Playing House

By: Laura Chapman

For my cats, Bingley and Jane, because let's be real, this whole introverted writer life of mine wouldn't be complete without them in it.

She's a work in progress . . .

Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true.

He's a fixer upper . . .

Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her.

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about are either of them willing to risk it all for love?

Chapter One

Bailey Meredith tended to worry more than anyone else in her family.

Mama thought a woman should do her best and not fret about the rest. Her big sister, Paige, liked to live and let live—and boy, did she live. Nana believed in leaving everything up to the good Lord’s plan. Roger, her mother’s long-term gentleman friend, well, the only thing he worried about was whether or not the damn Cowboys—pardon his language—were ever going to make it to the Super Bowl again in his lifetime—no disrespect.

But Bailey worried. When she was in high school, she worried no one would ask her to the prom. (She ended up with three invitations, which opened up a whole mess of other concerns.) In college, she worried about making good enough grades to get into a graduate program at a reputable architecture school. (Again, she wound up having her pick, before settling on the University of Texas.) And just last week, she worried about whether or not she should renew the lease on her studio apartment in downtown Dallas. (She’d make that decision based on how the job interview went today.)

Oddly enough, she wasn’t worried about the interview. The way she saw it, if it went well and she got an offer, she’d be sitting pretty. She could either use it as leverage to get her current firm to pony up on their long-held promise to promote her from a personal assistant to a full-fledged designer. Or, they wouldn’t take the bait and she’d quit. If the interview didn’t pan out, well, she still had her job getting coffee for the people who were living her dream. At least it paid the rent.

Her sister saw the situation a little differently.

“Don’t you think this whole thing is funny?” Paige asked from her perch on the edge of the bathtub, where she watched Bailey coat mascara on her lashes.

“I’m not sure that a job interview offers much to laugh about.”

“You know what I mean.”

She did, but forever the little sister, Bailey liked to work Paige up a little before conceding to anything.

“Well, let’s see here.” Bailey pursed her lips, deciding she liked this shade of lipstick just fine. She usually left her lips bare, except for Chap Stick, but today called for something special, something bold. The bright red—or Fearless Femme, as it said on the side of the tube—worked. She felt like Marilyn Monroe. Even if her gray pant suit and cobalt blouse were more demure than anything the starlet had ever worn. She felt powerful and in control. She felt confident and beautiful. Mostly, she didn’t feel worried.

Satisfied with her overall appearance, she turned away from the mirror, leaning a hip against the counter. “I replied to an ad looking for an interior design assistant who—and I quote—‘will create home designs and oversee them through to completion.’”

It was like the ad had been written for her. Wanted: Interior design assistant for a short-term contract. Ideal candidate will have minimum three years of professional experience and related undergraduate degree. Requires expansive portfolio with referrals, self-starter who works well on a team. Must be deadline-oriented, budget-conscious, and flexible. Prefer a candidate with architectural and post-graduate experience.