Authors: Lucy Kevin
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Teen & Young Adult
© 2011 Lucy Kevin
When Alexa is sent by a magazine to be an undercover contestant on the reality TV series
"Falling For Mr. Right" she assumes the worst part of the assignment will be having to act like a
brainless bimbo to win the affection of an arrogant guy out looking for his 15 minutes of fame.
Color her shocked when it turns out not only are several of her fellow contestants intelligent,
funny women...but Brandon – aka Mr. Right - isn't at all the kind of guy she thought he'd be.
What's Alexa supposed to do when instead of digging up dirt for her cover story, she finds
herself falling way too fast for the guy she’s supposed to tear apart in her first big feature story?
“You want me to do what?” Alexa Atkison said, her voice dripping with disbelief.
Alexa's editor, Jane, pushed her glasses up more firmly on her nose and looked pointedly through them at Alexa. “You’re the one who has been on me about doing the bigger stories. I’m dropping this one into your lap.”
Alexa opened her mouth to argue and then realized her thoughts were better left unsaid, particularly to her all-powerful boss. So instead of shooting off at the mouth, she took a deep breath and tried, on the fly, to work out the best tactic for steering Jane toward a less objectionable story.
“What about drugs? Or gambling rings? Don’t you have something scary and dirty that I could investigate instead?”
“No,” Jane said, her lips tight. “I’m handing you
assignment on a silver platter.
Once you sign the confidentiality agreement, we can discuss the details of your makeover.”
Surprise registered on Alexa’s face. “Makeover?”
“While the editorial staff agrees that you are a perfect fit for the assignment, it is, nonetheless, clear that you need professional help with your appearance.”
Alexa looked down at her clothes. “What does my appearance have to do with this assignment?”
Unsmiling, Jane replied, “Everything.”
Alexa didn’t like being boxed into a corner one bit. Silently, she reassessed her options.
Sure, Jane had offered her a huge story, and yes, she desperately wanted the chance to prove herself as a feature writer, as opposed to the fact checking and proofreading she had been doing for the past year, but she also had a healthy dose of self-respect which she didn’t plan on letting go of any time soon. Trying for diplomacy, Alexa cleared her throat and mustered up her most cooperative expression.
“Look, Jane, I really appreciate this opportunity, and I’m more than willing to go the distance with it, but as I see it, all I need to do is get picked as a single-girl-in-need-of-a-husband by a bunch of dopey TV execs, make it onto as many episodes as possible, and scrounge up dirt on everyone involved, right?”
Jane cut right to it. “I’m as disgusted by primping and makeup as you are, Alexa. But you aren’t going to be much use to us on this story looking like…” Jane’s words drifted off and she scrunched up her nose in just the way one did when blue cheese had been left out on the counter for too long.
“Looking like what?”
Jane sighed. “Looking like you do right at this very minute. The way you look every day, in fact.”
Alexa tried not to let on just how much Jane’s brutal honesty hurt. But seconds later, when Jane uncharacteristically tried to soften the blow, Alexa knew she needed to work on her poker face if she was ever going to make it as a serious undercover journalist.
“Don’t worry,” Jane said. “We’re going to get you a little help in the wardrobe department, and-”
Alexa cut her off. If there was one word that she never thought she’d hear at
, it was wardrobe. She had always thought such terminology was reserved for the offices of
“What’s wrong with my clothes?”
Jane pursed her lips, seeming to tally up all the problems in her head before listing them.
“I’ve never seen you wear anything but jeans and a T-shirt, except for that awful suit you wore for your interview last year.” Clearly exasperated, she added, “Your shoes don’t even match!”
Alexa swung her legs out from underneath the desk. When she inspected her feet, she was surprised to see a green tennis shoe on her left foot and a red shoe on her right.
“I was a little distracted this morning.”
“Try every morning. In any case, we’ve got you scheduled for the spa this afternoon.”
was another word that she never, ever thought she’d hear at
. Alexa narrowed her eyes, suddenly suspicious. “This isn’t some kind of office practical joke is it? Last time I looked, I was working for the leading feminist magazine in the country.”
Jane looked at her watch, making it clear that the conversation was over. “Your first appointment is in thirty minutes. Do you want the assignment or not?”
Alexa knew she had no choice: Her self-respect was going to have to take a back seat to her first ever byline. There was no way she was going to miss the chance to leap out of journalistic obscurity and onto the cover of a national magazine.
“Where do I sign?”
Jane smiled and handed her a pen.
* * *
“Hold on a second. You want
to be Mr. Right?”
Joe Randell, the executive producer of the much-hyped
Falling For Mr. Right
show, leaned across the conference table as if he was letting Brandon in on a big secret. “You did apply.”
Brandon Philips worked to wipe the stunned look off of his face. “Yes, I did,” he said, leaving off the pertinent fact that he had only done it to get back at his ex-girlfriend for dumping him because of his so-called “commitment issues.”
Stalling for time to figure out just what the hell he had got himself into, he asked, “How many applicants were there?”
“Thousands. But I knew you were our best prospect the minute you walked through the door. Your screen test confirmed that the camera loves you and your resume is excellent.”
Brandon took a moment to digest the unexpected news. “If I signed on, what would you expect me to do?”
Joe slid a copy of the
Falling For Mr. Right
contract across the table. “The show will air over a period of two weeks. This gives you fourteen days to decide who you want to marry among the thirty women we introduce you to.
Brandon’s mouth went completely dry. How could he possibly fall for anyone that fast?
He took a sip of coffee and kept his expression bland, waiting for his brain to click back into the
‘on’ position. “How often would I be filmed?”
Joe looked Brandon straight in the eye. “Brandon, I want to be completely upfront with you today, before you agree to sign anything.”
Brandon nodded for Joe to continue.
“There will be cameras filming you during every interaction with the girls.”
“Is that all?”
“Not quite.” Joe straightened his tie before continuing. “There is one special clause in the contract that I need to draw your attention to.”
He pointed out a paragraph in the middle of page one.
Mr. Right will allow Producer to
pick one wild card for each of the selection ceremonies, until only three women remain. At that
point, Mr. Right will have complete control over his contestant selection.
“Can you live with that?” Joe asked him.
Brandon leaned back in his chair. He couldn’t have cared less about one wild-card out of thirty women. How bad could one woman be? The big question was how they were going to make sure he wanted to choose
of the women?
“That depends. How are you planning on finding thirty women that I would be interested in dating in the first place?”
Joe slid another piece of paper over. “Here’s a questionnaire we would like you to fill out. We will find women that fulfill as many of your requirements as possible.”
Brandon’s raised eyebrow gave away his skepticism. “What if none of the thirty work out?”
“The paragraph at the top of page eight has the answer you are looking for.”
Brandon flipped through the contract and scanned the legal speak. “You expect me to marry a stranger on the air July 1st?”
“And if July 1st comes and there is no wedding?”
Joe cleared his throat before speaking with a determined edge to his voice. “Brandon, I think you will find this contract more than reasonable. During the two weeks of taping we will treat you to five star accommodations, exotic destinations, and thirty gorgeous, accomplished women. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and we hope you will agree to join us in producing a truly excellent program.”
Brandon was about to say “No way,” when he was suddenly assailed with a heckling chorus of several ex-girlfriend’s last words to him.
You’ll never settle down!”
“Why won’t you open up?”
“No woman will ever be good enough for you!”
And then the worst one, which he hadn’t been able to get out of his head since his last break-up,
“You’re going to die alone and you deserve it!”
He knew he had applied for the TV show for all of the wrong reasons. Spite.
Annoyance. To prove his exes wrong. But just because he didn’t want to marry any of them didn’t make him an emotionally crippled commitment-phobe.
He certainly didn’t want to date and get married in front of millions of people. But now, sitting in the studio, he wondered if his exes were right. Could he ever let any woman get close enough to him to get married and have a family like the rest of his friends and co-workers?
If he were to sign a contract that made it so he
to get married, there would be no way out. And since he didn’t believe in true love — the lie that there was actually one person out there for him that would complete him and give his life meaning — being “Mr. Right” would be the optimal way to check marriage off his list of life goals. He would put his criteria down for his perfect woman, and Joe’s staff would hunt her down.
It was the perfect, easy solution to his marriage problem. No long courtship. No games.
Just a selection of thirty beautiful, available marriage-minded women to choose from.
He flipped to the last page of the contract and said, “You got a pen handy? Let’s get this ball rolling.”
Instead of heading to the parking garage, Brandon made a detour out towards the ocean.
He hoped some time by the Pacific would help him get his head screwed back on straight.
The Marina district in San Francisco was one of his favorite neighborhoods, like a small town hiding out in a big city. But on this sun-drenched afternoon, Brandon didn’t notice any of the historic buildings around him, or the young women pushing babies past him in strollers.
What the hell have I just done?
Desperately searching for an answer, Brandon wondered how his life had deteriorated to the point where he even considered committing to marriage with some random girl on a TV
show, who had likely auditioned so that she would be discovered by a movie producer.
He tried to focus, to think clearly. He didn’t have trouble getting dates. Since high school, he’d had his pick of girls. And unlike many of his peers, who were succumbing to middle aged spread, he had always taken his health seriously by eating right, working out, and keeping his intake of alcohol at reasonable levels. At 6’1” and 180 pounds, he was in great shape.
Brandon looked down at his jeans, buttoned-down white and blue striped polo shirt, woven brown belt, and brown loafers. Thanks to a part-time job at Nordstrom during college, he'd learned a great deal about how to dress well. As for his career, he'd been lucky in that success had always come fairly easily to him. From undergrad at Stanford to MBA at UCLA he had honed in on several innovative product ideas. By the time he started his company, The Idea Factory, he was rolling in venture capital.
So if everything about my life is so damn perfect,
how come I just signed
my life away to a blood-sucking TV producer?
Walking past the parked cars, families, and dogs that populated the beach, Brandon took off his Italian-made shoes, slipped off his socks and headed further down the beach until he was alone but for the sound of the surf. Sitting on an old sideways tree stump underneath a huge Cypress tree, he watched the waves crash onto the shore.
Unbidden, a vision of his parents popped into his head. He and his mother had just finished another lonely dinner at the polished cherry dining table. His father hurried in through the door and with barely a cursory glance at the two of them headed into his home office, saying he just needed to “get a few things taken care of before morning.”
Five years back, Brandon’s father had died of a heart attack. Brandon tried to mourn him, but his father had been such a slave to his job, Brandon had never really gotten to know him at all. Mesmerized by the constant flow of the ocean as it moved in and out, Brandon realized he had never asked his mother about their marriage.