“That does sound perfect,” Meagan replied.

Motion detectors flickered to life, illuminating an impressive contemporary stucco house, with a balcony that wrapped around most of the second floor.

“The water is so close,” Kiki exclaimed, rushing forward and calling over her shoulder. “It’s amazing.”

Sam sighed as Kiki expanded the distance between her and them. “I better catch up with her before she gets hurt and calls it the curse.” He headed after her.

Josh fell into step with Meagan. “Kiki seems to like this place so far. Surely that’s all you need to know.” He grinned to let her know he was teasing her.

Meagan snorted. “That’s about as true as me dropping my cell phone. I used horrible judgment by not going back to my room for my phone. It’s just that if I’d gone back, I knew I’d get cornered by someone wanting to talk, and it would be even later by the time we made it out here. Still, I should have known better. Thank you for being loyal to your boss and covering for me.”

“I spent the entire drive listening to Kiki talk trash about you.” They started up the porch stairs, where Sam waited, having already let Kiki inside the house. “She gloated on the drive over here about how she’d saved the studio millions, insisting you’d be a failure. The worst is that she had to have known I might tell you. It’s like she wanted you on edge by announcing her intent. I hate saying this because it feeds into her strategy, but Meagan, she’s a cobra. Watch for the next strike, because it’s coming.”

Meagan crossed her arms in front of her chest, tension curling in her stomach. She had confirmation of what she’d hoped wasn’t true. Not only was Kiki a true enemy, she wasn’t even trying to hide her agenda.

They joined Sam at the door.

Josh glanced at Sam. “Don’t worry, boss. I’ll go in first, and strategically engage the enemy.”

“Good luck with that one,” Sam said dryly, stepping aside to let Josh enter, and then moving again to block the entrance. The porch light played on his chiseled features and full, sensual mouth—the mouth she shouldn’t be looking at, but couldn’t seem to resist.

“Everything okay?” he asked, towering above her, and she was struck again by the way he used his broad shoulders to shield her, this time from Kiki’s potentially, most likely, prying eyes. Protective. That was the word that came to mind, rather than dominant and bossy.

“Everything is just peachy,” she assured him. “In fact, tonight is just one big bucket of peachy.”

Kiki peeked around Sam. “Are you coming in or what?” She disappeared.

“See,” Meagan said. “Peachy.”

He didn’t move, his eyes narrowing a barely perceivable amount. “What’s wrong?”

She lowered her voice. “You were right about watching my back with Kiki. Josh said that she bragged about saving the studio millions by getting rid of people like me. It sounds like she doesn’t want the show to succeed. But—”

“Now isn’t the time to talk about this, but I have your back, Meagan, and I mean that. You do what feels right and you make this as good a show as you can make it. Don’t let her get to you.”

Her chest tightened at the unexpectedly supportive, and yes, protective words. Right then, she realized that Sam had snuck through her defenses, into her life, and for the first time in a very long time, if only for tonight, it was a relief to not feel alone. She nodded. “I know. You’re right.”

“I don’t think you do.” There was nothing accusing in his tone, no taunt, none of their normal word play.

“I do. I know.” Her lips lifted ever so slightly. “But it helps to be reminded. Thank you.”

He studied her and then gave a small incline of his head, flattening himself against the door to let her pass.

As Meagan moved by Sam, her shoulder brushed his chest. She froze with the impact, her gaze momentarily meeting his, heat glimmering in the depths of his stare. And she didn’t look away, or hide from him, or herself. She wanted Sam. She was so very tired of denying herself this man.

But their window to be alone was now gone. Meagan had no doubt that Kiki would notice if they disappeared after this and didn’t show up back at the hotel, which was all but a film set, with cameras and people everywhere.

Kiki might not be able to steal her show, but she’d definitely stolen her one night with Sam. While it was probably for Meagan’s own good, it didn’t feel that way right now. Meagan believed she would regret this lost chance for a very long time.


Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Stepping Up Romance
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