Excerpt from    GIRL OF MY

Groaning, Hollywood producer Blake Caldwell brushed a strand of black hair from
his eyes. The latest news from his assistant, Jillian Baker, was grim. Scores of
contestants from his premier television show had rushed from rehearsal and were
crammed into the ladies room upchucking.

“I’ve called an ambulance. Do you want me to go with them?” she asked.
Her voice was muffled. He could hear toilets flushing in the background, along with
other unmentionable sounds he didn’t care to identify.

“Can you give me a head count? How many are left?”

“Wait a minute. I’ll check.”

Blake’s heart pounded. His shirt stuck to his back as he awaited the verdict. A few
days ago, before the power outages, he’d had time to spare, but now he was up
against the wall. It was two hours before the audience shoot. The stage and script
were set for twenty-five contestants. Could he deliver them?

“Twenty-six are gone between the originals and alternates,” was the answer.
Fresh perspiration sprang to Blake’s forehead. “We’re one short. We’ve got to do

The ratings were down. Mecca was dying. It could not survive another season
without a hit. Neither could he. He’d sunk time, money and effort into this project.
The boys upstairs had given it a go, only if he’d produce and direct it. This was his
chance to prove he could make it without the connections of his actress-mother
Barbara Branton. A foul-up would turn him into a has-been at the age of thirty.

“Blake, should I go with them?” Jillian asked again.

Her voice was alert and in crisis mode.

“You’re not a doctor. I need you here. We have a show to run.”

Almost as soon as he’d hung up, he found Jillian standing before him. Through all
the commotion, her hair was still pushed back from her face and her glasses
perched firmly on her nose. He had to hand it to her for keeping her cool.

“I’ve called food management and alerted them of the situation. They’ve closed the
cafeteria,” she said.

“Good. We don’t need anyone else sick. The coordinators were hit, too. What about
the survivors?”

“They’re already in makeup.”

Blake rubbed his chin. “Fine. Now, all we need is number twenty-five.”

Thinking, he stared straight ahead. He had a feeling the answer was right in front of
his nose, if he could only see it. His loyal assistant stood at attention, ready to
spring into action. Hard-working, intuitive, creative, Jillian was a miracle worker.
She always came through for him, but this time he couldn’t fault her if she failed.

A gleam flashed in her eyes. “I’ll do it. I’ve read the routine. It’s only one episode.
He won’t pick me. Then I’ll be through.”

He stared at Jillian. She wasn’t as striking as his hand-picked contestants or their
twin-like alternates, but certainly she was no dog. Sure, her suit was circa 1980
and her shoes looked like they could stick out of the bottom of a nun’s habit, if nuns
wore habits any more. Okay, so Jillian wasn’t the world’s greatest dresser.
Wardrobe could fix that. She had a certain charm, was over twenty-one and legal.
Ditch the Coke-bottle glasses, pat on some makeup and she’d pass. But…

“It won’t work. For one thing, there’s the employment clause. Mecca employees
can’t enter.” Blake stood up. “I don’t have time to round up another contestant. Can
you handle it? Just grab a good-looking, legal-aged girl from the lot. Give her the
quick sell. Play up the part about hooking a millionaire. We’ll dummy down the
routine, stick her last in line and let her take her cue from the others. Can I count
on you?”

“You’ll have your contestant,” she said.

Something a bit off kilter flickered behind her glasses, then disappeared. Blake
didn’t have time to analyze it. He had a show to run.