“I’m not going to get any food, am I?” she asked.

“Depends,” he said. “How do you feel about contestants getting to know each other in, shall we say, an intimate fashion?”

Meagan’s eyes went wide and she started walking toward the house. Sam immediately caught up with her. “I take it the answer is, you don’t like it. So the good news is that Josh broke them up. They weren’t happy but he stopped things before they got too out of hand.”

“Jensen and Tabitha?”

He cleared his throat. “And Rena.”

“Oh my God,” Meagan said, stomping through the sand. “This is forbidden in their contracts. Rena has nothing to lose, but the other two do. And Kiki knows it, but I can bet you she’s counting on those cameras we have rolling to tell all. How can I convince her that some facade of good ratings based on scandal will plunge within a few episodes and is not security, without turning her against me? American Idol and Dancing with the Stars didn’t build ratings off of who slept with who and who was fighting who.”

“Meagan, sweetheart—”

“I believe so strongly that we can’t go in this direction, even if the ratings please the sponsors. I shouldn’t have been away. I—”

“Oh no.” He shackled her wrist and pulled her to face him. “I see where this is going. Don’t even start coming up with reasons to make us wrong. We are not wrong, Meagan. You are not wrong by taking a few hours off. And you didn’t count on Kiki. You counted on Josh—on me, Meagan. Josh contained the problem, and he called us the instant there was trouble.”

She let out a breath. “I know and I appreciate it. I do. I really, really do.” She tugged on him. “But please come on. We have to hurry. I don’t want to lose someone I don’t have to lose over this.”

They took off towards the contestant house and with the beach lights on, it was lit up well enough to rival the Christmas Vacation house. Soon it was easy to see Carrie sat on the porch with Josh by her side, and Mel in her lap.

“Where are they?” Meagan asked anxiously.

“Beach,” Josh said, pointing to the water. “They took off when I told them they couldn’t share a bedroom.”

Carrie nodded.

“I’ve got this,” Meagan told Sam, and she sprinted away.

Sam watched her depart, and leaned on the railing to the steps. He eyed Carrie. “Good thing you entertained yourself with Mel and not Jensen.”

“That’s what I told her, too,” Josh said. “Life is way too short to bury yourself in a popularity contest.”

“The show makes it feel like a popularity contest,” Carrie said.

“No,” Sam said. “The show is about dancing and so is your future. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.”

She nodded. “You’re right. That became crystal clear to me tonight when I almost got kicked off the show. Jensen and Tabitha have families with money. They can go live in New York and try to make it with a dance company. I have a single mom who’s a secretary who I want to take care of one day. I can’t believe I ever tried to leave because of them. This is it for me. I’m not blowing it.”

No wonder Meagan had taken to Carrie. The kid had character. “Good. That’s real good, Carrie.”

They talked a few minutes about her mom, her life back in Washington, and the mess in the house that needed to be cleaned up before they saw Meagan and the three dancers approaching the house. Looking guilty as heck, Jensen and Tabitha rushed up the stairs without a word.

Meagan stopped beside Sam. “I threatened to send them both home. Hopefully I gave them a reality check. Neither of them wants to get kicked off the show.”

The door swung open and Kiki joined them on the porch. “Talk about some great footage for next week. The ‘almost sex’ incident is going to be gold.”

Meagan eyed Carrie. “Can you please go inside and give us a minute?”

“Yes, of course,” Carrie said, and toted Mel up the stairs and past Kiki.

The instant the door was shut, Meagan said, “We can’t air this or the studio could make the kids leave the show. I told them that won’t happen.”

Kiki crossed her arms, attitude rolling off her. “They chose to ignore their contracts. Besides. They didn’t break the rules. They almost broke the rules.”

“I doubt they thought we would put this on air.”

“Why would you say that?” Kiki asked. “Oh wait.” She lifted her chin at Sam. “I suppose you did set a bad example by shoving your tongue down Sam’s throat. Maybe we should include some footage of you two instead? We’re here for the good of the show and the network.”

Lisa Renee Jones Books | Romance Books | Stepping Up Series Books
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