovers were welcomed here because this place belonged to Clarke, not to Wanheda, and Clarke intended to keep it that way.
Clarke lifted her head from her comfortable pillow to check her clock on the nightstand.
“What the fuck?” Clarke flopped back on the bed hoping that it was a wrong door, which didn’t make sense since this was the only apartment on this floor.
“Go away!” Clarke mumbled, burying her head inside the covers.
“AAAARGH!” Clarke threw the covers back with resignation. “Seriously?” She sat on the bed hitting the bed like a small child. The clock wasn’t lying. It was still morning. She had agreed to meet with Marcus and her mom later for lunch and to talk about his ideas for the Infinity Tour. Apparently, Marcus had other plans.
“One second!” Clarke shouted to stop the damn doorbell from ringing one more time. She didn’t even bother to put on a robe and walked to the door in her tiny black boyshorts and white cotton tank top since it had to be none other than Marcus. He had seen her in more compromising situations so it was no big deal.
Clarke raked her fingers through her hair to at least look less like shit. “You better be carrying pancakes, Kane!” She opened the door with certain anger to show Marcus she was tired of being interrupted in her sleep.
Except that wasn’t Marcus.
Clarke’s jaw slacked open, her cheeks turning a shade of pink in utter embarrassment. In front of her was a woman standing regally with arms behind her back. She had a lithe figure, slightly taller than her by a couple of inches, dressed in grey slacks, white button up tucked neatly inside and a skinny black tie around her neck, with chestnut long wavy hair slightly braided and plump lips that looked kissable. However, what called the attention of the musician was the exquisite forest green of her eyes mixed with tiny flecks of gold that contrasted beautifully with her tanned olive skin. Deep green eyes scanned her back with curiosity.
Clarke realized she was staring like an idiot, but who could blame her with a hot woman standing in front of her. “Ehm, you’re definitely not Marcus.”
“No, I’m not. I don’t carry pancakes either, but I wouldn’t mind taking you out for breakfast if you were wearing some pants.” Her voice was soft, melodic but firm. Her sinful lips curved into a little cocky smirk.
Clarke chuckled feeling self conscious in her underwear, and her nipples strained a little by the slight breeze flowing in the hall, poking through her very thin white tank top; however, she wasn’t going to hide in embarrassment. Not from this woman whose allure was breathtaking, mysterious in a way yes, but astonishing nonetheless.
“Well, I wouldn't mind hanging out with a pretty girl, but my mom warned me about going out with strangers.” Clarke teased with her trademark grin. At least, Raven told her that whenever she smiled like that her fans ended up wet or with a boner.
Apparently this brunette was immune to her rock star charms.
The mysterious woman cleared her throat before speaking again, composing her facial features, hardening them as if she was a completely different person and not the smooth confident woman she spoke with a minute ago.
“Apologies, I shouldn’t have said that. I’m looking for Ms. Klark Griffin. Mr. Kane sent me to this address, unless I am at the wrong door?”
It was pretty odd how the woman pronounced her name, clicking more strongly the c as if it were a k. Clarke liked it. No one said her name with such uniqueness. Also, that was a first time that she encountered someone who had no idea who she was, since her face tended to appear in most entertainment news and magazines.
“Nope, this is the right place. I’m Clarke.” Clarke extended her arm and the woman shook it politely. Her hand was calloused in certain areas which called Clarke’s attention. “And you are?”
“I’m Lexa Woods, Ms. Griffin.”
Clarke worried her lip. “Umm, you said Marcus sent you here? Why?”
“I’m your new personal security, ma’am.”
Okay, this is not how Clarke expected this meeting to begin.