Chapter One

“Don’t let anyone make you do nothing you don’t want to do.” The firm words came from someone she highly respected.

 

Demi Day sat in the comfy oversized chair that overlooked the grounds of the home she was currently renting. The wall was made completely of floor-to-ceiling glass, allowing her to have the full effect of the yard. The family room was outfitted with plenty of couches, a feature fireplace she could almost stand up tall in, plush carpeting, and entertainment center decked out with an eighty-inch smart television.

 

But none of those held her attention today.

 

It was the serene nature outside her window that garnered her attention.

 

“I know they can’t force me to sign a new contract,” Demi murmured. “They are worried that I will sign with another label.”

 

Her friend, confidante, and mentor, was none other than Nina Hunt, legendary R&B singer.

 

Demi was an up-and-coming singer who Nina had taken under her wing. Her current contract was up, and the record executives were hounding Demi. She had a deadline when the papers needed to be signed.

 

“Take your time. There are plenty of options in this day and age. When I first started, I wasn’t so lucky,” Nina said.

 

Demi nodded, even though she knew Nina couldn’t see her. The woman was a genius, and Demi was absorbing everything she could. The two women had grown close over the years.

 

“The main reason I hesitated is because I want to do a country album. This has been on my mind and on my heart for a while now, and they won’t hear of it,” Demi spat.

 

Hell, she was from Texas.

 

Country-western music was in her blood.

 

She’d grown up listening to her father’s records. Charley Pride, Aaron Neville, and George Strait were some of his favorites.

 

“Why won’t they?” Nina asked.

 

“Because of the demographics that follow me and buy my music won’t cross over.” Demi rubbed her face, the frustration she had felt in the meeting with the executive rushing back to her.

 

“Is that so?” Nina snorted. “Well, when I wanted to do an album on my own, I just did it. Released it independently.”

 

“I can’t do what you did.” Demi laughed. “You broke the damn internet with that album.”

 

Demi remembered that day as if it were yesterday. It had been all over the news and social media that Nina Hunt had dropped a secret album. All of the online retailers crashed from fans trying to purchase and download the record.

 

Demi had been so happy for someone she now considered a sister. At the time, Demi was recording her first album and had recently met Nina. They were label mates and ran into each other. They quickly hit it off and became fast friends.

 

Which was shocking to Demi since Nina was such a mega pop star, but she was down to earth and willing to help Demi achieve success.

 

“But I took back my creative control and did what I wanted. You see it paid off.”

 

That it did.

 

Her album titled Nina went diamond, selling over fifteen million copies.

 

Demi turned her attention back to the large window by her. The beautiful landscape meeting her was just what she needed.

 

Calm, serene, and beautiful.

 

Right in the middle of the country.

 

She’d found the home for rent in the town of Shady Springs, Colorado, located forty miles south of Colorado Springs.

 

With all of the pressures building up on her, she needed a break. Somewhere she could escape, and Shady Springs proved to be that place.

 

It was filled with plenty of country air, open spaces, and that small-town feel that was channeling the country girl in her.

 

“How do I do that?” Determination filled Demi. The record executives did not always know what was best. Branching out to do what was in her heart was what being an artist was about. She needed to grow as a person in order for her creativity to blossom.

 

“That’s what I’m here for, sis,” Nina said softly. “The suits want to be able to make all the money they can from you. They will drain you and not give two shits. This would be your chance to take control of your own destiny. There’s no one who can tell you what to do when you release an independent album.”

 

“This is sounding too good to be true.” Demi sighed.

 

“Do you want to be forever tied to the label or have more freedom like me?”

 

Demi chewed on her lip while she thought of the question. Of course, she wanted to be like Nina. She basically idolized the woman. Her business sense was like nothing Demi had ever seen before.

 

“If so, then I will have my lawyers meet with you and help curate a deal like mine. I’m here for you, Demi.”

 

Demi’s vision blurred. Meeting Nina had been very intimidating. She was the largest rock star on the planet, and she had made

 

Demi feel as if they were best friends from the start. Nina was all about empowering her fellow black women.

 

“Let’s do it,” Demi whispered.

 

Nina’s squeal echoed in her ears. She grinned, ready to take control of her life.

 

It was just all too much at the same time, and she was glad she had Nina in her corner. All of her life, she had wanted to share the gift of her voice with the world. She’d never thought in a million years she’d be in the predicament she was in.

 

To be a famous pop star, be able to travel all over the world to perform, provide for her family in ways she only could have imagined… Demi was still not used to it.

 

But not only did she have to worry about renewing her record deal, she had something else in the works.

 

One of the largest cosmetic companies had made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. Their aim was for her to not only be the face of a new exclusive line, but it would be hers and she had control on products and got a hefty chunk of the profit. They wanted to tap the market of ethnic hair and skin.

 

The amount of money she was set to make from this was mind-boggling.

 

Life was going amazingly well.

 

“Well, I will be in touch. Love you, sis.” Nina giggled.

 

“Thanks, Nina. Love you, too, sis.”

 

They disconnected the call, and Demi sat frozen in her chair.

 

Who would have thought a little country bumpkin from Texas was going to get to have the world at her feet?

 

Demi lost track of how long she sat staring out the window. There was so much on her mind she hadn’t heard her sister and nephew walk into the room.

 

“Earth to Demi.” Jaimie snapped her finger and thumb in front of Demi’s face.

 

Demi blinked and saw her elder sister laughing at her. Jaimie fell down on the couch and tucked her feet underneath her.

 

“Auntie Demi. How did you not hear us?” Hakim laughed. He was an eleven-year-old who had stolen Demi’s heart from the moment she’d first seen him in her sister’s arms after he was born.

 

“I was just lost in thought.” She chuckled. “This scenery is just so beautiful, and I was taking it all in.”

 

She focused on Jaimie who was studying her closely. If anyone could read her, it would be her sister. With Hakim in the room, Demi knew Jaimie would wait to ask her about it when they were alone.

 

“Auntie, we are in the middle of nowhere.” Hakim groaned. He flopped down on the floor by his mother’s feet.

Demi giggled watching him roll on the floor playfully.

 

“Are there any kids my age I can play with?”

 

He was shy kid, really, and had dealt with some major bullying in school. Jaimie had made the hard choice to pull him from traditional school and homeschool him.

 

He loved traveling with them, so at the insistence of Demi, she offered to pay for tutors to help with his schoolwork.

Jaimie Day was a proud, independent single mother and at first refused.

 

But with as much as she had done for Demi, there was no way Demi was going to allow her to refuse.

 

It was the least she could do, and she loved her nephew as if he were her own son.

 

“Maybe we can reach out to the local school district and see, babe.” Jaimie grabbed his foot and tickled him.

He screeched and crawled away from her, grinning.

 

“What do you want to do today?” Demi asked, turning her attention to her sister.

 

“Well, the tutor will be here within the hour. Why don’t we go into town and grab lunch?” Jaimie shrugged.

 

They had been in town a short while and were still learning the layout. Demi had rented the home for a few months, and they had plenty of time to stay. If she needed to go back to LA or New York, she’d just fly out there.

 

For now, they were going to be living in the country.

 

“No fair. I want to go.” Hakim pushed up off the floor with his legs folded.

 

“Sorry, little boy. You have school to do,” Jaimie teased.

 

He rolled his eyes, muttering.

 

“How about this. Your mom and I will go out for lunch, and tomorrow I’ll take us out to dinner. Your pick.”

 

“But I don’t know anywhere around here. There’s nothing but cows.” He sighed.

 

“You tell me the type of food and I’ll find it,” Demi promised. She leaned forward and held her hand out for him to shake.

 

“Deal?”

 

“Barbecue.” He didn’t even hesitate to place his hand in hers.

 

“Well, we’re not in Texas anymore, but I’m sure we can find somewhere here that does a mean barbecue. There are enough ranches around, I’m sure someone has to.” Demi laughed.

 

They were originally from Waco, Texas, but once Demi had made it big, her sister had immediately taken the job as her manager. She’d left her high-paid job as a regional sales director for a major corporation to work with Demi. It was risky for her, but it worked out immensely.

 

“I’m sure there has to be,” Jaimie agreed. “Okay, bud. Go put some clothes on. Miss Summer will be here soon.”

 

“Yes, Momma.” Hakim stood and rushed out of the room.

 

Jaimie’s gaze followed him before landing on Demi.

 

“Spill it.”

 

Demi chuckled and shifted in her seat. She brushed her hair from her face and gazed at the ceiling. The wood beams were her favorite feature in the room.

 

“You always know when something is bothering me.” She sighed.

 

“Well, not only am I your sister, but I’m your manager, and I know we have some important things to discuss.”

 

Jaimie hit her with a serious look, and Demi knew Jaimie had on her manager hat right now.

 

“We do. I just got off the phone with Nina, and she offered me some great advice.”

 

“And what is that?”

 

“I go independent.”

 

Jaimie stared at her and nodded. “I actually agree.”

 

“What? You do?” Demi hadn’t expected her to be on board immediately. She had assumed she was going to have to talk her into it, show her numbers, and prove why it would be a good move for her.

 

“You can control everything about your brand, your sound, it makes complete sense.” Jaimie stood from the couch and paced.

 

“Plenty of artists are making this move. This allows you to even bring home more money. The label makes more money off you than what you bring home. Why let the man get richer off of you?”

 

“That’s basically what Nina said,” Demi murmured. She was beginning to grow excited about the notion.

 

“Oh, my goodness, Demi.” Jaimie paused and faced her with a wide grin. “You can record the country album you’ve always wanted to do, and with the cosmetic contract, you are going to be swimming in dough. The world will be your playground.”

 

Demi jumped up and rushed her sister. They hugged, screamed, and jumped around.

 

Her life was falling into place like she’d always dreamed.

 

“Okay, let’s go out for lunch. We have so much to discuss,” Demi said, pulling away from Jaimie. “I also hear there are some nice shops and restaurants downtown.”

 

“I also hear there’s a ranch that specializes in working with kids and offers riding lessons. I want to look into that.”

 

They walked out of the family room and headed toward the stairs.

 

“You know the name of it?” Demi asked.

 

“The Blazing Eagle Ranch.”

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