“I’m sorry, Marcy. I think you’re an amazing woman and any man would be lucky to have you as his wife, but I’m afraid my heart is engaged elsewhere. I just didn’t feel that spark, that connection—”
On the screen, the footage of Mr. Perfect’s perfect face twisted into an expression of contrition cut to Marcy’s reaction shot. Or rather her lack-of-reaction shot. Miranda grimaced—she knew what was coming.
“Emotionless,” Wallace barked, hitting the pause button so the jumbo television that dominated the wall of his office froze on Marcy’s pretty face, gazing back at the man billed as the most eligible bachelor in America without even a glimmer of a tear in her stunning green eyes as he was supposed to be breaking her heart on national television.
“Frigid.” Wallace flung his iPad toward Miranda so it landed on the desk blotter with an audible thunk in time with his next adjective. “Unfeeling. Robotic.”
Miranda obligingly studied the focus group data that had turned her boss into a walking thesaurus. “They also say she’s gorgeous, clever, and witty.”
“They don’t like her,” Wallace snapped, Marcy’s face still looming over both of them from the wall.
“Sure they do,” Miranda argued, tapping the spreadsheet. “Eighty-seven percent approval.”
She was the whole package. Lustrous brown curls, classic good looks, and striking green eyes with the slightest hint of a wicked sparkle.
“Fine, they like her, but they don’t feel for her. How am I supposed to market the girl who didn’t even blink when Mr. Perfect dumped her? No protestations of love. No begging for an explanation. No sobbing uncontrollably in the rejection limo. America loves the fucking sobbing.”
“She isn’t an idiot. She knew Jack was in love with Lou from the first time she saw them together.”
“I wish she were an idiot. America likes idiots. Idiots make good television.”
“Marcy will make good television. Trust me.”
“I don’t trust people,” Wallace snapped.
“Then trust the ratings,” Miranda countered just as forcefully. She hadn’t clawed her way to executive producer at such a young age because she was meek and retiring. “The finale of Marrying Mister Perfect was the most watched episode of a reality dating show in the last six years. We not only beat all our previous seasons, we flat out spanked American Dance Star and Matchmaker Express. We’re talking Idol style numbers.”
“You caught lightning in a bottle last season, no one can argue with that,” Wallace acknowledged. “And you got the promotion to prove it. But no one cares about last season’s success. Audience retention is the name of the game and the girl who shrugged off her shot at true love isn’t going to have people rushing to their televisions every Tuesday night.”
“Marcy understands the show. The camera loves her and she’s a dream to work with—”
Wallace reached for the iPad, flicking through the focus group data. “Guarded. Has walls around her heart. Uses her intellect to keep men at a distance. Can’t allow herself to be vulnerable.”
Miranda glowered. Who’d let the amateur shrinks into the focus group? “Okay, yes, she’s a little emotionally reserved, but the situation will be different when she’s playing Miss Right. She’ll be in control and more willing to show how she feels—”
“I want her to cry,” Wallace said, brutal and hard. “America loves criers. Give me messy emotional breakdowns I can promo the hell out of and you might keep your shiny new office for another season.”
Miranda bit back the urge to tell her boss exactly how wrong he was about America loving criers. They’d had a girl who’d cried at the drop of a hat three seasons ago who was among the most hated Miss Rights in living memory. What America loved was a good love story. That was why they’d fallen in love with the saga of Jack and Lou, why Miranda had gotten her promotion from supervising producer to executive producer, and why they would fall in love with Marcy. All Miranda had to do was make sure Miss Right fell in love. Seeing a guarded, snarky woman show her softer side would bring the audience in droves.
But Wallace knew shit about love, so instead Miranda promised, “She’ll cry. Trust me. Marcy Henrickson is ratings gold.”
“Stop saying trust me. There is no trust in television,” Wallace growled. “There’s only success or unemployment.” He stabbed a finger at the remote, making the screen on the wall go black.
Miranda didn’t flinch at the threat. The uber boss of Marrying Mister Perfect and its companion show Romancing Miss Right was a bully and a prick who liked his television with cheap theatrics and easy hits. She’d known that before she started working for him years ago, fighting her way up from segment producer all the way to EP. Wallace’s official title was EP too, but he surveyed events from on high in his office, connected to the show only by reports and rundowns.
Miranda would be the one in the trenches, pulling love out of thin air, and Miranda understood her audience. She knew what America really wanted to watch and she knew how to manipulate situations and emotions to make it happen.
Miss Right was going to fall in love this season. Whether she wanted to open herself up to it or not.
And it all started with finding the right man to woo her.