Oscar unlocked the rear bus door with his spare key, and invited Laura to climb aboard. As she did so, she gazed around in awe at the vivid interior. Just like the paint job on the bus itself, practically everything she could see was pink. The walls, the carpet, the kitchen facilities, the furnishings - all bold and bright like a blancmange.
There was no sign of other passengers... only the sound of a shower running within a secluded room at the front of the vehicle. Oscar tutted.
"He'll be washing his hair," he muttered. "It always takes him ages - he keeps getting the damn makeup in it."
Smiling, he gestured towards a sofa.
"Please, take a seat," he said to Laura warmly. "I just need to pop out and make a few quick phone calls, but I'm sure he'll be with you in a minute."
Laura nodded as Oscar scurried back out of the door - his mobile to his ear. Settling down on the soft, luxurious sofa, she reached into her big handbag, and re-read her notes on the star she would soon be assisting.
He was a musician - a solo artist - who been discovered four years ago at a small-town audition. Only a few weeks after that live-changing event, he had released his first single and album, both of which soared to the top of the charts. From there, he'd gone from strength to strength: recording a succession of hit records, and playing in cities all over the world. His last tour had proved so popular, he'd been on the road constantly for over a year. Now, he had decided to head back to his home town of Willow Creek for a few months, playing only local venues: to get his energy back, and to spend time with his family.
His fans adored him - and he showed that same love back to them. At least once a month, he would hold meet and greets, where he would meet his loving public personally and happily chat away to them, take selfies with them and sign autographs.
He was also patient with the press, frequently taking questions and giving interviews, as well as always being glad to strike a pose for the paparazzi.
Hearing the click of a door lock, Laura looked up... and saw her employer in the flesh for the very first time. There were two things she noticed straight away.
Firstly, he was as every bit as handsome as the photos in the glossy magazines made him look.
And secondly - he was completely naked.
As Laura screamed in alarm, Max Velocity mirrored the anguish cry himself.
As the mortified Max covered his modesty, Laura threw her hands over her eyes.
"Oh my God!"
"Who the Hell - oh, Jesus!"
A door slammed. As Laura slowly and cautiously lowered her hands, she realised her embarrassed employer had once again secluded himself in the bathroom. Blushing, she found herself giggling, but stopped sharply when she heard the musician muttering to himself frantically.
"Mr. Velocity?" she called politely. "My name is Laura Bennett - I'm your new PA. Mr. Powers let me in here. I'm sorry, I... I thought you were expecting me."
The grumbles seized.
"Oh!" called Max. "Right. Sorry. Oscar did say something about that... I thought he was bringing you over later. He could have knocked - given me some bloody warning."
Laura giggled again.
"I... I wasn't trying to be dirty, or anything!" Max stammered, worried. "Honestly, I had no idea you were out there. I didn't hear the door open - I swear it!"
'Poor guy,' Laura thought to herself. 'He must be humiliated.'
"It's fine, Mr. Velocity," she called back. "I understand, really. It was an honest mistake."
Another lock click. Calmer now, Max stepped out slowly into the lounge area, clad in a bright pink dressing gown. Smiling, he approached Laura.
"Sorry about that," he said, offering her his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"You too, Mr. Velocity," Laura replied, shaking it firmly.
"'Miskin'," Max said.
"My real surname is 'Miskin'," Max explained. "'Velocity' is just for the stage. But you don't have to say 'Mr. Miskin' either, Ms. Bennett. Please, just call me "Max"."
"OK - Max. And you can call me "Laura"."
"Perfect. Please, do sit back down."
As Laura lowered herself back into the sofa, Max took a seat beside her.
"So... do you know what your duties are? Managing my appointments, fetching things for me, all that?"
"Yes, thank you. Mr. Powers explained everything."
"He'll appreciate the help," Max said. "He used to do all that stuff for me, but he's got so many clients to deal with these days, he can't handle it any more. Oscar's a brilliant guy, though. He's the best agent I could ask for."
"He's... he's younger than I expected."
"A lot of people say that. There's only ten years between us two. His dad was in the business for years, and Oscar learnt from him. Took over the agency after he retired."
Laura darted her eyes around the bus once again, like a museum visitor gazing at exhibits.
"It's... it's really nice in here," she told the musician kindly. "Just like a little house."
"Yeah - it's my home away from home," Max replied. "It's got everything I need. Kitchen, bathroom, bed. It's nice to have comfort during the long months on the road."
"Oh, I bet," Laura said. "And I do like the colour scheme. Although, I must confess, I prefer purple myself."
"So I see," chuckled Max - looking at her blouse, which was that most regal of colours.
This Laura seemed like a nice woman. Roughly his age, he'd have thought. She was somewhat on the bigger side size-wise, but impeccably dressed: sensible, yet stylish. And she had a pretty, kind-looking face. Most importantly of all, she was friendly. Max had a feeling they could work quite well together.
"Excuse me," he said, rising. "I need to start getting ready."
"Please - stay there. Make yourself at home."
As Max sat himself down at a vanity table, threading his fingers through his still-wet-hair in a hopeless effort to tidy it up, he smiled at Laura's reflection in the mirror.
"Tell me," he said kindly, "are you musical at all?"
"I used to sing a little, back in high school," Laura replied. "That was years ago, though."
"Care to give me an demonstration?"
"Oh, I - I don't know - "
"No pressure, but... I'd quite like to hear you, if you're willing," Max told her. "It's nice to be working with someone who enjoys music. Oscar's great and all, but - well, he's something of a jack of all trades, master of none. Couldn't tell a bass line from a bassoon."
As they both chuckled, Laura sighed softly.
"All right," she replied. "but don't be too harsh on me. It's been a while."
After clearing her throat, Laura quietly began to sing an old folk song - one her mother had sung to her when she was a little girl. Her voice wavered slightly when she noticed how Max was watching her with great interest, but kept going. She could hold a tune brilliantly, and her voice was melodic and sweet.
When she had finished, Max gave her a standing ovation.
"That was wonderful."
"Oh, please -"
"No, really. It's a shame you gave it up."
"Well... I do my best," Laura replied, shrugging.
Suddenly, the bus door lurched open, and Oscar bounded aboard like a pouncing lion.
"Will you please knock?!" Max moaned.
Oscar ignored him - grabbing his hands and practically dragging him over towards the sofa.
"Max, my friend!" he said brightly, taking a seat. "Wonderful news! There's a big VIP bash going on at the Red Spice Nightclub tonight. I've made a few calls - pulled a few strings - and I've managed to bag you to an invite, as well as a couple of my other clients."
"There'll be plenty of press coverage. If they snap you there, you'll be in every paper tomorrow! That should help shift the tickets for the homecoming gigs."
"I thought they were sold out already?" Max said, confused.
"I added a couple of extra dates, just here in Willow Creek," Oscar informed him. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No... that's fine."
"So - you up for the party?"
"Wonderful. I'll meet you there at 7."
That evening, Max made his way through the waves of paparazzi - posing for a photo or two en route! - and stepped into the glitzy foyer of the Red Spice Nightclub. Oscar immediately beckoned him over, with an excitement like that of a child hyped up on sugar.
"Ah! Max, my boy, there you are! Please, come with me. I'd like to introduce you to someone."
Max did his best to keep up as Oscar scurried away, dashing up the stairs and leading him towards a secluded booth at the back of the nightclub. As the young musician approached it curiously, he stifled a gasp...
Her blonde hair was bright and buoyant, and she had a slim, shapely figure. Her make-up was expertly done, and her jewellery was subtle, but clearly high-value, giving her a great air of class. She was the epitome of glamour.
"Hello," she said warmly, her voice soft and silky. "Aren't you Max Velocity?"
"I... I, er..."
It was no good. He was completely tongue-tied, awkwardly shifting his weight from foot to foot. Oscar swiftly realised that he'd have to be the one to make introductions.
"Yes, he is," he told the young lady, answering her question. "Max, this is another one of my clients - Katie Berühmt. She's a TV actress."
"Just for now, Oscar," Katie said firmly. "I have my sights set on Hollywood, remember?"
"Of course. Forgive me. Anyway, I need to check in with a few people, so I'll go work the room. You two stay here - get better acquainted, OK?"
As Oscar walked away, Max suddenly felt very nervous and vunerable. What was he going to say to this utter beauty? He didn't want to embarrass himself - he'd had enough of that for one day already. Katie, however, seemed far more confident - smiling at Max, and patting the empty seat beside her.
"Won't you join me, Mr. Velocity?
Max immediately accepted the offer, plonking himself down on the cushioned furnishing with a soft thud.
"I'm sure you recognise me," Katie said. "You'll have seen me in the soap opera Sunshine & Moonbeams. I play Chantelle DeMarche."
"Well, I... I don't watch much TV."
As Katie's eyebrows furrowed with a disgusted look, Max immediately realised his mistake, and backtracked.
"But - but I'm sure it's very, very good! I'll have to check it out."
"Well, I suppose you're far too busy touring and making records to sit in front of the goggle-box for hours on end," she said, relenting. "And your music sure is wonderful. I love that track from your last album... what was it called? Ah, yes - Up to Eleven."
"That's... that's one of my favourites, too."
"Really?" Katie cried. "Wow. Great minds think alike, huh?"
Max nodded eagerly - desperate to please her. Swallowing nervously, he looked her up and down.
"If I may say so, Ms. Berühmt," he whispered, "you're a very beautiful lady."
Katie laughed, waving a hand dismissively.
"It's 'Katie'! And thank you. I always aim to present the best of myself. Image is everything in my line of work. You have to impress in every way."
Looking up at Max through lowered, fluttered lashes, she gently wrapped an arm around his shoulder.
"Yet I must say," she continued, her voice an alluring purr, "you're quite the Adonis yourself, Mr. Velocity."
Max trembled with excitement at her touch, suddenly too anxious to look her in the eyes.
"T... thank you," he stammered back, smiling. "And p...please... c-call me M-M-Max."
Katie giggled at how jittery her companion was, given he was a man who sang to crowds of hundreds night after night.
All at once, the room became a lot more noisy as the beat of club music rose up from the dancefloor below.
"This is a song I love, too," Katie said enthusiastically. "What do you say, M-M-Max? Care to trip the light fantastic with me?"
"What?" Max cried in alarm, stunned by the sudden request. "Well, I - y-yes! Of course!"
Grinning, Katie seized hold of both of Max's hands, and pulled him down the spiralling staircase to the dancefloor.
To begin with, Max moved to the rhythm in a closed, hunched-up way: too frightened of messing up to try anything drastic. Katie, meanwhile, shook her entire body sedutively, letting the music wash over her as she swished her hair all around the place.
Max watched her with fascination, his admiration of her growing by the second - freezing, terrified, when Katie stopped her movements, and turned to him.
"I saw your video for Up to Eleven," she said - having to shout over the music to be heard. "It had a great dance routine. I learnt all the steps. Do you remember it?"
"What do you say we try it out now?"
As Max saw her excited smile, he felt himself filling up with confidence, and nodded.
Moving in perfect unison, the pair assumed the starting pose, and then, together, grooved their way through the entire routine. Other dancing patrons around them stopped their own boogie-ing, and turned to watch them in awe: pointing and chattering furiously amongst themselves.
"Is that Max Velocity?"
"Yes! I'd know him anywhere from the hair!"
"Who's that with him? I've seen her on TV, I'm sure."
"She's Chantelle DeMarche! Oh, God, what's her name again? Berühmt! Katie Berühmt!"
"They look great together!"
"Are they an item?!
Just as Max was really getting into the swing of things, he was startled by a scream beside him. Katie had lost her footing, and was tumbling rapidly towards the floor. Thinking fast, Max leaped forward, and caught her in his arms, helping her back to her feet.
"It's all right," he said kindly. "I've got you."
"Thank you," Katie replied. "You're so kind."
As she stretched out her hand to tenderly brush his cheek, the rockstar felt himself melt into mush - his own knees now on the verge of buckling underneath him.
It was pointless to deny it. He was utterly smitten.
"Max?" Katie whispered.
"After tonight... would you like to see me again?"
The only form of reply Max could give was to burst into a fit of helpless giggles.
"I'll take that as a yes," Katie replied.
A familiar voice reached Max's ears. As various dancers were jostled and pushed out of the way, a frustrated Oscar emerged from the throng around the couple.
"There you are!" he snapped to Max. "I've been looking for you all over. There's some major music producers and a publicist at the bar. They're very interested in talking to you. Come on!"
Clapping a hand onto his back, he led Max off of the dancefloor and towards a dark corner of the nightclub. As the musician, still somewhat dumbstruck, turned back to look at his new paramour, Katie blew him a kiss: sending Cupid's arrow even deeper into his heart.
Moments later, when Oscar turned to look at her, she winked - knowing smirks plastered across both of their faces.
Max's meet and greet shots were possible thanks to SACRIFICAL's brilliant Road to Fame mod.
Also, why not pop Katie's surname into Google Translate?