Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Trish Jensen

October 2013 $12.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-331-3

Together they might produce a hit TV show. If they don't kill each other while falling in love.

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Together they might produce a hit TV show. If they don’t kill each other while falling in love.

Tanya Pierce’s TV-executive uncle has tapped her to host a reality show about beauty makeovers. Tanya runs an acclaimed beauty spa in a small California town—definitely outside the Hollywood spotlight, just the way publicity-shy Tanya likes it. Her partner will be AJ Landry, a sexy producer known for creating hit programs—and for distrusting women, like his ex-wife, who are looking for a meal ticket to television fame and fortune.

When Tanya and AJ meet, sparks fly. Get ready for a rollicking story filled with humor, wit, and dizzying romance.

Trish Jensen is the bestselling author of STUCK WITH YOU. Look for more funny and romantic Trish Jensen novels coming soon from Bell Bridge Books. Visit Trish at



"Behind The Scenes had me laughing hard from the first page all the way to the last... I feel as if I'm reading my first Janet Evanovich novel..." —Mrs. Giggles Book Reviews



Chapter One

"I’M TELLING YOU—I want passion! And I want my hair Passion Red!”

Tanya Pierce sucked in a deep calming breath. "Mrs. Ledbetter, I sincerely don’t think red’s the color for you,” she said, meeting the woman’s gaze in the mirror. "Your complexion screams for an ash brown.”

Tanya’s client sniffed. "I’ve been mousy brown all of my life. Now I’m ready to live a little.”

"For goodness sakes, Nellie,” Tanya’s grandmother Zegretti scoffed from her waiting room seat. "You’re almost ninety. You haven’t had brown hair since the Eisenhower Administration.”

Even with the hum of various blow-dryers and running water in Tanya’s eight-station shop, All About You, the click-clack of her grandmother’s knitting needles rang out in the air.

Gran was a regular at Tanya’s shop. Not to have her hair or nails done, but because she felt All About You fulfilled a lifelong tradition as the humming gossip center in the small town of Sonora, California. If there was a scoop to be dissected, it was right here, and Gran prided herself on being up to the minute on the latest news.

There wasn’t all that much going on this early on a Tuesday morning. The Beatty twins were in for their weekly cut and curls, which had to turn out precisely alike or they weren’t going anywhere until the situation was rectified. Mrs. Ledbetter, who could clear the main drag with one sighting of her ninety-two Cadillac heading into town, was demanding odd things for her hair. And Mrs. Teasdale, who considered herself the local matriarch by virtue of the fact that she could order her sheriff son to arrest anyone at any time just for looking at her funny, was always a nerve-racking customer.

Mrs. Ledbetter glared at Gran through the mirror and smacked her hand on Tanya’s counter. "Sophia Zegretti, you aren’t any spring chicken yourself. Besides, I might have seen a few Christmases over the years, but I’ve still got a lot of twinkle in my tree lights, if you know what I mean.”

Tanya was afraid to even go there. "Mrs. Ledbetter, how about if we color your hair my way first, and if you’re still not happy, we’ll do it your way?”

"Yes, and get that awful hot-pink polish off her nails, too,” Gran chimed in.

Mrs. Teasdale lifted her head from the shampoo sink to eye the offensive polish, in case it was worthy of an arrest warrant.

Mrs. Ledbetter’s face beeted up. "I want Passion Red, and I’m the customer,” she said mulishly.

Tanya sighed and headed to the small room in back of the shop to mix up a batch of the coloring. It was not going to be good for business if Mrs. Ledbetter paraded all around town with glow-in-the-dark red hair.

As Tanya passed by the five employees working that morning they each rolled their eyes in sympathy. Just wait until her masseuse learned that Mrs. Ledbetter had scheduled a massage for tomorrow. At least All About You’s fitness instructor wouldn’t be subjected to this client. Mrs. Ledbetter felt it was unladylike to sweat.

Sharyn, Tanya’s best friend, roommate, shop assistant, and sanity met her in the back room. "Want me to prep the Oh-my-Lord-what-have-you-done-to-my-hair antidote batch?”

Tanya grinned. "Yeah. Warm Ash Brown, please. You don’t think she’s going to be happy with Passion Red, hmm?”

"The two don’t belong on the same planet.I’ll try to get Mrs. Teasdale out of here before it happens so she doesn’t phone in a six-seventy-two.”

While the two of them began stirring the two dyes, Tanya heard the tinkle of the front door bells then a shrill, "Where is that daughter of mine? She better not be hiding from me!”

Oh, jeez. Just what she needed. Her mother. And Tanya knew that tone of voice well. She was in some sort of trouble.

"You’re in trouble,” came her mother’s yell.

Tanya grimaced in the safety of the back room. "Think quick, Sharyn. There has to be a law for interfering mothers and grandmothers.”

"They’re Italian,” Sharyn said. "They can’t help it. I think it’s all that oregano.”

Tanya blew a breath. "I know they love me, but do they have to... ?”

"Love you to death?”

"Or to an asylum.” Tanya dropped the mixing brush in the sink. "At least maybe there I’d get some peace.”

"Mother, where is your granddaughter?” the voice shouted.

Tanya glanced longingly toward the back door.

"She’ll hunt you down like a runaway goat,” Sharyn predicted.

"She’s making me up some Passion Red magic,” they heard Mrs. Ledbetter say.

There was a stunned silence from the front of her shop. Then Tanya’s mother breathed, "My Tanya wouldn’t commit such blasphemy.”

"Nellie wouldn’t hear otherwise,” Gran said.

Tanya took her time readjusting her ponytail to recapture all of the escaped curls, sucked in a bracing lungful of air, then walked out from her hiding spot, plastering a sunny expression on her face. "Mama! What brings you by?”

"You know darn well, missy,” her mother said, glaring.

Tanya didn’t have a clue. As much as Gran hung out in her salon, Mama didn’t have much use for gossip. Well, not in public; she made Gran reveal any juicy stories over plates of lasagna.

"I haven’t been picked up for shoplifting, selling drugs or stealing cars, so, no, I honestly don’t know.”

"It might do you some good if you didget arrested,” Gran snickered. "That cute Officer Panzio might even use handcuffs on you, if you’re lucky.”

Leave it to Gran to be practical and lascivious all at once. In fact, Tanya finally noticed the shape of the thingGran was knitting at the moment. It didn’t look like a baby blanket. It looked more like a pickle warmer. And Tanya didn’t know a person in Sonora who took their pickles warmed.

"I just had a nice long talk with your uncle Frank, Tanya,” her mother said, bringing Tanya’s mind back to more conventional topics.

"Ooh,” the Beatty twins said in unison. How they’d heard her mother when they were both under dryers running full blast, Tanya didn’t know. She also didn’t know what they were ooh-ing about.

"Mama, I’m busy, and this is Passion Red. We’re talking intense concentration work, here. Could we have this conversation later?”

"You turned down Uncle Frank’s amazing offer.”


"She did?” Mrs. Teasdale and Mrs. Ledbetter said in unison. Their shocked reactions were a little comical, considering none of them knew anything about Uncle Frank’s "amazing offer”.

"Not interested,” Tanya said, beginning to brush harsh red streaks onto Mrs. Ledbetter’s head with a vengeance.

Tanya’s mother turned, apparently appealing to the masses. "Her uncle Frank—who basically raised her as his own after my Tommy passed on—has offered her a chance to head her own makeover showon national television. And she turned him down!”

A torrent of gasps echoed throughout the shop. A litany of "How could she?” followed.

Not that she felt the need to defend herself, but Tanya turned to defend herself. "I’m perfectly happy right here.”

"You’re growing old right before our very eyes,” her mother said. "And it’s breaking your mother’s heart.”

"How is doing a television show going to slow the aging process, Mama?”

"It’ll get you out there,” Gran chimed in, "for all the men in America to see. If you’re lucky, there’s a good Italian one just waiting for a pretty girl like you.”

Tanya clunked down the bowl of coloring and lifted Mrs. Ledbetter out of the chair. "I know. Men—especially Italian men—watch makeover shows by the handful.”

"It only takes one.”

"I don’t know that I really want a guy who’s into makeover shows.” She was not going to do it. Not a chance.

"It’s for your uncle Frank, Tanya. Does he ask you for all that much?”

When he was asking her to perform in front of strangers, he wasn’t just asking much, he was asking her to rip out her own lungs and trample them. Because breathing would be impossible.

Tanya was spared from answering by another tinkling of the front door bell. Yvonne Matterling, co-owner of Sonora New and Used Books with her husband Matt, strolled in, loaded down with books. "Here you go, Angelina,” she said to Tanya’s mother.

Tanya knew for a fact that her mother only read magazines: Readers Digest to boast a broad knowledge of world events; Architectural Digest to have ammunition when complaining about what her own house didn’t look like, and Playgirl, to do what... Tanya didn’t know what and felt better that way.

For her mother to buy books from Matt and Yvonne was a scary proposition. Tanya took a closer look through the stack. Every single volume involved making it big in Hollywood.

This wasn’t good. Tanya didn’t want to make it big in Hollywood. She didn’t want to make it big anywhere. Making it big involved crowds and cameras and abnormal amounts of attention. She shuddered at the thought. Being well-known and sought after might be some people’s idea of a dream come true. To Tanya it sounded like a Freddy Kruger nightmare.

She loved Sonora. It was small and peaceful and friendly. She loved the tranquility and the safety and the beauty. And until this moment she’d loved Matt and Yvonne.

Tanya finished brushing on Mrs. Ledbetter’s disaster and pulled her over to a hair-dryer. She turned it on low and set the timer. Then she spun back, plunked her hands on her hips and faced the outraged-and-ready-to-rebel crowd. "I’m not doing it.”

"I’m suddenly not feeling so good,” Gran said.

"Baloney,” Tanya said.

"I guess she’s forgotten about how Frank bought her that pony,” Mrs. Teasdale chimed in.

Tanya rolled her eyes. "I’m not doing it.”

"Don’t forget that he put her through beauty school,” her mother added.

"I’m not doing it.”

"And even though he was busy making a name for himself in the entertainment industry down there in Los Angeles, he came up for weekends her whole life.”

"I’m not doing it,” Tanya said again, but she was horrified to find her voice weakening.

"And never missed a holiday, which is more than I can say for most fathers.”

"I’m. Not. Doing. It.”

"And he’d never tell her about how his job is hanging in the balance.”

Tanya gaped at her mother. "You’re making that up.”

"Have I ever lied to you?”


"Well, not this time.”

Her mother went and sat with some others in the shop, talking in a low voice. Tanya managed to avoid any more guilt trips by keeping busy cleaning her instruments. But as she beckoned Mrs. Ledbetter over to the sink for a rinse, she faced her mother down again. "Uncle Frank could get anyone to take that job. Why me?”


"Wow. Now there’s a reason that’s hard to argue with.”

After the rinse, her wash girl brought Mrs. Ledbetter back to Tanya, who almost shoved her into the chair.

"Oh, my Lord, what have you done to my hair?” the woman shrieked after a glance in the mirror.

Tanya exchanged an eye-roll with Sharyn, then reached for the Warm Ash Brown Sharyn had cooked up. "Ready to do it my way?”

"Oh, heavens, yes! Get this off my head!”

A collective sigh of relief sounded throughout the shop.

"Tanya to the rescue again,” Mrs. Teasdale said.

Tanya made the mistake of glancing at her mother, who was smiling triumphantly. "And that’s why your uncle needs you.”

"She’ll do it,” Mrs. Ledbetter whispered, just loud enough to be heard down in Los Angeles.

"YOU WANT ME to do what?”

"Produce a new show tentatively titled Pretty Women.

AJ Landry stared at the Vice President of Programming for Jupiter Broadcasting Company, Frank Pierce, in shock. And something that felt suspiciously like nausea. "You want me to give up producing our top sitcom to produce a... a—”

"Makeover show. Yes.”


Frank held up his hand. "Hear me out, okay?”

It was not going to happen. Not a chance in hell. But AJ respected Frank too much to say so without at least a listen, after which he’d keep a straight face as he said, "Not a chance in hell.”

Frank took a sip of coffee from his JBC mug. "Makeover shows are the rage. They’re cheap to produce, they’re great money if you’ve got a fresh angle that sponsors will get behind, and Jupiter needs one. Badly.”

"But why me?”

Frank shrugged and smiled. "You’re my best producer. Everything you touch turns to gold. And we need your Midas touch on this one.”

AJ tried to choose his words carefully. "No.”

Frank’s smile faded. "No is tantamount to saying, ‘I’m tired of my association with Jupiter.’”

Wow, that was a shocker. As far as AJ knew, Frank had never used not-so-subtle threats on anyone. He certainly didn’t want to cut ties with the network. He loved the challenges, and he respected almost everyone at JBC, but a makeover show? No way.

So he opened his mouth to say those two little words. Frank held up a hand. "I’m prepared to sweeten the pot.”

There wasn’t enough sugar in the world.

"Let’s make a deal,” Frank said.

AJ closed his mouth. "Okay, Monty. Hit me with what’s behind door number two.”

"Just get this show off the ground. We’ve got three sponsors willing to fund six episodes. If they like what they see, we’ll renew the show. You get it off the ground, make it a hit, make them want to stay on board, and I’ll give the go ahead for you to shoot the pilot for Making It Big.

AJ sat up. He’d been pitching that sitcom for two years, ever since he’d written the pilot as a way of purging his feelings about his ex-wife. That was a pot-sweetener if he’d ever heard of one. "I’d only have to produce the first six shows?”

"You’d only have to produce it until we have a hit on our hands.”

Oh, well, that wasn’t asking much. "What if it tanks?”

"In your hands, it won’t.”

AJ loved a challenge. And he appreciated confidence as well as the next person, but he’d been in broadcasting long enough to know no program was a sure thing. And he knew next to nothing about makeover shows. He’d have a lot of research to do. "I’ll do it on one condition.”

"Which is?”

"I’ll do my best to get this off the ground and make it a success. But JBC is wading into new territory here, and we have no guarantees. I’ll do it on the condition that, no matter what, hit or bomb, I get the budget to shoot the pilot of my show.”

Frank beamed. "Deal.”

Even as they shook hands AJ remained uneasy with the little transaction... but anything to get to shoot his pet project. "Okay, what’s it called again? Where’s the bible?”

Frank shoved a leather three-ring binder at him. He looked down at the title. "Pretty Women, he muttered, trying to keep any trace of disgust out of his voice.

He opened it up and skimmed the concept and other materials. He glanced back up. "It’s already been cast?”

Frank nodded. "This was Stan’s project before he decided to try to learn to ski. He’d already set the crew. And I think it’s a good one.”

Interpretation: You’re stuck with them, bud.

AJ didn’t like this at all. Still, he figured he’d see who and what Stan had come up with and make changes as he went along.

He looked down again. The host was a guy named Cole Porter. Cole Porter? He hoped the guy wasn’t going to croon his way through the makeovers. AJ’s gaze lit on the makeover artist. He looked up, his eyes narrowed. "Tanya Pierce?”

"Yes. She’s absolutely wonderful. Very talented. Why, she has people who fly into her shop from all over the country to have her take care of them. Word got around. I mean it really got around.”

"Umm... any relation, by chance?”

Frank studied his fingernails. "Didn’t I mention that part? She’s my niece.”

AJ didn’t want the words coursing through his head to escape out his mouth.

Finally, when he’d swallowed all those of the four-letter variety, he said, "Not that I’m any expert, but I’ve never heard of her. Where does she work now?”

Frank waved. "She’s not from L.A.”

Terrific. "So she’s a no-name?”

"Maybe here in L.A., but she’s got a happy clientele list a mile long. Besides, I’m counting on you to make her a name.”

Make her a name. Here we go again, AJ thought grimly. "Now, no offense, Frank, but I’ve got a thing about nepotism.”

"Me too,” Frank said, nodding. "Nothing like being stuck with dead weight on account of genetics!”

"Does she have any experience at all in front of a camera?”

"We’ve run some test shots, and, AJ, the camera adores her.”

He’d be the judge of that. "Has she got a personality?”

Frank looked offended. "Of course she has a personality. She’s related to me, isn’t she?”

Frank’s idea of a joke was an exploding cigar. A ringing endorsement, this was not. "I mean, does she have a quick wit? Think fast on her feet?”

"She’s adorable. You’ll love her.”

AJ doubted that with all his being. "Frank, I’m not entirely comfortable—”

Frank held up a finger. "Hold that thought. I need to show you the budget I threw together.” He leaned forward and punched a button on his phone. "Bring in the blue file for Pretty Women, will you?” he said when his assistant answered. Then he looked back at AJ. "I mean it, this budget is rough. I’ll need you to tweak it ASAP.”

AJ thought of the fifty things on his new to-do list. "Define ASAP.”

"Tomorrow afternoon is fine.”

Who needed sleep when there was work to do on a budget he hadn’t seen for a show he didn’t want with personalities he hadn’t selected or met?

A minute later the door opened and AJ glanced up quickly to give Frank’s assistant, Leslie, a quick smile. He looked down and then did a double take. Whoa!

He stood up, glancing between Frank and his new employee. "When did Leslie leave?” he asked Frank, then smiled again at the gorgeous brunette. "Hi, I’m AJ Landry. Nice to—”

"AJ,” she said, "it’s me!”

Her voice sounded a lot like Leslie’s. "Leslie?”

She handed a suddenly beaming Frank the file in her hand, then twirled. "Like the new look?”

"Like it? Honey, your husband must be in heaven.” Now that was no exaggeration. Whereas Leslie had always had so much hair that you didn’t notice her face, this look was softer and revealed her gorgeous eyes and cheekbones.

She struck a pose, laughed, then sauntered out, tossing back a saucy smile before closing the door.

"Looks pretty good, huh?” Frank said.

"Well, she’s always been cute, but...” He dragged his gaze from Frank’s door and narrowed his eyes at the older man. "The niece?”

"The niece.”

"Nice evidence.”

"Seeing is believing!” Frank agreed.

"Okay, she has potential talent. But I still don’t like nepotism, Frank. Let’s be honest. Is she a prima donna?”

"Of course not. Tanya’s the real deal. If anything, she’s a little shy. Never could seem to get her over that.”

"Shy? She wants to do a national television show, and she’s shy?”

"She adapts quickly.”

"Right. She spoiled?”

"I raised her. Maybe a little.”

"Great. Stubborn?”

"She’s sweet as can be... as long as you agree with her.”

"Wonderful. Now don’t take this wrong, but is she attractive?”

"She’s the prettiest young thing I’ve ever seen. Why, she takes after me,” he smirked.

AJ ignored that since Frank reminded him of W.C. Fields, and no girl could be that unlucky. "Bottom line, am I going to like her?”

"What’s not to like?”

AJ could think of about a hundred possibilities right off the bat. Like the fact that she was the center attraction in a show he didn’t want to be involved in, and Frank wanted him to make her a star. Which meant she probably wanted to be a star.

So AJ had been assigned the task of making her a star. A sick feeling twisted through his gut.

Yep, here we go again.



Chapter Two

TANYA STOPPED IN front of the oak door with the brass plate reading, "AJ Landry”. She took a deep, calming breath that failed to calm her and sounded more like a pant of panic. So, she directed her panting upward to blow an unruly curl of hair from her forehead.

That didn’t calm her either. Her hair was falling apart because Tanya’s hair and humidity never got along, and nature had decided to dump rain on sunny southern California. What a great first impression she was about to make.

Tanya was so out of her element. She’d been raised in small-town Sonora. Of course she’d been to bigger metropolises like San Francisco and Portland, but nothing had prepared her for Los Angeles. Her small and comfortable little shop had never prepared her for chopping, shaping, and teasing in front of a camera. In fact, being placed before a camera for any reason was pure torture. Performing before strangers—whether she could see them or not—was her idea of pure hell.

Why couldn’t her family get that through their heads?

Tanya silently cursed her mother once again. At Christmas last year, when Uncle Frank had asked Tanya’s advice on a new makeover show he was developing, her mother said, "And why are you picking her brains but not asking her to do this show? She’s the best in the business. Everyone in Sonora will tell you so.”

Frank nodded. "The initial angle was to get a big name. But we wanted to go for fresh.”

"You wanted to get someone cheap,” Gran opined.

Tanya rolled her eyes then, but was shocked when a few weeks later a man named Stan Heinbeck called to ask her to audition for the show. She did it only to keep her mother and grandmother from faking heart failure if she refused.

Right now she could happily consider matricide.

Strangely enough, that first audition hadn’t consisted of doing any sort of makeover. They just took film of her from all angles, did what they called lighting and sound checks and had her read straight from a script that scrolled across a monitor. And she was horrible. She knew it and she saw it in the eyes of all the people who watched her stumble through. Without even trying, she was successfully a bust.

She apologized to her uncle, trying to keep a relieved smile from her face. He appeared a little disappointed but asked one final favor of her: to do a quick makeover job on his assistant. It was for two reasons, he told her. One, because his assistant was going to a class reunion that weekend, and she really wanted to knock ‘em dead. And two, he wanted to test out the set-up for the show, to make certain it was ideally designed for the beautician to do her best despite the rather tight quarters.

That favor she happily granted Uncle Frank. She did Leslie’s hair and make-up, making notes along the way of things they could improve on the set for whoever actually did do the show.

What she didn’t know was that cameras were silently rolling. After she’d shown Leslie the results in the mirror, disembodied hands clapped in the darkness beyond the set, and her uncle’s voice boomed, "Did I tell you, or did I tell you?”

And apparently the Stan guy had agreed.

It had been a really sneaky thing to do, and Tanya was still fuming when two days ago Stan called to inform her she’d won the job hands down.

She’d tried to turn it down, to no avail. The Zegretti-Pierce world would come to a crashing, bloody end if Tanya didn’t jump on this opportunity.

"He’s expecting you, Ms. Pierce,” the middle-aged, rail-thin secretary said from behind her, reminding her she’d been standing in front of the door for who knew how long. She tried to smile at the woman, but the lady appeared to have woken up on the wrong side of the universe this morning. So much for the blonde-bombshell, chipper, dumb-as-a-brick personal assistant stereotype Tanya had been expecting.

"What do the A and J stand for?” she asked, trying to be conversational and informed all at once.

"They stand for Mr. Landry.”

Oh, goody. A stuffed shirt. Her favorite kind of jerk. "I’m betting he didn’t win any spelling bees, hmm?” she murmured.

"Ms. Pierce!” That imperious tone brooked no argument, so with one final breath and attempt to fix her unruly hair, she knocked softly.

"Come!” a deep male voice barked.

Tanya wanted to run. She was a marathon runner; she could be in Mexico before he noticed she’d stood him up.

But then the possible recriminations from her mother and grandmother popped into her head. The badgering it had taken to even get her down here still rankled. She was thirty-two. At what age was she legally allowed to tell them to stuff it?

What was worse, once she’d agreed to shoot what they called a pilot, and five additional episodes, her mother and grandmother had insisted on accompanying her to "the big city” to help her settle in.

Since she was staying with Uncle Frank at his Bel Air home for the foreseeable future, and poor Sharyn had to pick up the load back home, she wasn’t certain what kind of settling she was supposed to be doing, but arguing with them was more trouble than she could handle at the moment.

In fact, a bigshot producer should be a piece of cake compared to the two of them. She hoped. And there was always that marathon-running thing.

She opened the door and all but tiptoed in.

She nearly stumbled when she saw the man. And not just because she was used to wearing sneakers instead of these damn dress shoes. He didn’t even bother to look up from the keyboard he was hunting and pecking on or the computer monitor he kept glancing at.

He was mumbling to himself, and she thought she caught him voicing a very colorful picture of where he felt all budgets should go.

He was adorable. Chocolate-brown hair stood up in various patches, as if he’d been pulling at it in frustration. His brow was crinkled in consternation, or confusion. His skin was lightly tanned. Dimples appeared every time he bit those luscious lips.

Tanya stood in shock for a few moments. She’d expected a grizzly old guy. She’d never expected someone so close to her age.

Without looking up, he pointed at a chair in front of his desk and said, "Hi. Sit.”

She almost turned and marathoned it back to Sonora. He might be cute, but after only three terse words from his mouth, she’d already figured out that he’d become a curmudgeon early in life. This didn’t bode well. Her mother and grandmother might have been pushy, but she had always been able to wrap the men in her family around her pinky. It was a source of pride.

She was pretty sure her wrapping days were over.

Tanya sat down... and waited... and waited. Soon she was getting irritated. There were good rudes and bad rudes, and he was not displaying the good kind. She cleared her throat. Twice.

Finally, though still not looking up, he opened a drawer, pulled something out and tossed it at her. She caught it and stared back at him. A cough drop. Very cute. She’d never made quick judgments in the past, but she was not going to like this man. Oh, joy. Another reason to be thrilled to be here.

"I’m here, as scheduled, but if you don’t have the time I’ll be more than happy to leave right now, Mr. Landry,” she said, hoping she sounded professionally ticked off, Hollywood-style.

He still didn’t even bat an eye in her direction. She was becoming certain they’d be Satan-red. "Actually, Ms. Pierce, you were one and a half minutes late. That better not ever happen on the set.”

Tanya stood abruptly, almost knocking over her chair. Not even Mama’s wrath was worth dealing with a crummy cute guy. Oh, to be home in Sonora. "You know where you can stuff your set, Mr. Landry? Meeting’s over. And just so you know, your hair looks like hell.”

Self-righteous indignation felt good. And actually a relief. If she were to be honest, her response was probably way out of proportion to the situation, but grabbing at any straw was just fine with her. She’d never wanted this gig.

Tanya started to make a sweeping exit. She figured it would be apropos here in Hollywood.

"Sit, Ms. Pierce.”

She turned around, almost upset she didn’t have a boa to toss over her shoulder indignantly. "You’re not my boss, Mr. Landry.”

"Yes, I am, actually.”

That was when she noticed he’d actually deigned to look at her. Dammit! Gorgeous gray-green eyes. Cute, cute, cute.

Then again, bears were cute too, but she’d never had any desire to work with one. "Not if I don’t take this job, you aren’t, buster,” she said. "And after about two and a half minutes in this office, it’s obvious that working for you isn’t all that appealing.”

He leaned back in his chair. "Not that I’m doing cartwheels either, but you’ve signed a contract. Sit.”

"I am not a dog, Mr. Landry.”

"You certainly aren’t. Still, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be trained. Consider yourself a very pretty puppy.”

The only thing she had to throw at him was her briefcase, and she sincerely doubted her aim was all that good. Not to mention, if he really was her boss, sending him to the hospital probably wasn’t going to look good on an employee evaluation. She’d have to have a talk with Uncle Frank about how things like this worked in the surreal world of television. In the meantime, conciliation seemed to be the best course of action. She conjured a tight smile. "You’re lucky I’m housetrained.”

"Just don’t chew the furniture,” he said again, sounding bored and preoccupied all at once.

Maybe conciliation wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

He actually grinned, though, and dimples peeked through again. Damn, she hated that he was handsome. And, worse, that she’d noticed. And worse than that, that he knew she’d noticed. And that he knew she knew he’d noticed she knew.

No matter. She hadn’t been known as Tanya The Terror in high school for nothing. She’d been able to make football players quake at fifty yards. What could a puny television producer do to her?

"Here’s how it’s going to be,” he said, leaning forward.

He could irritate the hell out of her, that was what he could do.

She stood up straighter and went for a menacing look. "I was told this is my show. If I’m mistaken, I’ll gladly go home.”

He smiled at her again. It was a really mean thing to do. "You’re mistaken. It’s my show. You just happen to be the gorgeous talent. Deal with it, or go ahead and walk out on Uncle Frank. Hethought you could do it. Maybe you’re not so sure.”

Tanya happened to pick out two parts of that speech: "gorgeous” and "walk out on Uncle Frank.” She normally would have taken in the rest, but the man had the nerve to stand up during his speech. It nearly did her in.

No football player here. Not wide enough. Not quite tall enough for basketball, either. "Soccer, maybe?”

"Excuse me?”

That was when Tanya realized she’d spoken aloud—a lifelong habit she’d never been able to cure herself of. When she was nervous, she spoke whatever thought was uppermost in her mind. The damn habit had gotten her into trouble more times than she cared to wince about. Most of the time she could talk her way back out of it. But AJ Landry’s gray eyes were just a little too wise for her liking. "I was trying to decide what sport you played growing up,” she finally admitted.

"Never played soccer.”




"At beach parties.”

He wasn’t going to give it up easily, the turkey. "Swimming?”

"For fun.”

Tanya swallowed a growl. "Baseball? Ping pong? Tiddlywinks?”

He grinned again. "I’ll let you off the hook. I never played organized sports.”

"Oh.” She almost blurted, You got that body somewhere, buster, but bit her tongue just in time. "Well, it doesn’t matter. Where were we?”

"We were deciding if we think you can handle the job.”

"We were? Have we come to any conclusions?”

"We’re not hopeful.”

That did it. No one, and that meant no one, told Tanya Pierce she couldn’t do something. The Italian Zegretti in her wouldn’t allow her to shirk a challenge. The Pierce in her was screaming that she proceed with caution, pointlessly. Her Pierce side had never outshouted the Zegretti before, and it wasn’t about to win now.

"I can handle anything you throw at me, Mr. Landry. Even hair like yours.”

JUST WHAT IN hell was wrong with his hair? AJ wondered. He’d never heard any complaints before. Actually, he didn’t think he wanted to hear one now, either, fairly certain this woman would have no trouble telling him.

Frank Pierce had torpedoed him. Kind of shy, his ass. This woman could stare down a mafia hit man.

AJ waited for his natural Hollywood cynicism and bitterness to take hold and reject her, but it didn’t seem to be happening. He was almost mentally high-fiving Frank.

He could easily have screened the audition tapes Stan had couriered to his office, but, since Stan had included a slobbering note that they’d found "the one”, AJ had stubbornly wanted his first view and impression of her to be in person.

Tanya Pierce was beautiful. He was certain the camera would do justice to her wild black hair, well-defined cheekbones, heart-shaped face and full, sassy lips. Her big brown eyes would translate well, too... when they weren’t narrowed with anger and disgust.

Disgust? He wasn’t used to being looked at that way. Well, not since Heather had walked out three years ago. But that had been okay, because he’d been completely disgusted with her, too. Sudden fame did amazingly crappy things to people. He’d seen it over and over again.

AJ checked out the woman in front of him and began to wonder what fame would do to her if this show took off. He got a sour feeling in his stomach thinking about it. But it was bound to happen. Too bad.

He stifled a sigh. "I’m sorry, Ms. Pierce. It’s been a long morning and looks to be an even longer night. Please have a seat. We have a show to produce.”

She hesitated for a moment, but the fire in her eyes tamped down a bit, and then she sat primly in his guest chair.

AJ sat, too. "You didn’t really ask for this gig, did you?”

Her eyes went wide. "How did you know that?”

So his instincts were right again. Frank Pierce had recruited his niece, not the other way around. That was kind of cute, actually. And refreshing. He shrugged. "Just a guess.” He nodded at the briefcase she was clutching in her lap. "Show me what you’ve got.”

She looked down and frowned. "I don’t have anything to show you. I brought this to look... you know... professional... and just in case you had stuff to give me.”

Oh, great. Yeah, this was going to work. "Then tell me about your credentials.”

"Credentials?” Her brow furrowed cutely. Then she flashed a smile that kicked him in the mid-section, it was so glowing. Yep, the camera would love her.

She dumped the briefcase on the floor and leaned forward. "I do all the make-up and hair and wardrobe at our community theater.”

They were doomed. "Great. Anything else?”

"Well, I don’t want to brag, but...”

"Please. Please brag.” Give me something to work with, babe.

"I graduated top of my class at Tammy’s School of Beauty.”

He felt that would somehow miss the bio on their website. "Anything else?”

She looked down, apparently not wanting to boast. That too was kind of sweet. He’d had women climb under his desk trying to show off their credentials. Maybe he could work with this new modesty. "Go ahead,” he encouraged. "Brag some more.”

"Well, I own All About You.”

"What’s All About You?”

"A beauty salon in Sonora. And it’s not just haircuts and manicures, either. We work with the entire package. Makeup, massages, saunas, mud baths, facials, even fitness. The whole works.” Her face turned even more cherry-red after that excited speech.

"That’s great!” he said, feeling an insane need to boost her confidence. He needed her to take charge on camera.

Still, he just hated the thought of what fame was going to do to her eventually. It was poison, and every star succumbed.

Why was he in this business again?

"So what’s your vision for this show?” he asked.

She perked up, perked up really, really well according to his pulse.

"I’m going to give the customer exactly what she wants.”

That sounded boring.

"And get to know... a couple of things about her.”


"Which will help me decide what would be perfect for her. And then I’m going to make her do it my way.”

That was better.

"And I’m going to prove to her that she should listen to her makeover artist.”

AJ might actually end up liking this woman. At least until her ego inflated to the size of a Goodyear dirigible. "Sounds good so far.”

"So what we need is to find vict—I mean... women who want radical changes that are pretty ridiculous.”

"How do we do that?” he asked, really enjoying her in an animated state.

"Leave that to me.”

"I’m going to have to,” he said. "I don’t have a clue what we’re doing.”

"I could tell that right away about you,” she said, leaning over his desk and patting his hand sympathetically.

Maybe he wasn’t going to like her much after all.



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