Authors: Heather Thurmeier
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
This edition published by
an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200
Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
Copyright © 2012 by Heather Thurmeier
ISBN 10: 1-4405-5204-5
ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-5204-5
eISBN 10: 1-4405-5205-3
eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-5205-2
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
Cover art 123rf.com, istockphoto.com/© Milan Zeremski
To my girls,
If you want it, never stop trying to get it.
To Cassidy and Evan,
Thank you for shouting your story in my head and demanding I write it.
This novel will always hold a special place in my heart. Though it may not have been the first of mine to be published, it was the story that made me start writing romance novels. There’s just something indescribable about this story and these characters that I love so much. I’m thrilled to finally get to share this story with readers. I hope you all love it as much as I do.
I also want to thank my family and friends for your encouragement and support when I decided to start my writing career. I’m blessed to have each of you in my life.
To my awesome agent Jill Marsal, thank you for taking a chance on me.
As Cassidy glanced around the formal living room, the ball of lead in her stomach grew.
What have I done?
How on earth did she end up here in Denver, sitting in a mansion, surrounded by cameras and beautiful women — some of whom had obvious fake boobs and hair extensions? Of course, she knew how she’d ended up here and it had nothing to do with magic or any other Hollywood special effect.
It had been her meddling little sister Keira who’d taken it upon herself to apply to be on a new reality dating show — using Cassidy’s name. To Cassidy’s horror, she’d actually been accepted. When she’d gotten the unexpected call from the show’s producer, she’d wanted to kill her sister. Instead, she’d been convinced to go through with the rest of the audition process and screen tests. By the time it was all over and she was asked to be on the show, Cassidy had grown used to the idea of having an opportunity to fall in love with some mystery bachelor.
Her friends told her to forget the show and take a cruise instead, where she could soak in the sun while “Margaritaville” played over the pool speakers. But did she listen?
Not a chance.
Maybe he’ll be the one.
Cassidy searched the room for the bachelor of the show, her stomach twisting into a knot at the thought of being forced to date someone new. She hadn’t been with anyone since Brad chose to leave her and New York behind to go back to California to start pro-surfing again. Maybe coming on the show would force her out of her six-month dating hibernation. Or maybe she’d throw up on the bachelor’s shoes when she finally met him. Either was a definite possibility.
Coming on the show sounded like a good idea at the time. But now she was here — now it was real and not some
she would do in the future someday. She casually wiped her palms across her thighs and prayed she wouldn’t have to shake anyone’s hand anytime soon.
Cassidy nervously scanned the room, checking out the other single girls who had also come on the show in the hopes of finding Mr. Right — or, at least, Mr. Right Now. They all appeared more confident than she felt, chatting and mingling with ease while she sat alone on the couch twisting a napkin between trembling fingers. Every hair color, eye color, height, and personal style was reflected.
She wondered how she would ever stand out in this crowd of glamorous women with her mousy brown hair and eyes the color of pistachio ice cream. No one even likes pistachio ice cream, nor wants to have any part of their body resemble it. She tugged at the hem of her plain white shirt, wishing she’d decided to wear something bright and bold instead. Maybe she should have taken a few more minutes in front of the mirror to touch up her makeup while she’d had the chance.
The production crew worked around the room checking lights, adjusting cameras, and hanging microphones — the tiny additions becoming almost instantly invisible.
No wonder people forget the cameras exist and end up acting idiotic on national television.
In fact, no one else in the room even seemed to take notice of the production crew working around them. But the crew certainly noticed the room full of women. Cassidy had already caught a few of the men stealing glances.
Her nervous energy finally sent her body into motion and she sprang from the sofa. These kinds of social situations made her uncomfortable. She preferred orchestrating events from behind the scenes, like she did as a banquet manager in Manhattan. Staging the room was always her favorite part. She loved setting the scene for the party, making it perfect for whoever was in the spotlight that day. Now she was the one in the spotlight.
She stopped in front of a grand piano, its black finish shining under the extra lights hanging from the ceiling. Although the piano sat silent, she could imagine its beautiful music filling the large room during parties. She gingerly touched the cold ivory keys.
“Don’t move,” a deep voice said from behind her. “Stay still for one more second.”
Cassidy froze, intrigued by the unexpected demand. Was the piano off limits? Was it only a prop? She peeked over her shoulder, trying to keep her body in the exact same position while pinpointing the owner of the voice.
“That’s not exactly the definition of staying still,” the man said. From her angle, she glimpsed the deepest blue eyes she’d ever seen. He peered into a handheld monitor while adjusting the small wall-mounted camera nearest him then hopped down off the ladder, landing in front of her with a soft thud.
“I … uh … sorry.” Cassidy’s pulse pounded in her ears at the sight of him. His slightly messy, light brown hair screamed for her to run her fingers through it.
Hot damn. If this is the crew, how hot will the bachelor be?
“I’ll just … get out of your way.”
“Actually, if you could stand there for another minute I can adjust the other camera, too,” he said without even a glance toward her.
He shifted the bulky ladder over a few feet into the corner with the ease of someone lifting a week-old kitten. She was pretty sure she’d struggled more lifting a bag of groceries than he had with the heavy ladder. Of course, she didn’t have biceps the size of his, either.
“That ought to do it.” He climbed down the ladder to stand in front of her. “Thanks for — ” he paused, clearing his throat and gazing at her as if seeing her for the first time, “ — your help.”
Cassidy worried she might melt into a puddle of goo under the heat of his gaze. She licked her lips and swallowed before finding her voice. “I only stood here. You did all the work.”
“Well, thanks.” His eyes stayed firmly focused on hers, causing goose bumps to prickle her skin. “I should go. I’m not supposed to be fraternizing with the contestants.”
“Is that what we’re doing? Fraternizing?” Wasn’t fraternizing something a little more dangerous than this simple conversation between strangers?
“I think it might be and I’d hate to break the rules my first day on the job. I usually save that for later in to production.”
Cassidy watched as he hoisted the ladder onto his shoulder and sauntered out of the room. He glanced back to where she stood rooted to the ground and gave her a quick smile before disappearing down the hall.
“I need a drink,” she mumbled. She forced herself away from the piano and over to the bar. Maybe a drink would calm the butterflies tap dancing in her stomach.
Tall glass flutes filled with pink champagne sparkled on the silver serving trays. Reaching for a glass, Cassidy bumped the arm of the person next to her.
“Oh, sorry.” Cassidy turned to see whom she’d bumped into.
“No problem,” a petite brunette replied. “It always gets so crowded around the food and drinks. Hi, I’m Paige.”
“I’m Cassidy. You know, people everywhere are the same. If they don’t know anyone in the room, they migrate to the food.” Cassidy chose a selection of little sandwiches, vegetables, and a slice of sinful-looking chocolate cake. She bypassed the naked strawberries and banana chunks — both fruits that should never be eaten without first being bathed in rich, warm chocolate. Cassidy’s preference for chocolate-covered fruit was a quirk that annoyed her über-healthy sister — and which gave Cassidy a little thrill of rebellion every time Keira tried to scold her for it.
Paige grabbed a couple sticks of celery and a few strawberries and turned away from the food. “Wanna go sit down?”
Cassidy followed Paige and sat beside her on the sofa in the middle of the room, balancing the plate of food on her knees. She glanced at Paige’s plate wondering how a person could choose strawberries and celery when you had fancy sandwiches, tortes, pies, and salads to pick from.
“Not hungry?” Cassidy asked.
“Oh no, I’m starved. But there’s no way I’m eating all those calories when I have to go on television tomorrow. I’ve heard the camera adds ten pounds and I really don’t need any extra. Well, unless they could add it to my boobs.”
Cassidy evaluated her own plate. It wasn’t overflowing, but it wasn’t celery, either. “Hmm, you’re probably right.” She took a bite of chocolate cake. “But if I starved myself, I’d be cranky and trust me, no one would want to see that on TV.” She savored the taste of the creamy chocolate as it melted in her mouth.
“Maybe you should follow her lead and put your fork down,” a voice said, dripping with disdain.
Cassidy swallowed her bite. Of course, the voice belonged to the prettiest girl in the room. She had long blonde hair, vibrant blue eyes, and legs that could walk across the pages of the
“Why, exactly?” Cassidy paused, her fork poised above the cake.
“She’s right about the camera.” The girl eyed Cassidy up and down as she stirred a tall glass of iced tea. “But I guess you’re not much competition anyway, are you? You may as well enjoy your cake while you’re still here.” The girl snickered and sauntered away.
“Wow. Who was that bitch?” Cassidy stabbed the cake and took another bite just to spite the bitchy blonde’s jiggle-free, size two ass as it walked away.
“That’s Zoe Oliver. She’s some big-shot singer or something. I bet she’s going to win this whole thing.”