Brian stepped closer so that he was facing her and put his hands on her shoulders. “No. It is a big deal. It was your day off, and while you could have just sent Baylee and me here and gone on with the rest of your day, you gave up the day you had to spend with your baby and spent it taking care of me and my baby instead. I don’t know how I could ever repay you for that.”
Annie’s mouth twitched and she looked at him expectantly. “Well....” she said “There is maybe one thing you could do....”
“Anything. Just name it.”
She reached into her pocket and pulled out her Blackberry. “Take a picture with me?”
Brian chuckled. “You know, for a minute there, I almost forgot you were a fan. Do you want my autograph, too?”
“Nah. I’ve already got it on the fifty pieces of paper you signed giving us permission to treat your son. Don’t worry though, I’ll crop out all the personal information before I frame it and sell it on Ebay.” She gave him a wink.
“While I’m pretty sure you’re joking, there was a nurse who ended up getting fired from the hospital after Leighanne gave birth because of something similar...”
Annie shook her head in disbelief. “I just don’t understand people sometimes. So, I need you to stand really close to me, lean your head up against mine, and look like you’re madly in love with me.”
Brian laughed. “How about I just say ‘cheese’?”
She pouted. “I guess that works, too.” He took the phone from her and put an arm around her waist, then held his other arm out in front of them and aimed the camera. “Cheese!” They both whispered, trying not to wake Baylee.
He handed the Blackberry back to her. “What do you think?”
“Well, that’s no good.” She took one look at it, clicked the rollerball, and deleted it.
“What did you do that for?” Brian asked shrilly. “I thought that was a good picture of us!”
“It was, but it looked too much like we were in a hospital.”
“We are in a hospital.”
“I know, but I can’t go tweeting a picture of you in a hospital, can I?”
“You have a Twitter?”
“Yep. You’re looking at one of your one hundred thousand followers.”
“It’s a hundred and seventy-five thousand, actually. I mean, uh...”
Annie pretended to ignore him. “Let’s go stand by that wall over there.” Brian followed her and they posed again. “Perfect. That beige wall could be anywhere.” She smiled as she examined the screen. “You don’t mind if I tweet this do you?”
“No, not at all. Actually, tag me so I can track you down later.”
Annie let out a little squeal. “My friend Beth’s gonna flip! Of course, she’d like it more if it was AJ....”
Brian stuck out his tongue at her and they laughed. “Tell you what, I’ll hook her up sometime. Although, I’m not sure when we’ll be touring the US again...”
“I’ll hold you to it.”
He cleared his throat and straightened his posture, then took a step closer to her. “So, um....Back at the church, before Drew tried to eat a wooly worm and Baylee went sailing over the stair railing and broke his arm, I was hoping to talk to you about something.”
“Okay. What?” Annie tucked her cell phone back into her pocket and gave him her undivided attention.
“So, you know how I asked you if you’d ever considered singing professionally?”
“Well, I have a studio in my basement, and now that we’re on a break from touring, I’ve been working on a second Christian album.”
“I wondered if you were ever going to do that. Welcome Home was just amazing,” she raved.
“I’m glad you liked it. A second one’s way overdue. But anyway, I’m also doing a little producing for Altar Records, and I think I would be doing them a disservice if I didn’t at least try to recruit you.”
Annie gasped and backed away from him a little with wide eyes. “Brian, while I’m flattered, you’re about ten or fifteen years too late. I have a job. I have responsibilities. I have Drew to think about.”
“I know that, but one of the great things about Christian music is that you don’t have to tour and make music videos all the time to be successful. Get played on K-Love and sell the rights to your songs to Daywind so they can make performance tracks like the one you sang ‘Over my Head’ with today, and you’re pretty much set. Maybe you make a lot of money, maybe you don’t, but God gave you a gift, Annie, and your voice could reach so many more people outside of your little church in this little town. I’m not saying you have to quit your job or give up your time with Drew. I’m just saying you’ve got an opportunity here, and I think you should take it.”
“Brian....” Annie paced back and forth, fidgeting with her hands. “You may think I’m good enough for something like that, but who’s to say anyone else does?”
“Trust me, Annie. Anyone who thinks you’re not good enough for a record deal, even one with a secular record company, is going to be in the minority.”
Annie stopped pacing and sighed. This was the stuff dreams were made of. It was exactly the kind of scenario she’d imagined and daydreamed about as a teenager singing solos with the church choir. But things were just so different now. She’d been through so much in her 29 years, and she’d finally found normalcy. She wasn’t about to mess up the life she’d made for herself. “I’m sorry, Brian, but I’m going to have to turn you down on this one.”
His shoulders dropped. “Really?”
“Hmmm....” He stood there for a minute in deep thought before the proverbial lightbulb above his head turned on. “I think I have the perfect solution for you!”
“Oh, really?” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Just hear me out for a minute.”
“There’s a track I’m doing for my own album that would sound great as a duet with a female voice. It would only take a day or two, tops. Come down to Atlanta and just give it a try. I’m sure Baylee would love to see Drew again, and you could at least see what it’s like. Maybe you’ll change your mind, and if you don’t, well, I’m only out the cost of a plane ticket and end up with an awesome voice joining me on my song. Of course, you’ll get half the royalties from the song. Heck, maybe I’ll even give you all of them.”
“Brian, I don’t think...”
He placed a hand on one of her crossed arms. “I’m not letting you say no, yet. At least consider it. I’ll be here for a few days, so you can let me know what your decision is before we leave town. Go home and talk it over with your husband.”
“My husband.” Annie glanced down at her left hand and the thin platinum band on her ring finger glinted in the harsh fluorescent light. “You know Brian, I think I’ll do that.”