“You really think I can do this?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” she said. “It matters what you know. But for the record, you wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in you.”

Carrie flung her arms around Meagan’s neck and hugged her. The unfinished business between Meagan and him thicker than the coffee he’d made in his room.

“I’m going to fight. I’m going to beat Tabitha and win this competition.”

“Good,” Meagan said. “I can’t wait to watch it happen.”

More chatter followed, and some coddling of the kitten, before Carrie returned to her room to sleep as long as she could before rehearsals, which had been pushed back, after the nightclub incident, until noon.

Sam made to leave, as well.

“Sam, wait,” Meagan said, her hand touching his arm, heat scorching, his cock thickening as if she’d just invited him to join her in bed.

He held the door open, not about to let rumors fly any more than they probably were. He also wasn’t about to tempt himself into kissing her how he’d wanted to ever since he’d walked into the room.

His gaze met hers, and he could read her expression, read the “I can’t” in her face. “I met with my crew last night and we did a press release that also went to the sponsors. One of the sponsors called me immediately and expressed how thrilled they were with the buzz the show was getting. After that, Kiki happily took credit, and I was happy to let her.”

“Good,” he said. “I’m glad it worked out.”

“Me, too,” she said, and hesitated, as if she wanted to add something else.

Sam continued waiting, wanting to know what that something else was, his heart racing. This woman really was making him crazy.

Finally, she said, “I…I left my phone and purse in your truck.”

“Right,” he answered flatly, his pulse slowing. “Your phone and your purse. I’ll have it dropped off.” He didn’t wait for a reply. He left with absolutely no question in his mind, that once again, she had purposely let him go. It was a habit she couldn’t seem to break.


A WEEK LATER, MEAGAN was pacing the stage in the auditorium where the first live show would take place in two days. Two short, too quickly approaching days and too many days away from Sam. Oh, he was around, but he wasn’t really around, not for her, that was. It didn’t matter that it was for the best, that it was the right thing to do to protect him. She missed him.

She raked her hand through her hair, her stress level at its highest. There was an electronic short in the stage’s lighting system, thus sound checks had gone horribly, and the hot band that was set to perform for the big premiere had cancelled. Their lead singer had laryngitis.

The “cursed” and “nightclub” episodes of the show had run two nights in a row with huge ratings, but the live show was the true test. Could the dancing part of the equation pull in ratings? There were plenty inside the studio who doubted that, thus the contestant house had been incorporated into the concept of the show.

“We snagged Mason Montgomery,” Kiki announced, rushing down the center aisle. Mason Montgomery being a popular new singer who’d just hit the charts. “He’ll be here and he’s excited to perform.”

Meagan let out a relieved breath. “That’s great news.” To Kiki’s credit, and Sam’s for his suggestion, ever since she’d given Kiki credit for the nightclub episode, she’d actually seemed to care about the show.

“Are we moving into the house tomorrow or what?” Kiki asked, drawing to the edge of the stage, next to the judges’ table, hands on her hips. “We need to get organized.”

“Negotiations are still underway,” she said. “But I hope so. I’m expecting word any minute.”

Kiki grimaced. “Look. I know you hate the reality, club-fight stuff, but our ratings are off the charts. I want this show to make it as much as you do. We need to do something spectacular to ensure the dancing gets an audience. We don’t have time to make that happen in the house this week.”

Meagan’s cell phone rang, and she eyed the number. “That’s Josh now.” Josh. Not Sam. She’d barely seen, or talked to Sam since Carrie’s visit to her room. She was shocked at just how much she missed that banter.

She flipped open her phone. “Hey, Josh.”

“We’re a go, but Sam wants you to drive out and give us a final thumbs-up before we get everyone out here.”

Meagan ended the call, eager to see the house and move in. And yes. Eager to see Sam.

* * *

“I NEED A SCREWDRIVER,” Sam yelled to one of his men from under the kitchen cabinet of the contestant’s house.

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Stepping Up Romance
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