Show Time (Juniper Ridge Romantic Comedies #1) by Tawna Fenske

Chapter 1


Judson, Dean (CEO: Juniper Ridge)

What? No, of course I’m not fucking camera shy. Jesus, Lauren. I grew up with the damn things shoved in my face just like you. Production value? [unintelligible muttering] Can’t I just run the business side of—yeah, I know. All in this together, blah blah. I still don’t see why I have to sit here like a trained parrot and—[heavy sigh] Fine. But only for the business. It’s not because you’re doing the sad little sister face. Or because I love you.

Oh, bite me.

I glance at the clock in my office, trying to decide if I have enough time to grab coffee. In my old life, I had an assistant who’d set a hot mug in front of me before I even thought the word coffee.

But my old life was full of dirty money and blinding lights and the constant stench of desperation, so getting my own coffee is a small price to pay.

Six minutes. That’s how long I have until the candidate for chief financial officer makes her appearance. How long does it take to make coffee, anyway?

“Here are the notes for the police officers’ screen tests.” My sister, Mari, strides in with a folder in her hands and a pencil speared through her lopsided bun. “Lauren emailed you the video files. I think the psych eval on—”

“Doesn’t this seem weird to you?” I fold my hands on my desk as Mari stops moving for once and looks at me. “I mean, we’re hiring professionals based on how well they’ll perform on camera.”

Mari sighs and whacks the folder down in front of me a lot harder than necessary. “We’re making a reality show, not staffing the Oval Office. And we’re hiring them for specific skills they bring to the community.” She gives me the look over the rim of her glasses. “Are we going to keep having this conversation? Because if we are, I’ll ask Lauren to tape my response and you can hit play by yourself.”

“That sounds about right.” Our brother, Gabe, ambles through the door grinning. “I only caught the end of that, but if we’re suggesting Dean spends his days in here buffing the banana, we should rethink letting him have the big office.”

“Get out.” I glance over my brother’s shoulder at the clock. “I’ve got five minutes until my next interview gets here.”

“She’s already here.” Gabe drops into one of my guest chairs, in no hurry to get gone. “That’s what I wanted to tell you. She’s been out in the waiting room for ten minutes.”

Punctual. That’s a good sign. I make a mental note as Gabe kicks his legs out and folds his hands behind his head. “She’s actually sort of related.”

A ripple of unease churns my gut. I’m not a fan of nepotism. I saw way too much of that in Hollywood. “Related to whom?”

“To us,” he says. “Well, me. My wife.” He draws out the word like a guy who has not yet exhausted the novelty of it. To be fair, it’s been three weeks since the wedding, and also his wife is awesome. “Gretchen’s brother, Jon—his dad has this sister—”

“Jon’s late father,” Mari puts in, always big on establishing the human connection. “Who is no relation to Gretchen because she and Jon had different fathers.”

I’m already lost in the branches of my brother’s new family tree. “So, we’re not talking immediate family here?”

Gabe glares. “Will you let me finish, chief tight-ass?”

I sigh and wave him on, glancing at the clock again. I suppose I’ll live without the coffee.

“Anyway, Gretchen’s brother’s father’s sister has these twin daughters, and one of them—”

“Vanessa Vincent,” I interrupt. I like how the name sounds rolling off my tongue, strong and no-nonsense. “Harvard MBA, two years with PricewaterhouseCoopers, expertise in forensic accounting, compliance, and internal audit management.”

Gabe blinks. “You know all of this?”

“I know everything.” Not always, but ever since my personal life took a big nosedive, I’ve made it my business to foresee all possible landmines. Fool me once and all that.

“Anyway,” my brother continues, “she completed our Community Compatibility Questionnaire.” He pauses here and smiles at Mari. “Nice job on that, by the way.”

My sister nods. “Glad to know the psych doctorate is useful to you,” she says dryly.