Authors: Brooke Williams
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Reality TV
|Accept This Dandelion|
|Number I of|
|CreateSpace Publishing (2015)|
|Tags:||Contemporary, Romance, Reality TV|
|Contemporaryttt Romancettt Reality TVttt|
Renee Lockhart has her eye on a lofty goal... to fill the open position of morning radio show host at the station where she works. When her co-workers sign her up for a local TV version of The Bachelor, Renee goes along with it in order to raise her profile.
Upon seeing her bumbling audition, Ben McConnell, one of the most eligible bachelors in town, insists that Renee be placed on the show. But Ben gets much more than he expected in Renee... he gets a girl who can't seem to do anything right...and a girl he can't seem to resist.
Copyright 2015 Brooke Williams
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Cover Art by Joan Alley
Editing by Susan Baganz
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are the product of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means without the permission of Prism Book Group. Please purchase only authorized editions and do not participate in the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Prism Book Group
First Edition, 2015
Published in the United States of America
“To anyone who’s ever felt like a weed…you’re not alone!”
“My favorite flower,” Renee Lockhart said, blinking into the bright light of the camera, “is the dandelion.”
The producer scoffed. She couldn’t see him around the bulky black machine recording her every movement and the blinding hot lights shining into her eyes, but he was there. He shot rapid fire questions in her direction.
“You know dandelions aren’t really flowers, right?” His legs shifted.
Renee swallowed. She was uncomfortable seeing only his pants and shoes. It was as if his voice came from some unknown source outside her world under the bright lights. Were they getting brighter and hotter by the minute? “I…I know,” she stuttered as the sweat gathered at the back of her neck. What had she gotten into? She never should have allowed herself to be put into this position in the first place. “But they certainly look more like a flower than a weed,” she continued, picking up speed and gaining confidence. Who was he to mock her answers? “And I enjoy the way they turn to white puff and spread themselves in the wind.”
“White puff?” He snorted as someone else off camera coughed. “I think we’re done here.”
Renee’s face grew warmer. She was already flushed from the heat of the lights and the pressure of the situation, but now she had to be beet red. The producer’s legs turned and walked away from the set as another pair entered her line of sight. As the assistant’s face brightened outside of the shadows, Renee realized what was happening. She was being dismissed. In her fury and embarrassment, she began to pull at the wires connecting her to the microphone. It had taken the staff quite a bit of time to figure out where to place the small bud so her dress would hide it, but it would still pick up her voice. Now, Renee didn’t care how much effort had gone into its placement. She wanted it off. She needed freedom.
Renee shook the wire until it disconnected from the battery pack situated behind her. She pulled the microphone up and out in front of her and threw it onto the chair she had been occupying, only wishing it were heavier so she could make more noise.
What a waste of time. She should have known better than to ever agree to such nonsense. A dating show? It wasn’t like her. Her co-workers knew that. And yet they signed her up for it anyway, just because they wanted her to find someone. And she, even after her doubts and misgivings, had gone ahead with the process. What harm could it do? But now, she had her answer. Renee was mortified. A man with no torso dismissed her…a coward with only legs who had never even shown his face.
* * *
The producer ran his hand over his semi-bald scalp as he made his way across the cold, open studio and into the control booth. The equipment inside warmed it at least ten degrees. He threw his clipboard down onto an empty chair making a nice bang. The board operator jumped and spun on his heel. The other man in the room looked as relaxed as he could be. He slowly swiveled his chair in the producer’s direction, but did not take his hands from behind his head or sit up from his laid-back position.
The producer frowned and directed his gaze at the TV screen behind the other man. Renee’s pink face sat frozen on the monitor, her mouth open in mid-speech. He threw his hands into the air. “I don’t know what to say.”
“I want her.” The seated man half-smiled.
“Her.” The man released one hand and threw his thumb over his shoulder toward the monitor. “She’s the one.”
The producer’s jaw dropped slightly. This was Ben McConnell’s type? He preferred bumbling, fresh-faced girls with little life experience over all of the others they brought in and paraded before him?
“Are you…are you serious?” The producer was certain Ben was joking.
“As a heart attack.” Ben swiveled the chair back around to view the frozen TV screen more closely. “Oh, and change the name of the show. We’re going to call it
Accept this Dandelion
Renee was on a mission to exit the TV studio as quickly as possible. She was sweating in places she didn’t even know she had sweat glands. The lights made her hot, but the dismissal from the producer steamed her.
“Miss Lockhart,” a distant voice called. Renee had half a mind to keep walking and never look back. But with her luck, she probably forgot her keys and was being chased down by a well-meaning intern. She slowed her pace, allowing the person calling to catch up.
“Miss Lockhart.” A firm hand grabbed her elbow.
Renee realized too late that she recognized the voice. It was attached to the producer’s legs. Looking at him directly, she was no longer intimidated. Had he sought her out to ridicule her some more?
She wrenched away from him, determined to continue her path to the parking lot.
“You didn’t give me a chance to explain what happens next,” the producer pleaded.
Renee had been dismissed. Rudely. What did he want from her?
“The taping will begin in one week. I know
short notice, but we’re a local station, and we don’t have time to waste. You’ll find all of the information you need here on this sheet.” The producer thrust a bright yellow form into her hand with typed details on front and back. “If you have any questions, call the number listed there.”
He turned to leave. Renee was confused. “Wait.” She stared at the paper she clutched. “Does this mean you want me on your show?”
The producer shrugged. “You’re on the show.”
Disbelief flooded Renee as she watched him walk back down the long hall she had just run. He hadn’t indicated he wanted her to be a part of the show, but she was going to be on it nonetheless. As Renee reviewed her audition, an idea formed. Every dating program like this had characters, right? There were beauties, bad girls, and even fools. There were girls everyone loved to hate. And there were always girls that gave the audience a good laugh.
Renee was cast as the fool. But that was okay for the moment. She was on the show. She didn’t have to play the part intended for her. She could still raise her public profile, and, with any luck, win the job at the radio station. Once she was in the morning time slot, she would be able to enjoy her career. If she had to use a silly little dating game program to get where she wanted to go, so be it.
When Renee reached her car, the information sheet was still in her shaking hands. She had to do this. Somehow, though she hadn’t signed up for the show on her own, she was going to be on it. She didn’t know what might come of it, but she hoped it would help her.
Renee smiled. This would be an adventure for sure. And it all started in one week. There were a lot of preparations to orchestrate. But first, she needed to get back to work and talk to Janice. Janice was the one who signed her up for the show. And she would need to inform her boss of the time off required. She wondered how he would react.
Renee allowed herself to daydream all the way back to the office. Maybe she’d be offered the job immediately once everyone heard she was going to be on TV. Janice would probably jump up and down, yelling and screaming, which was normal for her on any given day, even when there wasn’t big news.
Renee decided to visit Janice first. She was responsible for setting things in motion so she deserved to receive the details from Renee before it was announced to the rest of the city.
“Where have you been, girl?” Janice said as Renee leaned against her office door. “It’s been crazy around here, let me tell you. Can you believe the sales staff had the nerve to dump their work on me again? That’s twice this week. I’m not paid enough to do my own projects, much less theirs—” Janice rambled without taking a breath. She finally looked up.
“Oh right, you had the audition today.” She stood up from her computer and moved around her desk, waving her hands in the air. “How did it go? Did they love you? Did you meet the man yet? Is he gorgeous?”
Renee smiled and gave Janice a coy glance.
“Well come on, girl, spill,” Janice continued without giving Renee a chance to say a word. “This could be your big break, it really could. The show could work wonders for your career, not to mention…there’s a man involved. Do you know who it is? Do you think you’ll like him? What did they ask you? Come on already.”
When Janice calmed down enough to let Renee speak, she took a seat in the chair next to Janice’s overflowing desk. “The audition didn’t go well.” Renee frowned. “I may be able to talk to thousands every day on the radio, but when I was in a room with TV cameras…I don’t know…I couldn’t say anything right.”
Janice sat on the edge of her desk, visibly coming down from her high-octane attitude. “Oh, sweetheart, it’s okay. TV’s not for everyone.” She reached out and patted Renee’s knee above the run in her pantyhose.
“You’re certainly right.” Renee kept up the charade. “I mean, look at me.” She ran a hand through the mess her hair had become.
Janice sighed with a guilty look on her face.
Before Janice could voice her lament, Renee jumped in again. “It’s a wonder they want me at all.” She tried to hide her smile behind her hand.
“Aw, Renee,” Janice sympathized. “Wait, what? Did you say…?”
Renee nodded. “I made it. I’m on the show. I don’t know how, but I’m on.”
Janice, much as Renee suspected, immediately jumped off the desk, arms extended and mouth open wide. “Yes! I knew you could do it. I knew a pretty young thing like you would be what they wanted. I told you, I did.”
Janice rushed past her, arms still extended and waving back and forth. “She’s in! She’s in!” she cried as she raced up and down the hall, knocking on a few closed doors. Renee quietly returned to her cubicle down the hall.
Well, that takes care of informing the staff
. She should have known once she told Janice, she wouldn’t have to tell anyone else.
“Renee, I heard the good news.”
Renee turned to find her manager standing behind her.
“You and the rest of the city.” Renee glanced into the hall where Janice was doing another lap in case someone missed her first pronouncement.
“I presume you’ll need a little time off?” he asked.
Renee nodded. “I haven’t studied the full schedule yet, but I’ll shoot you a copy of when I’ll be out as soon as I get a chance.”
“Good work.” He smiled, a rarity given his serious nature. “You’ve been proactive about getting the station’s name out in the public.”
Renee’s boss turned on his heel and left the office, nearly interrupting Janice’s final lap.
Renee allowed Janice to spread the word as her mind ran a mile a minute with everything she needed to do. Her boss actually smiled and congratulated her. He wasn’t even balking at the time off she would need. And why would he? It was free advertising for the station. Renee threw herself into her chair. She needed to concentrate and dig in. Instead, her face stretched into a smile so large so could hardly contain it. The show wasn’t a part of her plan. In fact, she’d been reluctant about it. But now?
Bring it on.
* * *
The auditions had been long and grueling. If you describe watching a bunch of beautiful women preen and primp for the camera hard work. Ben might not find love, but he was certain of one thing…he would have a lot of fun trying.
The station hadn’t yet announced he was the bachelor in question. If they had, the number of women coming in to audition might have easily doubled. Possibly even tripled. He was well known in the city, after all. He had a reputation as the black sheep of the McConnell family. The one who shrugged off their business to start a dynasty of his own. And his success only heightened the interest of those in the community.
The city held Ben in high regards, but his family seemed to look down on him. Ever since he threw away all of his training in their business and began one of his own, his father had been distant and disappointed. In a way, Ben understood. His father taught him everything he knew about running the business, and he wanted Ben to emulate his successes. Instead, Ben created successes of his own. He knew that wasn’t the only reason his father was disappointed. Along with business lessons, his father taught him how to have a successful family life, and Ben had failed miserably on that front. But the show could change all of that. He might be able to develop a new reputation in the community and restore some of the respect he lacked from his father. He might even be able to begin that family life that his father wanted him to have. Time would tell.
It didn’t hurt that he was young, good looking, and charming as well. Just ask him. He may not be humble, but ladies loved him that way. And he had a different one on his arm every weekend. The problem with that was he couldn’t keep the same one around. Not because the women wouldn’t have stayed, but more because Ben didn’t let them. Finding new dates was easy, but he wanted someone to share his life with, just like anyone else. And he was getting to the age where dating was becoming a bore. He wanted to settle down and start a family with one special woman.
He wasn’t sure the show would help him do that. It was filled with several women that were his type, but those women were usually only good for an event or two. Luckily, a few of the women in the mix interested him. One of them might even make it to the end and beyond.
If Ben didn’t find love, he was certainly going to enjoy the attention. He had a reputation with the ladies, but it wasn’t often he had a dozen of them fawning over him at once. And that’s exactly what they would do when they found out he was the local bachelor in question.
Fawn away, ladies, Ben thought.
Do your best.
He flipped open the folder of pictures he had been given of the bachelorettes to study their names and faces. It would help him remember them on the first night. Clara. Tracy. Eva. He continued on. Renee.
Ben stopped. Renee’s picture was different from the rest. Something about the look in her eyes gave her a more genuine appearance. She wasn’t a stunning beauty like most of the women. She was cuter. And she didn’t have all the right answers in her audition, but he looked forward to finding out more about her.