Kiki was gone—but that barely registered. Sam was leaving, Sam was all but gone already. “Sam! Sam, please.” She struggled to get up and damn, her knee buckled. “Sam!” Desperation rose inside her. And she knew then and there that losing Sam was far more frightening than was the fear of being hurt. She already hurt. She hurt because he was leaving, she hurt just thinking about never touching him again, never just being with him again. She couldn’t let him go. “Sam.” She swallowed hard, and then with resolve firmly in place, shouted, “Sam! I love you. I love you. Please don’t walk away.”

She couldn’t go after Sam and she couldn’t watch him go. She let her chin drop to her chest, staring at the water splashing around her.

But then, he was there, in the water, on his knees, too, his hands framing her face. “I love you too, sweetheart. I thought I should wait to tell you until you were ready to hear the words, until I bought you a ring and…until I thought you’d agree to marry me.”

Slowly, he got to his feet and brought her up with him. He kissed her. Ahh, how he kissed her, salty and sweet, and wicked and wonderful. And when they finally stopped, and trudged through the water, his arm around her to help her walk, there was an audience, a group of cast and crew, to watch them. Neither Meagan nor Sam cared.

Sam stopped and stared into her eyes. “So? Will you marry me, Meagan Tippan?”

“Do I get to tie you up and have my way with you, if I do?”

“Only if you promise to wear leather.”

“Then, yes!” she said. “I’ll marry you, Samuel Kellar.”

He picked her up and carried her toward the house, carrying her because he knew she was injured. And Meagan knew, she was never going to walk alone again.


WEEKS LATER, CENTER STAGE, Derek waited with the last two contestants—Tabitha of all people, and ironically, Jensen. The final show had arrived on the announcement that there would be a second season. They were on a ratings high, even with the curse being weaned slowly into the background. A strategy Meagan had proposed to Sabrina to ensure the ratings would hold for the next season and it had paid off.

Meagan stood backstage with Carrie by her side, now her intern, after being eliminated from the competition several weeks back. Carrie was learning the ropes amazingly well, and Meagan was pretty darn certain she’d be able to justify a staff position for her next season. And since she and Josh had become a hot commodity, Carrie had an extra incentive beyond her career to make L.A. her home.

As for Meagan, this was her baby, and Sam had convinced her to stay on as well. He’d helped her see how many opportunities the show had created for all kinds of people associated with the program, even beyond the dancers. Besides, by the end of season two, he’d have his business up and running, and she could reevaluate what she wanted to do if there was a season three. She was thinking about a reality show called Men of Kellar Security, but Sam wasn’t buying it. She’d work on that, though.

Derek opened the envelope and drew out the results, “The winner of a new Ford Mustang, a check for one hundred thousand dollars, and a two year contract with the network as featured talent is…Jensen!” Screams erupted, and Tabitha, bless her sweet little heart, stormed off the stage in true Tabitha style.

Hours after the broadcast and debut season had ended, Meagan walked onto the empty stage, smiling at the empty auditorium. Her dream had come true, in so many more ways than she’d ever believed possible.

“I thought I might find you here.”

She turned with a smile to find Sam, looking gorgeously masculine, dressed in black slacks and a blue button-down that matched his sky-blue eyes to perfection.

“We have a flight to catch.”

Excitement filled her. “I know. I can’t wait. Italy, here we come.” They’d been planning it for weeks.

He wrapped her in his arms and held out a velvet box. “Sure you don’t want to see it now?”

“Not until we get there,” she said, with absolute certainty. This was one area she was more than willing to give him full control over. “What if you don’t like it? I really want you to have a ring you love.”

“I can guarantee that I’ll love it,” she said. “I’ll love it because I love you, and because you always surprise me in such a perfect way.” She couldn’t stop smiling. “But I have a surprise for you, too.” She unbuttoned the top of her blouse to reveal a glimpse of a black leather strap. His eyes glimmered with instant heat, which she planned to flame for the rest of her life.

* * * * *

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones Stepping Up Romance
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