Stephanie Doyle.

Who Wants To Marry a Heartthrob?






Dear Reader,

Come on. Admit it. At one point in time you have caught a snippet of The Bachelor, or The Bachelorette, or Average Joe or Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? Or maybe youre a dedicated viewer. Well, this story is for everyone who has watched those shows and been amazed that reality can be sodramatic!

I had just finished being flabbergasted that Trista actually dumped Charlie for Ryan when this story came to me in a flash. I couldnt help but wonder what really happened when the cameras stopped rolling. What if the Bachelor wasnt what he seemed? What would they do with a contestant with an A-cup bra size?

I saw Bridget as the anti-contestant. And since I have always loved the boss/secretary relationshipIm a longtime fan of Josh and Donna on the West Wingadding Richard as the demanding boss seemed like a perfect recipe for love, some fun and a lot of chaos.

I hope you enjoy this journey into my very warped, highly dramatic and hopefully very entertaining version of reality TV.

I do love to hear from readers. Come visit me at www.stephaniedoyle.net.

Happy reading,

Stephanie Doyle

Theres only one thing to do. Trick him.

This caught Bridgets attention. What do you mean?

Pretend you need him to kiss you for some other reason, Raquel said. Like youve got a piece of gum stuck on your back tooth and you need him to get it. Only with his tongue.

The concept had meritthe kissing part, not the gum part. But I dont know, Bridget hedged. You dont think its a little obvious? I would like to think that Richard and I were more mature than that.

Of course, Richard was oblivious to her feelings, which were apparently pretty obvious to the world. She wouldnt share them with him verbally because she was a scaredy-cat. The two of them basically were afraid of their respective families. Richard drew comic strips for entertainment.

So maybe they were not the two most mature people in the city.

Trick him, Raquel repeated firmly.

Trick him, Bridget repeated silently. It might just work. Wow, she truly was becoming an evil seductress. All she had to do was sleep with her sisters husband or abscond with someone elses baby, claiming it was hers and it would pretty much be a done deal.

Richard wasnt going to know what hit him.

Who Wants To Marry a Heartthrob?
Stephanie Doyle

www.millsandboon.co.uk

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Doyle began her writing career in eighth grade when she was given an assignment to write in a journal every day. Her own life being routine, she used the opportunity to write her own sequel to the Star Wars movies.

One hundred and six handwritten pages later, she discovered her lifelong dreamto be a writer. Currently, Stephanie resides in South Jersey with her cat, Alexandria Hamilton Doyle. Single, she still waits for Mr. Right to sweep her off her feet. She vows that whoever he is, hell decorate the cover of at least one of her books.

Books by Stephanie Doyle

HARLEQUIN FLIPSIDE

2ONE TRUE LOVE?

HARLEQUIN DUETS

65DOWN-HOME DIVA

88BAILYS IRISH DREAM

SILHOUETTE INTIMATE MOMENTS

792UNDISCOVERED HERO

For my brother, Chris. The funniest person I know.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

EPILOGUE

1

HOUSTON, we have a problem.

Huh?

We have a problem, Bridget Connor repeated, although she didnt know why she bothered. Her employer clearly was not listening. Right now his gaze was pinned on fourteen gorgeous women, each dressed more scantily than the next. Bridget had never seen so much Spandex in one sitting in her life. And she wondered about the engineering of some of the clothes that managed to hold certain body parts in place when it seemed as if the slightest shift might give away the farm, so to speak.

Not that her employer was waiting for a quick flash. Or maybe he washe was a man after all. But he wasnt ogling the women with the same intent that some of the other men in the room had. No, Richard Wellss priority wasnt sex right now.

It was money.

He turned his head and she could see him squint in her direction. Squinting was Richards universal sign for Huh? After three years of working for him, she was an expert on all of his subtle little expressions.

Did you say something? he asked.

Yep.

Something about a problem, he recalled. In Houston?

No, here in New York.

He looked confused. Then why did you say Houston?

Its an expression. Work with me, Richard. Then she reminded herself that she needed to be patient with him tonight. Not that it didnt require a great deal of patience to work with the moody ad executive on a normal day, but tonight was different. His focus was solely on the event that was to take place within the next half hour. Nothing short of a nuclear explosion would distract him from that.

What is it? he snapped impatiently.

She considered him while he continued to study the room. You have no intention of listening to a word I say, do you?

When he turned back to her, he was squinting again.

I dont have time for problems, he announced.

I can see that, but you do. Have a problem, that is.

He shook his head as if to deny her words. What could possibly go wrong? The camera crew is here, the women are herewell, most of them anywayand my heartthrob is most definitely here. Richard pointed to the man standing by himself, away from the women. Brock Brickman was broad, blond, buffed and the perfect choice for Breathe Better Mouthwashs newly sponsored showWho Wants To Marry a Heartthrob?

Its about one of the girls, Bridget tried.

Distracted, Richard looked over his shoulder and spotted two men in suits walking through the entryway into the large living room, which had been temporarily transformed into a television set. Don and Dan Meadle were the co-CEOs and owners of Breathe Better Mouthwash. They also happened to be twins, which never failed to amuse Richard and cause him to silently mock the parents who had named them. Obviously, they were here to check up on the project, but he refused to be nervous. Everything was on schedule for his advertising masterpiece.

Who Wants To Marry a Heartthrob? areality dating show set in New York, was going to put the burgeoning mouthwash company on the map. Two live group shows, four taped individual dates and two romantic weekend getaways, also taped and edited for maximum dramatic effect, would feature exclusively the mouthwash commercials that he had created.

The entire package had been Richards concept. Once he had found a cable channel that would support the dating show over the course of eight weeks, his vision had become a reality. Now it was time for the show to air and his nerves were being put to the test, although there was absolutely no reason for it, he assured himself. He had left no stone unturned.

The first piece of the puzzle had been finding the location. He and Bridget had searched the summer play area of New Yorks wealthy, South Hampton, for days. Then they had stumbled on a house that was both markedly luxurious and effortlessly romantic.

The sprawling Victorian sat on an inlet of Long Island Sound. Done in white both inside and out, except for the hints of color strategically added throughout, it lent itself to a summer dream. A covered pool took up space on the green lawn that extended toward the water. And in back of the house there was a massive patio, complete with a hot tub and porch swing. It was a heartthrobs ultimate bait.

The season was right. It was late fall, a little chilly perhaps, but the summer season was over and most of the tourists were gone. This would allow them more flexibility to get the shots on the beach and in the restaurants that they wanted for the four hour-long dates that would be aired individually.

Thats right, Richard thought. Not one stone. He had handpicked each of the fifteen women as well as the heartthrob. Every detail of the show was in his control. Nothing escaped his notice. Not Brocks cologne, not the hosts tie, not the wardrobe of the ladies. Nothing.

He was investing everything he had into this ad campaign. If it was successfuland it would be because the idea was geniusthe Breathe Better Mouthwash executives would have no choice but to follow him when he branched out and opened his own agency. Hed worked for this night for years and success, real success, which to date had been an elusive lady, was within his grasp.

Unfortunately, it was usually moments like this when he thought he was so close to something that nothing could go wrongthat it all went wrong. He need only reflect on that last week before he was to have graduated from Yale to get a reminder of that particularly painful lesson.

Theyre here, Richard announced ominously, his chin lifting slightly in the direction of the twins.

Bridget turned and glanced at the two men who were standing off to the side observing the spectacle that was a live television show.

This is it, Richard told her somewhat fatalistically, feeling his heart beat hard against his rib cage and his palms beginning to sweat. For the most part he wouldnt have considered himself a nervous man, but right now it felt as if his whole life was coming down to this one crucial moment. He glanced at Bridget, grateful for her presence. Not only did he know that he had her support throughout this endeavor, but he also knew that she would cover his tracks if he needed to leave the room real quick to puke. If this worksAnd it is going to work, right? We both agree it couldnt fail. Right?

Right.

Youre only saying that because you know thats what I want to hear, arent you, he accused her.

Right.

He could live with that.

This will be the big one. The one Ive been looking for. The one that is going to free me and my creative genius from the death grip of the V.I.P. Advertising Agency.

Bridget rolled her eyes.

I saw you do that.

Youre so dramatic, she said. Youve been looking for the one for years now. And V.I.P. doesnt have you in a death grip. They pay you really well. Thats why you stay with them.

Its just that I have a loft in Soho. You know what I pay in rent. I cant quit and start my own agency until Im positive, absolutely sure, that one of these big companies is going to follow me. But this is it. I can smell it.

You dont think thats the mouthwash?

Richard took his eyes off the two executives and focused them on his assistant again. Her lips were turned up in that soft smile that she was famous for. Subtlety, he thought, thy name is Bridget.

It was there in the way she pulled her midnight hair back into a tight bun, the way she always wore stark black clothes and the way she always maintained a sense of calm even in the face of chaosas she was doing now. He couldnt help but envy her that serenity.

You know this night is about your future, too, he told her. Didnt I promise you I would make you vice president?

Ooh. Vice president of a two-person company. A staggering promotion, she quipped. But the truth was she knew that following Richard to his own company was the career break shed been looking for since shed graduated college and ended up in the assistant pool at V.I.P. It did occur to her that hed never really asked her if she was willing to quit V.I.P. and join him in his endeavors. Hed just assumed she would.

He was right of course, but stilla girl liked to be asked.

Dont you want me to be successful when I do leave?

She shrugged. Its not as important to me. I only have an efficiency in Brooklyn.

He smirked at her then turned his attention back to the scene before him. The women were arranging themselves around the room ready to greet their potential husband and heartthrob. Bridget watched Richard count them and waited for him to notice that something was missing.

Then Buzz, the cameraman/director that Richard had hired, approached the two of them. A mobile camera, one of three that they were using for the show, sat heavily on his thick shoulder. He had thick, salt-and-pepper-colored hair that hung heavily down his back, a bushy beard, several tattoos and Richard could see Buzzs round belly where his T-shirt didnt quite meet the top of his jeans.

Suddenly, Richard was very grateful that this man would always be behind the camera. Buzz was definitely not what America was tuning in to see. Richard quickly checked the living room for mirrors and was satisfied when he saw none.

Weve got a problem, Buzz announced.

I told you, Bridget sang.

Richard glared her into silence. I know. There are still only fourteen girls. Wheres Richard scanned the faces of the women, ticking off in his head each of the candidates Bambi?

Boob accident, Bridget announced. Both men looked at her. Thats what I was trying to tell you. She just called. Apparently she developed complications after her implant surgery.

What kind of complications? Richard asked.

It seems she might have gone a little overboard, three cup sizes overboard to be exact. Her body couldnt hold them up, and as a result, she threw out her back. Shes going to be in traction for the next three weeks.

Three weeks!

Wow, Buzz mumbled. Must be some pretty big boobs.

Richard instantly calmed down. Fine, well do the show with fourteen women.

We cant, Buzz complained. You told me fifteen. I set up everything to work for fifteen. The camera shots, the furniture, the props. If there are only fourteen girls its not going to look right. The shots wont be even.

Oh, for Petes sake, its only a cable show. At best what were attempting to do here is a beefed-up, overly dramatic infomercial. Were not talking Masterpiece Theater, Richard wailed.

Fifteen is fifteen. Im a perfectionist.

Were going live in, like Richard glanced at his watch and immediately freaked ten minutes! Ten minutes. I cant find another Bambi in ten minutes! Bridget, tell him I cant find another Bambi in five minutes.

Were fresh out of Bambis, Buzz, she obliged and tried not to smile for fear it would upset Richard that much more. Not that it wasnt fun to get him riled every once in a while, but tonight really wasnt the time.

Buzz shrugged. Fine. If thats the way you want it. Im just saying its going to look funny.

Whats going to look funny? Dan, one of the co-CEOs, who had wandered over to their side of the room, asked.

Bridget watched in amazement as Richard instantly smoothed out his frazzled expression. He could go from hysterical lunatic to calm businessman like nobody else she knew. It was all an act, but it was a good one.

Nothing. Everything is fine.

Don joined them and pointed to Buzz. He said that it was going to look funny. We dont want funny. Were not paying for funny. You said everything would be perfect.

And it will be, Richard insisted to the two men.

Not with fourteen girls, Buzz muttered.

Richard glared at the cameraman ferociously. Ill get a girl, he announced.

Dan, Don and Buzz all looked at Richard expectantly.

Ill get a girl, he repeated. This time with conviction.

Satisfied, Buzz wandered off and so did the executives.

Great, Richard snapped once everyone was out of earshot. Buzz, the biker cameraman is really a junior Steven Spielberg in training.

You did insist on the best, Bridget reminded him.

I need you to be on my side right now.

She snorted. That should be in my job description. Filing, message taking, errand running and permanently being on your side.

You mean it isnt? Add that to your job description as my VP.

What do you need me to do?

Find a girl, he ordered her sounding somewhat desperate.

She laughed. Where am I going to find a sane single woman who is willing to go on a television game show to win a husband in less than ten minutes?

Not just a husbanda heartthrob husband. Brock Brickman is Americas daytime heartthrob. Clearly youve never seen his work on The Many Days of Life.

Yes, but wasnt he fired?

Only a few weeks ago. Which is the only reason he was available to do this show in the first place so lets consider ourselves lucky. Hes a semi-star, hes handsome and hes going to pick one of these lucky women to be his wife. One of these lucky fifteen women. I just need one more Richards words trailed off even as he surveyed her up and down.

Bridget suddenly got very nervous. Either Richard somehow could see through her dark silk blouse and was checking her outnot likelyor she was being sized up as a piece of meat. A sacrificial piece of meat.

She isnt Bambi, he concluded silently. She didnt have the flowing blond hair, the blue eyes or the body. Bridget more or less resembled a modern-day Audrey Hepburn in Funny Facebefore the transformation.

She had little to no shape. Her golden-brown eyes, probably her best feature, were covered by thick, dark glasses that he knew she thought were chic, but that actually took up too much space on her face. No doubt her soft pale skin tone would translate as pasty on camera, but he was a desperate man. They could always add a lot of makeup.

Richard, Bridget growled. Why are you looking at me like Im steak and you are a hungry dog?

Youre single.

Oh, no, she protested. No way. Not me.

Bridge, Im desperate. You heard Dan. He said no funny.

That was Don.

Whatever. I need you.

If you think I would go on a television show to get a husbandIf you think I would go on a television show for any reason, you are out of your mind. You know how I hate the spotlight.

But this is our future, Bridge!

Their future. Her heart skipped a beat at his words. She wasnt sure exactly why. Possibly because she had a very real fear she was about to wet her pants. Im not going on TV.

Fine. Dont do this. Dont make this sacrifice. Really, I dont know what I was thinking. I mean, hey, youre happy just being my assistant, right? The idea of running an advertising company alongside me isnt that important to you, is it?

Bridget stood firm in the face of his guilt-mixed-with-bribery tactic. He was deluding himself if he thought for a moment that she was going to fall for it. She was way too skilled with this tactic to even flinch.

Okay, I do know what I was thinking, he said answering his own question. I was thinking that you could, for the sake of Buzzs desire to be a perfectionist, Dans

Dons.

Dons desire that absolutely nothing go wrong on this million-dollar ad campaign and, of course, my desire that this show put Breathe Better Mouthwash on every grocery and drugstore shelf in America, thus securing my position as New Yorks most creative and most successful advertising force, sit in one of those chairs for one hour and look at Brock as if he makes your mouth water! Thats it. That is all that I am asking. Richard inhaled deeply, then added, Its not like youre going to make the first cut.

Why that statement, of all things, should sting, she couldnt say. But she could feel her bottom lip puff out slightly in what she feared was a sulky pout. Bridget didnt do the sulky pout well. Usually, she ended up looking as though her lower lip had been stung by a bee. And why not?

Look at you, Richard said, pointing at her chest. Now look at them.

Bridget scanned the room of women all working on poses that showed off theirposturein the best possible light.

All right, Bridget conceded. I get your point. Maybe I dont have the figure of Pamela Anderson, but that doesnt mean that Brock might not see my inner beauty.

Okay, Richard said, using his hands on her shoulders to spin her and point her in the direction of Brock. Now, look at him.

Brock currently was trying to check out his reflection in one of the elegant silver pitchers sitting on one of the marble-top tables that lined the foyer of the house. Bridget couldnt imagine that the distorted image satisfied his vanity.

Hey, do I have something in my teeth? Brock asked one of the cameramen.

Richard turned Bridget back around to face him. Please, Bridge. I know you hate the spotlight. But you wont even know the cameras are there. These guys are professionals. Youll sit in one of the chairs, balancing out the shot for Buzz, maybe say hello and goodbye to Brock. Hell pick eight girls, none of whom will be you, and bang! Youre back to being my assistant.

Oh, joy! she exclaimed with mock enthusiasm. You mean after being rejected and humiliated on network television, I get to go back to being your assistant.

Its not network, sweetheart, its cable.

She crossed her arms over her chest and huffed.

Please, he cajoled, and she could hear him struggling to muster actual sincerity. She hated when he did that. It always weakened her.

Youre my best friend. Youre going to be my future business partner, he added. And friends and partners are supposed to be there for each other, arent they?

What a load of crap, she groaned. Internally though, she felt herself caving.

No, really, its true. I read it in a magazine.





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