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Excerpt: Make It Happen

Chapter One

Chocolate was everywhere in Kate Templar’s kitchen. On the ceiling. On the walls. On the counters. On her dog, Murphy.

On her.

And the doorbell was still ringing.

“Hold on!” Kate slapped her hands down on her flour-encrusted counter. A huge mushroom cloud of flour erupted, blocking her vision. She coughed, desperately searching for a towel to wipe the gunk from her eyes.

Instead, she hit a mixing bowl and heard it crash to the floor. She found the towel, hastily wiped her eyes, and ran to block the bowl from Murphy.

“No! No chocolate! It will kill you!”

Her foot slipped on a spot of chocolate, and she stumbled toward the counter. Her left hand hit the wooden spoon; her right hit the mixer, somehow turning it on again.

The mixer spun in her direction, and Kate watched in stupefied horror as it splattered even more chocolate batter against the walls.

Ugh. This was going to be a nightmare to clean up.

She was a total klutz. A danger zone. And she should have just bought a cake from the grocery store. But no, she had to watch a stupid cooking show and think she could bake a cake, because they made it look so easy.

She’d given up on baking from scratch after the first two attempts. This last one was Betty freaking Crocker. There should have been no way to mess this one up. Except she had.

The doorbell chimed yet again followed by a no-nonsense, heavy knock. Murphy’s ears perked and he turned to the door, his tongue already lagging out of his mouth in anticipation.

She knew what he was going to do.

“No!” She lunged for Murphy’s collar but missed. Typical. She scrambled after him as he bounded from the kitchen to the front door. They left a trail of chocolate in their wake.

Running for the door, Kate tried to push Murphy aside. He ignored her, shoving her aside to get at whoever was still ringing the damn doorbell. What part of her earlier “hold on” was so difficult to understand?  She grabbed Murphy’s favorite sheepskin toy and squeezed it to get his attention. His brown eyes widened, his attention momentarily diverted.

Time to divert it some more.

“Go get it!” She tossed the toy down the hallway. Murphy scampered after it and headed in the direction of her bedroom. Damn. Now she’d have chocolate-covered sheets, too. But at least Murphy would stay in there for a while.

She yanked the door open before it could ring again, and—

Light blinded her.

She held her hand up to shield her eyes, only to see a camera crew. And . . . and . . .

Sam Brody?

No way.

Was she really looking at the so-called Golden Prince of Hollywood? A man famous for his makeover shows.

What was he doing here?

“Hello,” he said, in that famous clipped British accent of his. “We’re looking for Katharine Templar.”

Me?!” She gestured wildly, and chocolate sailed through the air, hitting Sam Brody in the face. A smear of chocolate slanted down his straight, aquiline nose and plopped onto his firm lips.

“Oh. My. God. I’m sorry.” Her hands fumbled about, looking for something to give to him so he could clean up. She had nothing.

Sam Brody removed a handkerchief from his suit jacket and somewhat wiped the mess from his face. But there was still chocolate streaked across his face like a facial mask that hadn’t been completely removed. “You’re Katharine—“

“Kate. Please call me Kate. No one calls me Katharine unless you count my mother, and that’s only––“

And now she was rambling to the most handsome man she’d ever seen in her entire life. And she’d thrown chocolate at him, not on purpose, but still.

This day could not get any worse.

“Kate, then.” Sam held out his hand. “I’m Sam Brody.”

“Yeah, I know.” But she held out hers, too, and they both stared down at their outstretched hands.

His was perfectly clean and hers was covered in chocolate, flour, sugar, and . . . Were those pieces of eggshells? Yes, yes, they were.

No way was she going to shake his hand and mess him up even more.

She started to pull back, but then Sam surprised her.

He took her hand, firmly shaking it.

And she felt a shock.

Or perhaps it was just a piece of eggshell digging into her palm.

She let go of his hand and glanced over his shoulder at the camera crew behind him. “So, what are you doing here? What exactly is going on?”

“Congratulations, Kate.” Sam smiled at her, and her heart took a nosedive to her stomach. “You’ve been chosen to be on the new reality show, It Girl. You’re getting a makeover.”

Yup.

This was officially the worst day of her life.

* * *

It could be worse. She could be covered in ice cream, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry on top of her head. Instead of a chocolate-dipped woman, she would be Woman á la Mode.

Muffled laughter broke out, and he turned around, glaring at his crew. They were certainly getting a kick out of the situation—laughing at him looking less than perfect. It wasn’t that funny.

“You’re kidding,” she said, drawing his attention to face her once again.

“I’m not. You have been selected to be on It Girl.”

Her hazel eyes widened. “The show where you’re going to make over some woman into a pseudo-celebrity?”

“That’s the gist of it, yes.” Sam roamed his gaze over her and ran a hand through his hair.

He had to make her into a star of sorts? He almost laughed at the absurdity of it. This project would be challenging. Just looking at Kate Templar, he knew she needed him.

“The goal is to transform you into a woman who gets noticed.”

“I get noticed,” she said defensively, hands landing on her hips.

“Anyone covered in chocolate would get noticed, Miss Templar.” He leaned forward and pulled out a piece of eggshell from her hair. Unlike Humpty Dumpy, Sam would be able to put all the pieces of Kate Templar back together again. Only she wouldn’t look like some victim of a chocolate war. “What happened?”

“It was the mixer,” she said through clenched teeth as if that explained everything. “Listen, I’m sure you had thousands of applications––”

“More like five hundred and twenty-five thousand. The idea of the show was––”

“A result of a bet on a talk show,” she finished. “You said you could transform any woman into It Girl by the end of August.”

He totally regretted that hasty bet, which had gone viral. He only had three months to make Kate Templar famous. If he didn’t, he would have to admit defeat.

And he didn’t like to lose. Ever.

Kate Templar was going to become an It Girl, even if it killed her––or him. He was going to get her picture in magazines, score interviews for her, bring her to important parties and introducer her to everyone who was someone. Basically, turn her into a woman who everyone wanted a piece of.

“Since you have so many applicants, you’ll be able to find another.” Kate stepped back, attempting to shut the door.

He stopped her with a well-placed foot in the opening.

Kate glared at him. “Mr. Brody, I’m not going to do your show.” 

“How can you not want to be on the show?” He couldn’t believe for one second that she didn’t. After all, what woman wouldn’t want a makeover or a chance at a million dollars? “You should at least consider it.”

“Um . . . no, but thank you.”

He decided to charm her and pasted his famous Sam Brody smile on his face, the one that had been plastered on countless magazine covers. “Think of it this way. You’ll be getting a paid vacation. Three months in Malibu. A new wardrobe. Fifty thousand dollars once you sign the contract to be on the show. Your life will be better. You’ll never be boring—”

“I’m not boring.” Kate glanced down at her chocolate-covered clothes. “And nothing you can say will tempt me to do the show.”

“Not even for the million dollar prize?”

“Million dollars?”

“Yes, besides the fifty grand, you could win a million dollars if you’re successful. If the judges decide you’ve passed. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. You can seize control of your life. Do what you want. Forge a new beginning.”

“But I didn’t even enter the contest.”

“Your mother did on your behalf. She wrote a long essay.”

“My mother?”

Sam reached into his coat pocket for the printed e-mail and held it out to her. “Here you go. Your mother’s email moved many to tears.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” she commented in disbelief. “I’m nobody. I’m just Kate. No one is going to care about me being made into a supposed It Girl.”

“Not true,” he said. “You’re an underdog. People want to see underdogs win. They’ll root for you.”

Hell, part of him had rooted for Kate when he’d first read the letter. And then when she’d hit him with that chocolate? He wanted her to win, plain and simple. As much as he’d been annoyed and frustrated with the laughter from the camera crew, he wanted her to succeed.

She might not look like a winner right now, but she would be.

He had an instinct about these things.

Kate snatched the e-mail from his hand and quickly read it. “Oh. My mom actually said that. How embarrassing that she told you everything.”

Sam nodded, feeling even more sympathetic toward Kate. Her mother had been honest in the email, leaving no skeleton unearthed, in the hopes that her daughter would be chosen. It had worked.

Still, family could be a pain, thinking that they knew better. And, well, Kate’s mother wasn’t here, didn’t even live in New York. Kate was the one who would have to be on national television, and face public scrutiny.

He gentled his voice, because he wanted her to do this, so that she could prove everyone wrong. “Kate, can I come in? It can’t hurt to listen to what I have to say. At the very least, I can clean myself up.” He tapped a finger to his cheek and came away with even more chocolate.

She winced and stepped aside to let him and his camera crew into her apartment. “Yes, of course. I am sorry about the chocolate missile.”

“It’s okay. And thank you.” He turned to Charlie, the producer of the show, once the door had shut behind them. A dog was barking from the bedroom. That’s right. Kate had a dog. “Tell them to stop filming.”

“You said to––”

“Not now.” He nodded his head in Kate’s direction. “She hasn’t agreed to appear on the show.”

Charlie cleared his throat, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses, and glanced at Kate. “You’re not going to do the show?”

“We’re still working out the details,” Sam said.

“Okay, you’re the boss, Sam. I’ll tell them.” Charlie walked over to the cameramen, leaving them alone.

Sam stepped closer to Kate. There had to be a way to get her to do the show. Maybe he could appeal to something she actually wanted, something more than the money.

“You lost your job, right?”

“You could say that.” She attempted a careless shrug but failed miserably with the bitterness that tinged her voice.

Ah, so it bothered her. As it should. “And how did that happen?”

Kate glared at him. “I think you already know.”

“I do.” Sam had read all about it and spoken over the phone to Kate’s former co-workers, her friends, and family. They had all said the same thing: the school had been looking to cut teachers due to budget cuts. Unfortunately teachers at the bottom were the first to go.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t really like teaching,” she said, surprising him with her honesty. “But I don’t know what I want to do, and that’s kind of . . . scary.”

He got that. Kate didn’t know how much he got it, but he did. It was scary to not know what direction your life was headed toward. Sometimes, he thought he’d never be on the path he wanted to be on. “Didn’t you major in acting, too?”

“I did, but it’s not as if I went after it.”

“Did you want to?”

She looked at him for a long moment, and he got the distinct impression that she was trying to decide whether to answer him or not. It surprised Sam how much he hoped she would tell him.

And then she nodded. “It was a silly dream, though. Nothing would have come of it, so I didn’t go for it. Maybe I should have, but . . .”

“But . . . what?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it?”

Yes, it did matter. And not just for the show. He wanted to know what the “but” was. He wanted to know more. Had she been scared to go after a dream? He could relate to that. After all, it wasn’t as if making over people was what he really wanted to do, either.

God, what was he even thinking about right now?

He needed to convince her to sign on the dotted line, to agree to this madness, and to roll the dice, despite all the evidence that not once in her twenty-eight years had Kate Templar taken a risk.

Moving closer to Kate, Sam thought of his Hollywood connections. It wouldn’t be hard to get her a few auditions, even if she couldn’t act. There were many so-called actresses cast every day because of their image and looks alone. She didn’t need to be the next Meryl Streep. And even better, the acting angle would only work better for the show. It would make It Girl more interesting. And it viewers would love the angle, too.

“I can help you.”

“With what?”

“With acting. I do have connections. I can make all your wildest wishes and dreams come true. If you agree to do the show.”

* * *

What if doing It Girl wasn’t such a bad idea?

And what if Sam was telling the truth about helping her with acting?

And what if she said no? Kate could see herself regretting it. The same kind of regret she’d lived with when she hadn’t pursued her dreams. Instead, she had listened to others and settled for a career she never liked. If she said no, then she’d spend the next few months moping, working at a dead-end job.

But if she said yes, she could change her future.

“What does being on the show entail exactly?”

“You’d live at my house and have lessons. From the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you fall asleep at night, the cameras would film your every move.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun.”

“After a while, you don’t even notice them,” he said, nodding his head at the cameras. “It’s a small price to pay for your ultimate goal. Just picture this: it’s August, you’re in a dazzling green dress and have emeralds at your throat, something to match your eyes. You’re walking the red carpet, barraged with questions and lights and mingling with celebrities. By the next morning, everyone in Hollywood––and the world––will want to know who Kate Templar is. Your phone will be ringing off the hook with offers like you’ve only dreamed about.”

“What do you know about my dreams?”

“Nothing. But I can help you. Say yes.”