I loved writing this wrap-up book for the Will Cook For Love Series sososososoos much! It’s the first book of mine that has a physically scarred heroine and an angsty teenager as a major secondary character. Nikko Stamp is either a love him or not hero for people. I, of course, love him, because even though he’s a bear of man to work for, there’s a real reason he’s the way he is ( you need to read the book to see why! heehee). Plus, he absolutely adores his daughter and would do anything for her. I love a hot dad!!!
This little scene introduces Stacy to Nikko. As you’ll read, Nikko’s new Executive Producer isn’t anything like he thought she’d be.
This couldn’t be the new executive producer.
She looked like an intern, barely out of college, not the seasoned television producer Teddy Davis had emailed him about.
The one he’d emailed back saying he neither wanted nor needed.
Hair the color of champagne fell just below her shoulders in a soft cascade of waves and ripples. Even in the heat and humidity engulfing them, it looked fresh. Her face was a perfect heart, a tiny dip in the center of the hairline bifurcating her brow into two perfectly aligned sections, her flawless chin falling into a delicate point. She had one hand out to shake his, the other shading her eyes from the strong and harsh afternoon sun, but underneath her fingers he was able to make out a pair of sloe-shaped eyes in a deep, forest green.
Taller than average but small boned, her legs took up most of her lissome body. With her lips held together in a tight line, she reached him.
“I’m Stacy Peters, Mr. Stamp.”
He stopped and planted his feet, his gaze shifting to her outstretched hand and then back up to her face without taking it. Her eyes narrowed into a determined glare and it looked as if she wasn’t going to back down until he shook it. With reluctance, he did.
Like the rest of her, her fingers were narrow and thin as they coiled around his.
A blast of heat instantly warmed and calmed his entire body like a few shots of his favorite Irish whiskey did after a rough and painful day. The subtle aroma of vanilla floated to him, filling his senses with the sweet fragrance. The persistent, throbbing ache in his left leg the liquor helped chase away was momentarily forgotten with his hand rooted in hers.
As soon as she pressed her fingers firmly against his palm once, she pulled her hand back.
For a split second, Nikko missed the touch. In the next, he found his anger again. “Look, Miss Peters—”
“Stacy is fine.”
He ignored her. “I told Davis I didn’t need an executive producer. I don’t need anyone telling me how to run this show, what’s going to make it a hit, how to rip the best from the concept. The show will be fine without someone questioning every decision I make and counting every dollar I spend.”
Stacy nodded and folded her hands together in front of her, her gaze staying locked on his as he spoke.
“Those last two he sent me were worthless and more trouble than I could stand.”
“Yes. I know there were…problems with the previous EPs—”
“Problems?” His scornful bark of a laugh was loud and harsh as he cut her off. “Two of the most annoying, incompetent people I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting. One was worse than the other. They had no knowledge of how to run a television production. Knew nothing about costs, location shots, or even how to set up food service for the crew. Between the two of them together, I don’t think they had a full brain.”
Surprised was too tame a word to describe his reaction when she laughed out loud. The sound hit him square in the chest like a bullet ripping through his rib cage.
Christ, was she laughing at him?
His eyes narrowed and he took a step closer, forcing her head to lift so she could meet his gaze. If he’d thought to intimidate her with his height, he knew he’d failed when she stood her ground, her gaze never wavering from his, her shoulders staying square.
A tiny bit of respect warred with the irritation churning inside him.
“They never even made it out here, one of them quitting an hour after she arrived at the studio. I don’t need incompetents like that around me or this production.”
Her words didn’t stop him. “Davis promised me creative control when I signed on to this show. That included managing the budget and costs as I saw fit. He gave me his word no one would bother me about piddling things like the price of airfare, how many damn cups we use for coffee or how much it would cost to film at night.”
He took another half step closer, so close now his body almost came in contact with hers.
“What he didn’t promise me was annoying paper pushers who don’t know a thing about running a television show, so you can get right back in that car and have Dixon take you back to the airport, because you’re not needed or wanted here.”
From the side of his vision Nikko saw a small crowd had formed around them. Set technicians, a few of the ranch hands Dixon employed, even the food-service people. He knew he should get a leash on his temper, but the annoyance of being saddled with yet another producer—and one who didn’t even look old enough to vote—had him unable to curtail his fury. Added in was the throbbing mess his leg had turned into from sitting in Dixon’s truck for so many hours.
She’d been nodding at everything he’d said and hadn’t interrupted him once. When he finally stopped, she came to life.
“I can assure you, Mr. Stamp,” she said, her gaze slicing through him with its intensity, “I have no intention of taking any control away from you. This show is yours. Your name is on it, not mine. It’s your baby. And unlike my two predecessors, I do know what I’m doing.” She took a breath, snaked a side-glance at the gathering group of people, and added, “This isn’t my first rodeo.”
The crew laughed.
Before Nikko could form a response, she shot her gaze to the senior rancher. She moved toward him, saying, “Mr. Dixon? I’m Stacy Peters, from EBS. Thank you so much for allowing us to film our competition here, for putting us all up, and putting up with us all.”
Nikko watched a free and easy smile grow on her face, one with twin dimples winking at the corners of her mouth, as she slipped her hand into the rancher’s.
“Well, aren’t you just the prettiest thing I’ve seen around here all day,” Amos Dixon said, shaking her hand and wrapping the other one around it to cocoon it between his. “And it’s my pleasure, young lady. My pleasure.”
Stacy giggled at the rancher, her nose crinkling. Nikko’s stomach muscles contracted at the adorable expression on her face.
“I was familiarizing myself with your ranch on the flight and I have to tell you how impressed I am with your business, and how I’m a little in awe of the scope of everything I’ve seen so far. I can’t imagine living here, seeing all this beauty everyday. It’s breathtaking.”
Dixon’s barrel chest puffed out at the praise.
“I’d be delighted to take you on a tour around the ranch anytime, darlin’—you just say the word.”
“I’d love that.”
“Well, you must be tired from the long trip,” Dixon said, keeping her hand tucked in his. “And I imagine you’re getting hungry too. Little thing like you needs a good, hot meal in her and I’ve got the best cook in the state.”
She laughed and said, “I can always eat, Mr. Dixon—”
“Call me Amos, darlin’. Everyone does.”
She nodded. “And a hot meal sounds great right now, but I’ve got some things I need to see to first before I take you up on your offer.”
Turning her attention back to Nikko, she was all professional polish once again, the smile gone, a blank, unreadable look on her face when she said, “Why don’t I drop off all my stuff, and then I can meet with you privately, Mr. Stamp? I know filming starts the day after tomorrow and there’s probably a million things that need to get done before that. I’ve been brought up to speed on everything, but I’d like to hear from you what you need, when you need it, how I can help you get it, and how I can make
everything easier for you. Would fifteen minutes be good?”
Dumbfounded, Nikko just nodded.
“Great.” She turned to Dixon’s son. “Beau, can you show me to my
Nikko watched father and son jockey for her attention as Dixon senior said, “Boy, you get the little lady’s bags. I’ll show her up. Shall we?” He held a cocked elbow for her to take, while his son pulled luggage from the trunk of the car.
As the trio walked up the drive and then the porch steps, Nikko’s gaze lasered on the slim back and long legs of his new executive producer as she smiled and listened to the senior rancher wax on and on about his “family’s spread.”
What the fuck had just happened?
Nikko turned to see a battery of eyes staring at him.
“Don’t you have things to do?” he bellowed. “This isn’t vacation camp.” Like lemmings, they all turned as a unit and scurried away. Nikko rubbed his throbbing thigh, the unceasing pain careening through him. He needed to sit down, put his leg up, and relax for a while.
Maybe more than a while.
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