Sunday, February 5, 2017

Valentine #5 - Graham Baxter, my ultimate White Knight

What is the name of today's Valentine?

Graham Baxter

How old is he when we meet him?

He's in his 40s.

What stands out most about him?

He's a major music mogul, powerful and affluent.

Nice guy or douche?

He's one of my nice guys, but man does he have his moments. Going forward... he's definitely one of the wounded douches that my readers seem to love.

Favorite moment with him?

Many of my favorite moments include spoilers, so I can't use those. Instead, I'll take it back to the beginning with him as well. When I first wrote this scene, I had NO idea that Graham was going to be such a key player in my universe. Andy and Vanni were in Las Vegas, where she was working with the band. She wanted him. He wanted her. But he was there with his then girlfriend Lourdes. Vanni tried to convince Andy it wasn't what it seemed, but it was a major thing keeping them apart, because duh. Anyway so my poor Andy was all by herself during one of the parties and I decided SHE needed someone to come along and pick HER first. Andy Foster is no sad sack, following the Great Vanni Carnevale around like a puppy. She was amazing and deserved to be recognized for it. So I wrote in this temporary character, someone completely situational, who would give her a boost to her ego because she needed it. Well, Graham Baxter decided to set up camp to stay and changed the whole story around on its ear. In fact, he was the one who rewrote the original ending for Groupie.

My love for him knows absolutely no bounds.

I quietly exited the balcony area after they left the stage, heading back downstairs to the club that hosted the huge after-party celebrating the first night of the concert series. At first I didn’t see any of the guys, and I felt a little awkward standing there by myself looking like a lost rabbit.

“I hate these things,” I heard a male voice say from behind. I turned to see the manager I sat next to during the first couple of acts. His name was Graham something-or-another, and he had flown in from L.A. to support the opening act.

We had only shared insignificant small talk during the concert, but he was a familiar face at least. “Me too,” I said. “Someone needs to tell famous people not everything is cause for celebration.”

He laughed and then looked down at the empty glass in my hand. “Can I get you another?”

“Sure,” I said, and followed him over to the bar.

He ordered my drink and then turned to me. “Andrea, right?”

“Andy,” I corrected. “And you’re Graham…?”

“Baxter,” he supplied in good humor, then handed me my drink. “So do you work at a firm in Los Angeles?”

I shook my head. “I’m actually just a writer from Nashville, doing a favor for a friend.”

He laughed. “I guess that’s not so bad then. You can come out here, have fun, then go back to the real world on Monday.”

I smiled. “That’s the idea.”

“In that case,” he said as he put his glass on the bar, “Allow me to contribute slightly to the debauchery. Dance with me.”

I started to shake my head but out of the corner of my eye I saw Vanni walk into the room with Lourdes on his arm. I swallowed down the handful of rocks that had mysteriously appeared in my throat, smiled at Graham and said, “Sure.”

He walked me to the center of the floor, and of course the minute we get out there one of DIB’s more suggestive tunes played overhead. Graham rested his arm around my waist and casually pulled me close. “They’re really good,” he said near my ear, referring to the band. “It kills me Jasper Carrington got to them first.”

“Timing is everything,” I remarked as I tried not to look at Vanni, where he stood now with Lourdes at the bar.

“If they ever want a change in management, give them my number,” he said.

I chuckled. “I will.”

He looked down at me with a devilish grin. “And you can have it too. You know, in case things get too boring in Nashville.”

I laughed. He had to be at least forty-five years old, with short, dark hair and a touch of silver at the temples. But he had the warmest brown eyes I had ever seen and a nice smile. There were worse ways to spend an evening in Las Vegas than flirting with a harmless stranger.

I glanced back over at the bar only to spy Vanni and Lourdes dancing close in the corner. This caused me to grip Graham’s shoulders a little tighter, which he seemed to take as a green light to pull me even closer.

The beat of the song was sensual and intense, like a quickening heartbeat. “Say my name,” Vanni crooned from every speaker overhead. “I’ve got what you’ve been waiting for.” I closed my eyes and allowed Graham to swing me around the floor with some fancier footwork. I followed where he guided, surprised my feet even knew what to do to keep up. It didn’t take long for me to realize some other dancers had moved out of our way to watch us dance.

Some of the other guys in the band had come into the club and set up a table in the back with Jasper, who had now arrived. Felix watched me curiously as my dance partner led me into a sexier move in time to the beat. As the song ended Graham dipped me backward with a playful grin and I giggled in spite of myself.

We walked back to the bar. “Not bad for a guy who hates these things.”

“Necessary evil,” he informed. “Besides, my wife insisted we take dance lessons for our wedding.”

I glanced down at his hand. I hadn’t noticed a ring. “You’re married?”

“Occasionally,” he responded in good humor. “It’s an expensive hobby, I’m afraid.”

He perched on the barstool next to mine. “How about you, Andy? Anyone special waiting for you in Nashville?”

I nodded. “His name is Simon.” Graham’s grin faltered just a tad. So I went on. “He’s extremely jealous. And a cover hog. And can unravel a roll of toilet paper in ten seconds flat.”

His eyebrow rose, then together we said, “He’s a cat.” He laughed and then leaned closer to me. “So it wouldn’t be extremely inappropriate then if I gave you my phone number?”

“I suppose not,” I said with a slight blush. “After all that’s information I need if the band ever decides to make a change in management, right?”

He glanced over to where Jasper sat with the band, along with Vanni and Lourdes. Then he looked back with a serious expression. “It may be in poor taste and completely self-serving for me to say so, but I hope that they do. Jasper knows how to make people but he also knows how to break them, too. It can be a toxic environment. He’s going to offer the sun and the moon but God help the person who crosses him. And sometimes that just means standing up for yourself or your principles.”

I looked back at their table. Graham’s warning echoed what Vanni had said back in Brooklyn. His life was not his own, and he felt powerless to change it. Graham dug a card out of his coat pocket, pausing only briefly to write something on the back.

He slipped the card across the bar toward me. I reached for it and he placed his hand on mine. “That warning goes for you too,” he added. “In case you need it.”

His eyes were kind and sincere. Almost fatherly. “Thanks,” I said.

He motioned for the check. “And on that note, I think it’s time I return to the normal, quiet world of my hotel room.” He took my hand in his and brought it to his lips. “But thank you for a lovely dance, Andy from Nashville.”

He graciously paid for both of our tabs, and my eyes lingered after him as he departed. He stopped only momentarily at DIB’s table to say congratulations to the band and to Jasper, who didn’t seem all that pleased to see him. I used the distraction to look down at the business card. My eyes widened when I caught the name of his company. This wasn’t some mid-tier manager. This was Graham Baxter of Baxter Mega-Worldwide Media Corporation… the only record label in the country that could stand toe to toe with Jasper Carrington.

More curious I flipped the card over. The message he had written: Room #1225.

It was a gentlemanly way of orchestrating a booty call, I supposed. But I put the card in my purse anyway. I had no intention of going to his room, but the business information might come in handy someday.

What do you love about him?

This is a solid, solid man. He knows what he wants. He knows how to get it without hurting anyone. He knows how to make things happen. He's kind. He's respectful. He's a grown-up. While Vanni was all fireworks and goosebumps, Graham was as steady as a rock. He provides foundation and security. And if you're the lucky woman who can recognize it, he will give you the whole fucking world.

What do you hate about him?

Because he's a powerful man, he doesn't like it AT all whenever he's not in control. (I relate to this SO much.) He becomes the worst part of himself, and I had to break him down quite a bit, particularly in Rock Star - where I put both him and Vanni through the ringer. He was so fixated on what HE wanted that he became manipulative and quite unkind. It wasn't pretty. And due to events that happened in Masked in the Music/Full-Figured Floozies, it's only going to get MUCH worse from here.

If you went on a date, where would you go?

Los Angeles is Graham's town and he rules over it like a king. We'd likely end up at one of his favorite restaurants or perhaps some red carpet movie/music events, where he'd introduce me to all of the beautiful people who sit atop the charts or rule the box office.

Who inspired him?

My pat answer to this has always been my husband, Steven. Steven's that steady guy, the good guy, the rock. He's the one who took one look at me when I looked like this

... and saw something of value. To me, these are the sexiest guys. When he was with me, he didn't see what other guys saw. He saw my talent, my brain, my sense of humor. Whereas far too many men find those qualities the *bonus* on top of sexual attraction, those things WERE what attracted him. He always treated me like a queen. I was floored when, on our first date, he kissed me - deeply - for the rest of a crowded restaurant to see. By then I was pretty beat up by the world, believing the lie that if I didn't lose the weight or make myself perfect like all the magazine covers said I should, I'd never be worthy of love. I was on the outside looking in to the world around me, even in my most intimate relationships. I was still that fat girl who was good enough to romance on the down low, but nothing you'd ever show the world you'd chosen. But Steven never cared what other people thought. He found me sexy and decided to show me. It was revolutionary. He's the kind of guy that, when we go to events with other women, he will go out of his way to make sure THEY feel special too. One memorable moment was when we went to Hal's Charmageddon party and he was the lone guy at a table with mostly single women, and made sure to buy each one of them a rose so they wouldn't feel left out. Like Graham, he is the ultimate White Knight.

But now I kinda see that Graham was *me* in a lot of ways in that story. Due to the personal nature of the events that inspired Groupie, I was also the lone woman out much of the time, the steady rock people could depend on, but one ultimately discarded because there was no fireworks and goosebumps.

Quite an epiphany for a Sunday morning. O_O I guess this is why I'm not done with Graham yet...

Who might play him in a movie?

Like Vanni, I cast this guy from the start, too. With another member of my elite Laminated List...

Do you have a special song that reminds you of him?

Oddly enough, I don't. Will have to think on this one...

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

Apparently a big one, considering the epiphany above!

Where can we find him?

Where CAN'T you find my beloved Graham? You first meet Graham in GROUPIE. His story, however, really picks up in ROCK STAR, which is FREE today only. I try to give him some closure at least with MOGUL. But he's a major player in SO many of my books, my ultimate White Knight who comes in right when my characters need him to work his magic.


It is in Full-Figured Floozies, in fact, that Graham's perfect world comes crashing down (again.) My favorite guy will soon need a White Knight himself, which means another book with Graham, with Andy, with Vanni...

Like in almost every single one of my books, there's so much more story beyond the HEA, including a MAJOR war between Graham and his nemesis Jasper Carrington.

It's gonna be so good, you guys. And it's coming by 2018.

(But don't worry, there's PLENTY to read in the meantime...)

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