Meagan stood in the kitchen, watching the crowd, feeling sad that Rena was leaving, but relieved that the girl had been offered a Broadway audition before they’d ever left the theater. Meagan wanted to create dreams that came true, not crush them.

“It could have been me saying goodbye tonight,” Carrie said as she joined Meagan in the kitchen.

“You’re right,” Meagan agreed. “It could have been you. Stop focusing on Tabitha and Jensen, and focus on dancing.”

Carrie leaned on the island counter. “I know. Believe me, I know. Dancing is everything to me, and not only did I almost quit the show, I almost let silly distractions ruin it for me, too. I’ve lost track of my priorities.”

Distractions. Priorities. Meagan had allowed herself to be distracted by Sam, but somehow, he’d helped her move forward, not held her back. It was this Kiki distraction that was destroying her. She was at the point where she needed to just let the cards fall where they would with the show. She was working hard. She’d landed her new agent today. She had to learn that some things were out of her control. Like her strategy for Sam. She didn’t want to let down her guard and be with Sam, only to find him the true loser by associating with her.

She shoved aside the worry, at least, for now, and challenged Carrie to succeed. “So what are you going to do to make sure tonight doesn’t happen again?”

“Practice and focus.” Her voice tightened with emotion. “Thank you for talking me out of leaving. I’ve gotten several lifelines now. I’m not foolish enough to think I’ll get another.”

“Good,” she said, picking up a cupcake to take to Rena. “I’ll hold you to that.”

“Carrie!” came a shout.

Meagan shooed her away. “Go enjoy tonight. Tomorrow it’s back to work, harder than ever.”

Carrie grinned and took off to the other room.

Meagan sighed, and with a growling stomach that had been treated to nothing but chocolate that day, she snatched a cupcake from a tray for herself and scooped decadent icing onto her finger. In the next moment, Sam showed up, his heated gaze zeroing in on her finger in her mouth. “I see I’ve been missing more than I realized.”

Meagan laughed, wondering how it was that Sam always had such interesting timing.

“Tabitha!” Carrie screeched abruptly from the other room. “That was so mean.”

Meagan and Sam both raced toward the girls, but it was too late. Rena grabbed a cupcake, and smashed it into Tabitha’s face. A snowball effect ensued, and before Meagan knew what hit her—as in a cupcake or two or three—there was icing flying everywhere.

“Enough!” Meagan shouted, standing in the middle of it all. Another cupcake bounced off her chest.

Sam echoed her order. “Enough!” he yelled. A cupcake bounced off hit him in the forehead.

Meagan burst out laughing. Seeing rough and tough Sam plopped in the head with a strawberry cupcake was just too much on too little sleep.

He cast her a grumpy look in reaction to her amusement. Meagan liberated one of the last cupcakes from a contestant’s hand and scooped some icing. She wasn’t even going to think about the furniture or the floors. She’d be damned if she was wasting a gourmet cupcake, when she hadn’t eaten today.

Once she’d finished her cupcake, and was starting on a second, the frenzy died down, and Meagan’s cell phone, tucked in her pocket, began to ring. With sticky fingers, she pulled out her cell and eyed caller ID.

Meagan’s gut clenched. This wasn’t about cupcakes. It was about ratings, and since the call wasn’t going to Kiki, but to her, her stomach clenched tighter. Maybe she only got the bad news calls, and Kiki got the good? She answered, listening to Sabrina deliver the verdict. And it wasn’t bad news, not bad news at all.

Meagan grabbed Sam’s arm and had him boost her up on top of the coffee table to shout out. “Top show of the night, people! Top show of the night!” At least in preliminary ratings, and that was fine by Meagan. Joy ensued, and Kiki of all people jumped on top of the table and hugged her. Sparkling grape juice sprayed Meagan and Kiki’s already strawberry-flavored skin.

“Midnight swim!” someone hollered. “Midnight swim!” A mad rush for the door followed.

Meagan stood where she was and tried to revel in the moment. But next week’s ratings would be the real test, and next week’s booted contestant might not get a Broadway audition.

“Whatever you’re thinking, stop,” Sam ordered, standing beside the table. “Tonight is about success.”

“What about the contestants?” she asked. “I have to watch out for them.”

He grabbed his phone and made a call, in which he asked someone to see to her gang. “Josh will keep an eye on them,” he told her and held out his hand. “Tonight, you’re mine.”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Stepping Up Romance
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