It Must Be Your Love (The Sullivans #11)


by Bella Andre

Chapter One

The music was still ringing in his ears as Ford Vincent headed through the winding halls at the back of the stadium he’d just played in Tempe, Arizona. Nearly seventy-five thousand people had been in the audience tonight and he’d given everything he had to them. And now, like every night on the road, dozens of women were waiting for him just outside the back door yelling, “I love you, Ford!” and “I’ll do anything to be with you tonight!”

Despite his security staff doing their best to keep things from getting out of control, at least five women pressed up against any part of his body they could reach as soon as he stepped out of the building. It would be easiest to keep his head down and push through the crowd, but disrespecting his fans had never sat well with Ford. Even if they often went over the line of his personal space.

This was what he’d always wanted, he reminded himself as he started signing autographs. For people to love him. For people to appreciate him. And he’d succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

So then why did it all feel so hollow?

Ford was nearly through the crowd when a fresh wave of women saw him from around the corner of the parking lot. He signaled to his security staff to clear the way for him and at long last got onto his bus.

Natasha Lawrence was sitting in the dining booth with her computer open. Looking up, she said, “Pretty rowdy bunch out there tonight, aren’t they? Go take your shower and then I’ve got a couple of things I’d like to show you.”

She was one of the most respected documentary filmmakers in the business, and after the past couple of months working with her, Ford not only appreciated her skill and talent, but also her utter faithfulness to her husband and family. After what he’d seen and experienced during more than a decade of touring, he’d come to believe that kind of devotion was very, very rare. The only man he’d ever seen her light up for was her husband. After years as a sex symbol, he relished being around a woman who wasn’t even the slightest bit inclined to whip off her bra and throw it at him.

A minute later, he let out a breath of relief as he stood under the hot spray. His post-show shower was his only real must-have when he came off stage. Other rockers needed women, drugs, booze, and their entourage. He could have any one of these women tonight with nothing more than a snap of his fingers in her direction. But the morning-after aches and pains, fogged-up mind, and ass-kissing “friends” had stopped being any fun long before he hit thirty. Not to mention that waking up next to a stranger got old really quick.

Especially when he always, inevitably, compared those women to the only one he’d ever truly enjoyed waking up with...

He rinsed the shampoo and soap from his hair and body, then let the warm water run over him for a few more seconds before turning off the shower. After shaking the water out of his hair, he opened the door and reached for a towel hanging from a metal rack in the small tiled space. After quickly drying off, he yanked on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.

“We got some great film tonight,” Natasha told him as he slid into the booth and she clicked Play on one of the windows on her computer screen. “Really colorful crowd, and,” she added with a grin, “the music didn’t suck, either.”

“Arizona is always good,” he agreed.

But despite the enthusiasm of the crowd and his great band backing him up, Ford knew it hadn’t been his best show. Where the magic used to be there all the time just by stepping onto a stage, now he had to work harder and harder every night to light off those sparks. Some nights, like tonight, he left the stage feeling like he hadn’t quite earned the encores.

Natasha slid a couple bottles of water over to him just as the bus started moving, and he downed one in a long swig to replace the sweat he’d lost tearing across the stage with his guitar and microphone during the three-hour show. She would be filming his next stadium show in Albuquerque, New Mexico the following night, and given that it usually took Ford a couple of hours to come down from a performance, it made sense for them to get in some work on the film, even if it meant midnight meetings like this one.

“As you know, I’ve been collecting video clips from the earlier stages of your career taken by news cameras and people’s personal devices.” She shut down the video window with tonight’s show playing and opened a new one that had obviously been filmed with a far less high-end camera. “While the quality of some of these clips isn’t spectacular, a few of them are powerful enough that I can easily make quick cuts in and out of them without the overall quality of the film being affected.”

Initially, Ford hadn’t been interested in a film made about him. Not just because he still sometimes felt like a kid playing in the sandbox of the rock-and-roll playground with Jagger and Bowie having earned their places on the swings—but also because he had no interest whatsoever in strangers digging into his past. Only when Natasha had made it clear that she was only interested in his music, and the powerful way it affected people around the world, did he consent to allow her to begin filming his tour. Of course, he also had final approval over anything that went into the film. So far, he’d been nothing but impressed with what Natasha had shown him—not only clips from his shows and interviews with his band members and recording engineers, but also interesting discussions with music therapists who used his music to help heal their patients.

“This recording is from five years ago. You were playing a small club in Seattle as a preview for your first major label release, so there were plenty of cameras filming the gig. I found some better quality clips, but I thought this was one of the most interesting, and I’d like to know what you think of it.”

Five years ago?

Seattle?

Ford’s grip tightened on the new water bottle he’d been about to open as she clicked Play.

Holy hell, there she was.

The cameraman had zoomed in on Ford walking out on stage to play his first song before panning back from the stage to an audience that was going crazy. His fans danced, sang along, and hollered out praise, but one woman stood out from among all of them.

In her little silver dress, with blond hair falling over her shoulders and an expression of pure sensual pleasure on her face as she let his music wash over her, the cameraman clearly couldn’t pull his lens away from the woman.

Ford hadn’t been able to drag his gaze away from her, either. When the camera zoomed out to frame both Ford and the crowd, the moment when he and Mia Sullivan first looked into each other’s eyes for the first time was caught on film.

And it was utterly electric.

Everything came back to him in such a rush—the amazement that a woman could be that beautiful, the shock that someone could allow a stranger to see so much honest emotion in her eyes, the way every inch of her silky hair, soft skin, and luscious curves was pure sensuality—that Ford nearly reached for the computer screen. Only the belated realization that Natasha was carefully watching him held him back.

“You were amazing that night, Ford.”

Natasha was right. That night in Seattle had been one of the best shows he’d ever played. Because for the first time ever, he’d played for more than just himself and a crowd of strangers.

He’d played for Mia.

Natasha paused playback, and before he could get his brain to work to tell her to stop, she opened another small window to the right of her screen. “I also wanted you to check out this backstage clip.”

Every muscle in Ford’s body was tense now as she clicked Play again and he guessed correctly at what he was about to see: Mia being brought backstage. From that first glimpse of her in the audience, Ford had been desperate to meet her, to touch her...to claim her as his.

If the sparks between them had been hot when he’d been on stage and she’d been in the audience, flames nearly shot from the screen as they approached each other in the windowless backstage room where he had been about to do his post-show meet-and-greet with the press.

As Ford took Mia’s hand in his in the video, Natasha paused it. “Do you remember her?”

Though they’d only had one week together, Ford hadn’t been able to stop himself from periodically checking online to see if Mia was in a serious relationship. Again and again over the years, he continued to torture himself like this, even though every time he saw a picture of her with some other guy, his heart would stop, just like it had tonight. To try to recover, he’d drink more, party harder, spend even more hours in the studio and on the road to try to forget her.

But he never could.

Because Mia Sullivan was unforgettable.

“Since this documentary is about my music and not my private life, I don’t see why it matters.”

Unlike most people, who only wanted to know how high to go when he said Jump, Natasha didn’t back off at his clear message to do just that. And even though he hadn’t yet confirmed that he remembered Mia, Natasha asked, “Have you kept in touch with her?”

“No.” The one short word from his lips was little more than an irritated growl.

Unable to remain sitting in the booth anymore, he got to his feet. Ford had never played the rock star card with Natasha before, but seeing Mia on screen so unexpectedly made every inch of him, inside and out, feel raw.

“Why the hell do you want to know this?”

“I’ve spent the past couple of months practically living in your back pocket, Ford. You’re great with your crew and fans, and I meant it when I said my intention with this film is to capture your music. Where it comes from. How it affects people. But there’s no way I could do any of that—or do it well—without learning, and showing, what’s made you who you are and why you write these songs. And I’m afraid that somewhere along the way, I’ve started to like you,” she said with a small smile. “Quite a bit more than I thought I’d ever like a rock star who has the entire world at his feet.” Natasha looked back at the screen that captured two of the most important moments of his life. “I’ve never seen this woman before. I’ve never heard you talk about her. But as soon as I saw these clips, my gut told me that she was vitally important. I’ve learned the hard way over the years to always listen to my gut—even,” she added with a slightly apologetic look, “when I know it’s going to piss off the subject of my film-in-progress.”

She slid off her reading glasses and looked at him in the way he’d always thought a sister or mother who cared about him might have if he’d been lucky enough to have either of those in his life. “I promise you, when I’m asking you about this woman, this isn’t about my film anymore. This is me talking to you as your friend.”

The shade was up on the long window behind the built-in table, and as they went a steady sixty-five miles an hour on the freeway at midnight, all Ford could see was a blur of taillights, lit-up billboards, and gas station signs. He’d spent his entire adult life with the blacktop burning up beneath the tires of his van, then bigger and bigger buses as his fame and income grew. He rented a couple of hotel suites in Los Angeles and New York City for occasional days off the road here or there, but he never thought of them as home. He’d always told himself he didn’t want or need one, that the road was his home, and that it was just the way he’d always wanted his life to be.

But he wasn’t stupid enough or young enough anymore to pretend that the day when he’d be too old to run around on a stage every night wasn’t coming. Especially considering how much a three-hour show took out of him now. What would it be like in five years at this relentless pace? In ten? Where would he go then? And who would he go there with?

He couldn’t see himself back where he’d grown up in Boston—or in New York City, Los Angeles, or London, where he did the bulk of his non-touring business. No matter how hard he tried to stop it, his brain always circled back to Seattle, where he’d spent one incredible week with the most beautiful girl in the world.