Calista sank into her steaming tub and let her bones relax. She’d taken her hired car home but still hadn’t been able to escape the wind and snow flurries. Just as she closed her eyes and let her body relax, the shrill ring of her house phone jarred her entire body. Glancing at the clock on her mobile phone she frowned when she saw that it was just after midnight.
At first she decided to ignore it, but it was her house phone. It could be an emergency. After wrapping herself in a towel, she made a beeline for her bedroom phone. On the fourth ring she picked it up. “Hello?” When no on responded she tried again.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
A scratchy electronic sounding voice came over the line. “You’re going to pay for tonight.”
“What? Who is this?”
“Fucking slut. You ignore me for months then make a date with the first Neanderthal you meet in a bar.”
“Ignore you, what…”
“You will pay for this.”
A click resounded in her ear. She stared at the silent phone in her hand and started shaking. She ran back to the bathroom and pulled the plug in the tub. There was no way she could relax now. Next she went to the front door to ensure the dead bolt was in place and set her alarm to stay mode. She started to dial Robert then thought better of it. The call could just be a weird crank and there was no need to worry him needlessly, especially when there wasn’t anything he could do about it from New York. She was used to the occasional weird fan, although it was disturbing that someone had her home number. It was even more disturbing that he knew she’d made a date. How was that even possible? Shivering, she pulled her towel tighter around herself, even though the chill racing through her veins had nothing to do from the cold. Connor would be in town tomorrow, and she’d let him know what was going on. If he thought it was serious then she’d call Robert.
Calista opened her eyes and sighed. Streams of sunlight flowed into her room, covering her entire bed. It was impossible to ignore the heat on her face, urging her to get up. Tucked nicely under her new comforter, it was tempting to stay there all day. The tiny voice in her head telling her she had to work was the only thing that forced her to move.
Through bleary eyes, she struggled to read the clock on her nightstand. “Crap,” she said to her empty room.
She was late. Of course it would be her first day too. The phone rang and her entire body bowed. She was tempted to ignore it, but if it was Robert and she ignored him, he’d probably call in the National Guard. She lifted the phone from its cradle and before she could mutter a simple “hello” Robert was shouting in her ear.
“Where are you?”
“Can you please lower your voice, I just woke up.”
Holding the phone away from her ear, she pushed the covers off and stumbled from the bed.
It did no good. He continued his tirade. “You were supposed to be at the studio over an hour ago. Roy was worried so he called me.”
“Why didn’t he just call me?” She was a big girl. It’s not like Roy had to call her manager and rat her out.
“I have no idea.” Robert paused just long enough that she knew he was lying.
“I didn’t sleep well. I must have shut off my alarm without realizing it.”
She stumbled into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee. When the strong aroma hit her nostrils she smiled in relief. “What’s the big deal? We’re ahead of schedule on the new album. I can’t imagine Roy getting upset because I’m a little late.”
Roy was a sound technician at the studio she owned in Charlotte. He was in his mid-fifties and barely a few inches taller than Calista. He was slightly balding at the temples and a little rotund, but he was one of the most content people she had ever met. He never got upset about anything. Roy was married to his high school sweetheart, the love of his life, and when he wasn’t talking about music he was talking about her.
Robert sighed. “He’s not upset. He and some of the guys are working on some new sound mixes. I just freaked out when he called me. Its weird not being able to protect you I guess.”
“We’ve been over this a million times, I don’t need protecting. Although…” her voice trailed off as she tried to figure out how much she should tell him about last night’s phone call.
“What is it?”
“Nothing, I just received a really strange phone call a little after midnight. It took me forever to get to sleep.” She inwardly shuddered at the memory of the creepy electronic voice.
“What did the person say?”
“Whoever it was disguised their voice with some kind of adapter.” Calista quickly relayed the call and braced herself for Robert’s reaction.
“That’s it. I’m not leaving you alone. I’m flying down there right now.”
“Robert, there’s no need. Connor’s coming in for the weekend and he’ll be here in a few hours. I’ll be fine until then.”
“Cal, I haven’t been exactly straight with you lately.”
Calista sat down at her kitchen table, coffee cup in hand. “What are you talking about? You’ve always been honest with me about everything.”
He sighed and Calista could visualize him running a hand through his perfect blonde hair as he often did when stressed out. “Not always. For starters, the reason Roy didn’t call you first was because I’ve given him strict orders to call me if anything out of the ordinary happens.”
“Why would you do that?”
Robert took a deep breath and she prepared herself for the worst. For the next twenty minutes Calista was silent as Robert filled her in on the continuous letters she had been receiving for the past few months. It took a few moments for her to digest everything. To say the least it was shocking, but it did explain Robert’s recently acquired weird behavior and her extra security.
“Why didn’t you tell me any of this?”
“I didn’t want to worry you. I thought it might affect your decision to finally settle down. You’ve been looking forward to taking this break for a while. I didn’t want anything to disrupt your plans.”
“You still should have told me, Robert. I pay attention to my surroundings, but I could have been a lot more aware of things.”
“I know. I wanted to see how bad things were first before worrying you needlessly. I gave the letters to Dane Leven to have analyzed—”
“What?” She gripped her coffee cup so hard a little sloshed over the side.
Her blood boiled and she reined in the curses on the tip of her tongue. Dane? She didn’t want him involved in any part of her life.
“Cal, I had to do something and I didn’t know who else to turn to. I’d just received the last letter right before your injury in Melbourne. When we arrived in Maryland, I took a chance and talked to him. He had the letters analyzed. They didn’t find any physical evidence, but they are currently developing a profile.”
“His security company, but I think he used his resources at the CIA to study the letters.”
That gave her a moment’s pause. According to Connor, Dane had just started his company. “When did you give him all this information?”
“When Connor was in the hospital.” When she didn’t say anything he persisted. “Forgive me?”
She sighed. “There’s nothing to forgive. You’re my manager and more importantly my friend. I know you were just looking out for me. I wish you would have told me all this sooner.” As an afterthought she added, “I just don’t know why you had to involve that jerk. You know how I feel about him. I’d feel a little better if you tried to find someone else.”
“Sorry baby, he was our only option, and you know he’s the best. I’m going to call a car to pick you up so you’re not alone for the rest of the day. I know you value your independence but this is no time to act like a diva. Promise you’ll call me when you get back from recording.”
“Fine, I promise. Connor will be here by this evening so you won’t have anything to worry about. Is there anything else you need to tell me?”
Robert paused for a millisecond too long before he said, “No.”
She raked a hand through her rumpled hair and sighed. “I’ll call you after I’m done recording.”
Three hours later Calista took off her headphones and placed them on the hook above her head in frustration. She sounded awful and she knew it. The new song she was working on was slow and seductive and she couldn’t seem to hit any of the correct keys. Not to mention her timing sucked.
“I’m sorry guys.” She looked at Roy and the two other sound technicians through the clear glass divide and threw her hands up in the air in a sign of mock surrender.
“I just can’t seem to concentrate today. Do you mind if we call it a day?”
Roy hit the speaker button and smiled. “No problem, honey. Robert filled us in a little about what’s going on. Go home and rest. It’ll do you some good to clear out your mind. We’ll pick up on Monday.”
She shook her head and smile. “You’re just happy you get a day off to spend with your wife.”
“You know it.” He grinned right back and winked.
Calista grabbed her purse, buttoned up her navy blue pea coat, and slipped on her gloves before she faced the cold again.
“Wait.” Roy’s voice interrupted her quick getaway. She was almost to the exit when he stopped her.
“Is everything all right?”
“Yeah, I just have to walk you to the car.”
She looked at him with what she knew was annoyance.
He shrugged. “Robert’s orders.”
The drive back to her place was short. Under normal circumstances she could have walked back, but knew Robert would flip if he found out. Besides, it was too cold to be outside anyway.
The driver escorted her to the lobby, but didn’t follow her to the elevators. Calista waved to the security guard on her way up feeling slightly more secure about her supposed stalker. She glanced at her watch and realized she would need to start getting ready for her date soon.