“It’s not that easy for a new show, Sam.”
“All right. Then let’s think this through. You want the cameras rolling in the house because you want to feature the real lives of the contestants while they traveled this journey.”
“Yes, but this isn’t what I had in mind. I thought it would be kids getting nervous about performances, their dreams and desires. Their inspiration. Not threats, fights and exploding water pipes.”
“So, not real life, then.”
“Yes, real life.”
“You’re too close to this show emotionally,” he said. “Step back and think of it like you did when you were producing a news program. Surely, you were battling competitors all the time for top stories.”
“Yes,” she said. “We were.”
“Then do that now. Stop thinking about the show like it’s a dream. Save that for the celebration when it’s a hit.”
She considered him a moment and nodded. “You’re right. You are absolutely right.”
“Okay, then,” he said. “Us Special Ops guys are all about damage control. My first thought is that what happened tonight, despite Kiki’s manipulation and mishandling, was raw and very real.”
“Not in a good way,” Meagan argued.
“Reality means real—and that isn’t always pretty. That fight evolved from the pressures of competition, more than anything else. I bet you can do something with that to make it a powerful episode.”
His words sparked a few interesting ideas in Meagan’s mind. “You know, now that I’m thinking about this with some distance, I think I can. I could even do a press release and frame the fight the way I want it framed. I can send it to the sponsors and promise them some preview footage before I air a show around tonight’s events.”
“Perfect,” he said. “Hell, give Kiki credit. Praise her to your staff. If you spin tonight into something brilliant, you deflate her efforts to make you look bad. Which means tonight becomes a win for the show.”
A slow smile slid onto Meagan’s lips. “Oh my God, you are the one who’s brilliant. I love you, Sam.”
The words dropped heavily between them, out before she could stop them. She could barely breathe because…she might actually be falling in love with him.
“And here I thought I’d be lucky just to get you to like me.” His voice was soft, his gaze hot.
Meagan didn’t know what to say so she did what she always did with Sam. She picked a fight. “I won’t if you do things like tonight. You distracted me from a critical situation and had me making out in the club.”
“No, I didn’t.”
She blinked. “What? That’s all you’re going to say? No, you didn’t.”
“You were beating yourself up, and searching for a way to feel something other than defeat. You used me to do that, and I was helpless to resist, though I shouldn’t have been. I should have been focused on my job. So you distracted me.”
“You’re blaming me for distracting you from your job?”
He smiled. “Exactly.”
“You distracted me,” she said. “You distracted me, Sam.”
“Seems we have a mutually distracting impact on one another.”
“So we can’t…we have to stop doing things like tonight.”
“I want to kiss you.”
“Yes. I do.”
“No. You can’t. We can’t, Sam.” Her chest tightened because the realization washed over her and she couldn’t selfishly ignore it at Sam’s expense. “Kiki is going—”
“I don’t care about Kiki.”
“I do. We have to.”
“Let’s walk,” he said abruptly, turning toward the hotel, clearly not happy with her.
Meagan’s stomach clenched. Her chest got even tighter. The same feelings she’d had back in the break room. She wanted him to understand, yet she didn’t want him to understand at all. She was more screwed up over Sam than ever.
“That’s it?” she asked, falling into step with him. “Let’s walk?”
“What do you want me to do besides walk?” he asked. “Pull you against the wall and kiss you again?”
Yes. Oh, yes. Please. She grabbed his arm and brought him to a standstill. “You’re making me crazy, Sam. I don’t know what to do here.”
“Right there with ya, sweetheart.”
“Sam. Please. Even Sabrina is cautious about Kiki. Sabrina! She’s powerful. She’s one of the executives. I’m afraid that I’ll drag you to the unemployment line with me if this goes badly.”
“No,” he said. “That’s not the problem. I’m trying to get through this with you. You’re trying to find a way to do it without me. There’s a difference. A big difference.” He started to walk again. She didn’t. She stared after him, all that emotion in her chest balled so tightly, she could barely breathe. She wanted to go after him, she wanted to dispute his words, make him understand. But he wouldn’t understand. She’d figured that out about Sam.