EXCERPT: Chase The Dream by BB Miller & Leslie Carson
“Stop slouching, Cameron.” Three words from my mother guaranteed to make my thirty-seven-year-old self feel like an awkward teenager again. “All those years hunched over your guitar haven’t done a thing for your posture.”
“Lovely to see you too, Mother.” I lean in for the obligatory kiss to both of my cheeks, which are clean shaven as requested in the formal email sent from her assistant earlier in the week. The familiar scent of Chanel swirls around me as she leans back with a scrutinizing gaze, looking for flaws.
“You always did look so handsome in a suit,” she murmurs in a rare compliment. Apparently, I pass inspection. “This isn’t the Armani I sent over, is it?” She purses her distorted lips in disapproval. The collagen and countless face-lifts have been putting up the good fight. Not a single wrinkle on her sixty-year-old face. She’s dripping in diamonds and vintage Versace, and with her hair perfectly styled and sprayed to within an inch of its dyed blond life, she still manages to command the room. The poster model for the billionaire’s wife.
The crowd at the Chapman Center for the Arts buzzes around her, all sharks in the water, quietly waiting for their turn to take a bite. A few minutes with Victoria Chapman, the reigning queen of Boston’s elite first, and my mother second, can rocket you to exclusive status. You can almost smell the desperation on the high-society wannabes lingering around the fringes.
Cameras flash around us, although this time in a welcome change, they aren’t for me. The Thanksgiving concert is the elite event of the year in Boston, produced by my parents in support of the arts center, one of the many charities that benefit from my family’s influence and power. Hell, the building is named after them. Even if this is a massive publicity stunt, it’s for a good cause. It may be the only thing that actually doesn’t turn my stomach about being dragged here.
The money raised tonight and throughout the year supports the arts center that provides opportunities for talented musicians who otherwise wouldn’t be available. Everything from programs like the one my band, Redfall, played in Sydney that offers chances for child prodigies to train with symphonies around the globe, to an all-day private high school focused on the arts and a fully funded day care for the musicians who are part of the symphony. I know how much time and dedication it takes to play at this level. It also takes money—something these musicians don’t have. The symphony only operates for half the year, and the musicians all need to supplement their income in the off season.
“I stopped wearing the clothes you picked out for me when I was sixteen.” She shakes her head slightly before flattening her hand down the lapel of my dark blue suit jacket. “And it’s Tom Ford,” I add just to rub it in.
She takes a step back as if standing too close to her son is a crime. “How many times do we have to have this conversation? Armani cuts a better suit.”
“In your opinion.”
“My opinion is the only one that matters, dear.” She sounds conceited, but she’s not wrong. My mother is practically worshipped in the Boston social scene. She’s a staple on every charity committee and endowment fund. She speaks at highly publicized events where she preaches about the importance of giving back to the community. When Victoria Chapman talks, people listen.
She links her arm around mine and turns to flash her practiced smile for the cameras before gliding us through the lobby. The masses part for her as if she’s some holy relic to be revered. “There’s someone I want you to meet.”
I frown, glancing down at her. “I do just fine getting my own dates, thank you.”
“Yes. We know.” She flashes me a warning glare before her public mask snaps back into place. “Darcy Hamilton.” I barely manage to bite back a groan. “Recently single,” she continues loud enough for me to hear as we merge into the line for the theater. She nods and gives a finger wave to a few people along the way. “She was dating Benjamin Knight, you know? Of the athletic company? Shoes, apparel.”
“I’m familiar,” I murmur. “Isn’t he worth a few billion?” Sometimes, it’s fun to annoy her. She scoffs, taking a program from one of the ushers standing outside our private box seats.
“Please.” She leans closer, her voice dropping lower. “He had a gambling problem. Lost half their earnings in one night. It was quite the scandal. I’m surprised you didn’t hear about it.”
Shaking my head, I lead her to our spot above the mezzanine. Only the best box seats for the Chapmans. All the little unworthy peons scatter below us just where my mother wants them. She’s high above where she can reign supreme. “I’ve been a little busy.”
She pats my chest. “It’s cute that your hobby can keep you entertained. While you’ve been gallivanting from city to city in your little band, your father has been working himself nearly to death.” Anger has my jaw tightening. If my mother had her way, I’d be chained to a desk beside dear old Dad and my brothers. Another heart attack waiting to happen. The fact that I’ve worked my ass off establishing Redfall and doing something I love doesn’t even enter her mind. I’ve disappointed her and the family name, and that’s a crime for which no amount of penance is ever going to be enough.